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Operator Performance: A Return on Investment

So if we invest in our operators, where is the ROI? Well, Operating outside equipment and process limits is costly and risky. In the above image, focus your attention on the dotted line where the fault occurs. There is a problem, the system takes some time to generate an alarm (the problem continues to grow) then the alarm is activated and the operator takes some time to diagnose and respond to the problem, (the problem continues to grow and now we are operating outside the limits). Once the operator takes action, the process takes some time to respond to what the operator did and the problem still continues to grow (hopefully we gave the operator enough time to prevent the consequence of the alarm). 

The main thing we need to realize is – from the time the fault occurred to when the process responds, there is a time-frame where the process is running outside the operating limits. This is costly and risky. We have to consider the system reaction time, operator response time, and the process reaction time when we design the operator user interface and identify the best way to provide early detection of a problem, so they are not sitting, waiting for alarms which in some cases can be too late. 

We have to ask, does the operator have enough time to diagnose and respond to the situation? How long does the operator have until we are outside the operating limits? How long does he have until the consequence of the alarm occurs? What costs are associated when alarms are not managed quickly? Is in normal at our site to run processes in abnormal? What is that costing us? Are operators able to respond quicker and reduce the amount of time in “abnormal” and prevent unplanned down time if we improve situation awareness?

The answer is Yes! By reducing the frequency and the amount of time that we operate outside operating limits, we can reduce risks and costs. How much money can we save? That is the million-dollar question. Most petrochemical plants estimate running the process in abnormal costs them millions of dollars per year.

Stop and think what those costs are. Costs associated to running the process like a “rent a car”. Think about equipment stress, maintenance costs, equipment replacement, shut downs, and utility costs. Can you reduce all those costs by investing in the operators?

Our research and success stories prove that operators and their response performance has a direct link to operating costs.

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