Sunday, April 6, 2014

Workforce Enablement Technology White Paper - Conclusion

Below is a continuation of the Workforce Enablement Technology Paper posted to the blog yesterday. Click here to read the start of the paper.

An especially important aspect of OTS systems is that they have been shown to impact health and safety through improved competency of operating personnel, leading to fewer unplanned shutdowns, accidents and workplace safety claims. A well-trained operator learns to respond efficiently and quickly to potential or real safety hazards, having had the opportunity to practice abnormal plant situations and emergencies. As an added bonus, stress levels may be reduced because a well-trained staff feels confident and capable of reacting appropriately in any situation.

Perhaps the most important skills that a trainee operator can develop using an OTS system are the ability to master troubleshooting issues, analyze what-if situations, and diagnose operating problems. These skills are especially important when team training with other board operators, field operators and maintenance personnel.

Using an OTS system, an operator is able to better visualize the plant’s operations in real time and to access and compare historical data. In many OTS systems, plant equipment and operations documentation is accessible for study and discussion. It can be shared among departments, peers in training, different shifts, or management. This can precede the fine tuning of standard operating procedures, all completely safely.

In many cases, operators are trained using OTS systems even before a plant is built (so called “greenfield” projects) and ready to start-up. This means that when the plant does begin operating, it has a fully capable operations staff available that is ready to “hit the ground running”. This can result in faster start-up times and fewer operating incidences during the start-up period. The use of an OTS system in the greenfield situation has the added benefits of being able to “debug” operating procedures, process design limitations, and control/logic implementation prior to the start-up.

Many progressive process companies employ OTS systems for “brownfield” plants for on-going operations training throughout the lifecycle of the plant. In this situation, plant operator skills are maintained and developed over time resulting in improved plant reliability and productivity. It has been estimated that nearly 40% of the cost from abnormal operating situations is caused by human error due to insufficient operator and maintenance staff knowledge. Other benefits include reduced planned maintenance turnaround times and damage to process equipment.

Operator Training Simulator systems can be incorporated in many kinds of process plants with great benefits to the personnel, and by extension to the company in the form of cost savings over time, enhanced reputation for reliability and plant morale. They can be used to initially train new hires most efficiently, and up-train and retrain more experienced operators. They can also promote interdisciplinary knowledge and interdepartmental communication. A plant with a workforce that actually is empowered by the confidence of knowledge will experience greater safety, improved reliability and higher efficiency. All of this will consequently result in better financial performance for the company with the foresight to make investments in this technology.

About the Author
Cecil Shewchuk, Principal of Shewchuk Consulting provides consulting services to technology companies in the areas of business planning, technology and product strategy, sales and marketing strategy, and implementation strategy. Many of these consulting engagements have been for international companies specializing in the energy sector. Cecil graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Engineering Science degree in Chemical Engineering and earned his doctorate in Chemical Engineering Computer-Aided Design from Cambridge University in England.