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Sharing is the key to safe plant operations

01 October 2008

Almost without exception, poor information sharing is shown to be a major cause of plant safety incidents. Steve Gibbons describes how information management can help you keep your operations safe, legal and profitable

Today’s manufacturing plant embodies a complex, and continually changing, aggregation of all types of
information. There is now widespread industry awareness of the problems caused by inability to manage
this effectively. Safety and regulatory compliance are key reasons to implement an information management
solution but it can also bring considerable economic benefits.

Reliable analysis has shown that the biggest revenue loss in all plants is due to operators not having the
information at hand to make the right decisions at the right time. Around 60% of maintenance man-hours are wasted simply tracking down and verifying information.

However, the challenge is that plant information is very diverse; it includes static information such as drawings, schematics, 3D CAD models, specifications and procedures; continually changing information such as work status, schedules or staff rosters, and real-time process data from plant instrumentation. All these valuable assets reside in isolated ‘silos’.

To address this, the engineering IT industry has created powerful product lifecycle management solutions (PLM) to integrate such disparate data and make it readily available right across the enterprise. Users no longer need specialist skills, or the software with which the information was created; instead, an information portal, similar to a web browser, enables all disciplines to view and crossreference every type of information, in context.

In turn, this provides many ways in which to navigate the relationships between different types of information.
For example, a user could search for all pumps of a particular type and compare their performance data for
trends or deviations. If he then spots an anomaly, he could use that particular pump’s tag number to find its position in the P and ID. Supposing this gives no clue as to the reason for the anomaly, by clicking on the pump’s ‘hot spot’ on the P and ID, he could then pull up its supplier’s information, its maintenance history, and even jump to hot spotted photographs or a 3D CAD model of its installation.

If the pump needs maintenance or replacement, the user could call up an automatically collated work pack –
procedures, drawings, spares lists and locations, even the availability of essential personnel – and check for conflicts with other engineering tasks.


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