Plant management sees risk control as a top priority. However, the means available are often a hodgepodge of undocumented, disconnected, and problematic methods. The good news is that new approaches and a convergence of technologies, all building on the foundation of alarm management best practices, can enable the real-time visualization and monitoring of operations risk. Now, plant operators, engineers, and managers can always know and understand how plants are performing, and where current risks lie.
Effective operations risk management requires robust systems to detect, monitor, analyze, and correct performance issues before they affect plant safety and production. A defense-in-depth strategy centers around effective control loops to keep the plant within defined boundaries. As back up, an operator intervenes when needed, which is why good situation awareness through an effective alarm system and high-performance human-machine interface (HMI) are critical. Safety systems provide further defense, provided they are designed and managed properly. Modifications to all these things must be accomplished with care, and the performance of all these functions must be visible to those in charge. Let’s elaborate a bit on each element.
Control Loop Performance Management
Are your control loops performing as they should? Throughout industry, it is surprising how often this isn’t true. Our expensive control systems should always keep the process running smoothly. When they don’t, we have risks to safety, cost, and profitability. There are now automated methods to monitor and optimize control loop performance.
Are your operators plagued by alarm floods, nuisance alarms, or a poorly performing alarm system? Effective alarm management provides actionable information that enables operators to detect and resolve abnormal situations before they result in process upsets, safety issues, and unplanned outages. PAS has leveraged decades of experience to develop a 7-step alarm management process, documented in our well-known, authoritative book on the subject, The Alarm Management Handbook. Using our approach as the basis, we provide a comprehensive solution to benchmark and optimize alarm system performance.
High Performance HMI
Are your operator graphics helping or hurting the operator’s ability to understand the process? To respond to abnormal conditions effectively, operators need an HMI capable of maximizing their situation awareness by providing visual information on how well the process is doing, rather than relying on them to somehow make sense of a bunch of raw data. Here again, PAS wrote the first and only comprehensive book on the subject, The High Performance HMI™ Handbook. Our approach transforms traditional operator displays into intuitive, information-filled visualizations.
How often does your process operate outside optimum boundary limits? Most people cannot answer that question. Control systems are not designed to track boundaries other than by alarms. Moreover, the knowledge of what are the operational and process limits is often scattered across multiple databases and systems, making it difficult to manage the operating boundaries of a facility. Effective boundary management continuously monitors the plant’s settings and position within dozens of predetermined boundaries (such as process alarms, safe operating and design limits, efficiency targets, mechanical design limits, environmental limits, normal operating limits, and economic limits/opportunity costs) to automatically detect and report excursions.
Independent Protection Layer (IPL) Assurance
Are your safety systems in order and therefore safe to run your plant? Properly functioning IPLs – such as safety systems – are critical to ensuring that when all else fails, the process is automatically placed in a safe state. IPL monitoring ensures that all safety systems are properly configured, in operation, and provide proper reporting and documentation of activations.
Because these systems are so interconnected and complex, system-wide automation system management of change ensures that changes are authorized. In addition, it ensures that the engineer making a change understands the ripple effects of any change, thus avoiding change-related errors with inadvertent consequences.
Operations Risk Analytics & Visualization
How do you see the performance of all these interlocking layers of defense? Do you have more risk in one area than you are comfortable with? What would you do to change that? Each team function needs the right information to make such decisions. The information must be granular from the unit level up to multi-plant or fleet perspectives. Performance dashboards can help expose and visualize real-time risks, and automated communication methods can get the right information to the right person.
Interested in learning more?
We have an on-demand ORM webinar series available on our website.
Headed to ISA Calgary? I’ll see you there! I will be speaking on these topics:
April 9: 4:15pm, “Camouflage: Why Some New “HMI Improvements” are a Step Backwards” (Session 7)
April 10: 9:10am, “Horrible Things We Find in Alarm Rationalization” (Session 1)
April 10: 4:15pm, “Operations Risk Management: What is Your Plant REALLY Doing?” (Session 7)