Safety, Reliability, quality, and profitability goals are driven by upper management, they want to lower operating costs, increase profit, and focus on safety – so they’ve made large investments in automation to achieve these goals. The missing link, however, is the small investment made in human factors and operational conduct.
Plants and Pipelines will be forced to hire new younger employees. If your house is not in order, accidents and increased operating costs will occur.
Senior operators are retiring, our customers are forced to hire new and younger less experienced people to fill these positions. In order to achieve management’s objectives, the focus has to be on operations – especially the operators, ensuring that they can manage abnormal situations.
We have to address human factors, and attract good people to replace the experienced workers. The control room environment must be a place where people want to work. One of the biggest operational costs is the workforce. They must perform at a high level in order to reduce downtime, maintain quality, and minimize maintenance costs. They need an ergonomic environment designed around their tasks – they need to be able to rely on procedures, alarms, and training to get the job done right.
Our customers have to capture tribal knowledge before their senior staff are gone, to reduce the risks of the younger workforce. Things like procedures, shift handover, MOC, communication, training, and workload need to be examined, all operational gaps need to be addressed, solutions should be incorporated into the control room, not just the design but the management systems should support the operators and prevent human error and shortcuts.
Data Overload and Data Presentation are key systems that must be addressed when designing the control room. It’s not just about the consoles and lighting, it’s about data presentation – using the right objects, screens, creating situation awareness, and optimizing the operator – preparing new operators for all situations!
Questions manager’s often consider – Can we operate with fewer people, can we do this safely, and how much money will that save us. A workload study on your operators will determine how you can improve operator response, manage abnormal situations, improve staffing levels and if you can do it with fewer or if you need more, or if you simply need to make some adjustments to balance the workload between the operators. A balanced workload and a control room that uses situation awareness as the foundation, will improve operations and reduce operating costs. It will also attract and keep people from leaving.
Operators have a major impact on quality; energy, maintenance, and productions costs. A detailed console and field operator task and workload measurement study is required to identify where you can get the highest performance results and what management systems can be changed to reduce workload and improve operator response.
A major gap that is often identified during this study is “Procedures” and “Training” – a study will likely reveal a gap in operational conduct and discipline. Some standards will need to be written, others amended, then procedures and training materials will need to be developed and managed to meet these standards. Having your alarms, displays, procedures, and training assessed for effectiveness will uncover the need for a culture change – it is the beginning stage of convincing management we can improve operations and prepare for a retiring workforce.