Why Ops & Maintenance Need Info Management Overhaul in the Next Normal

Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die.”

As we all cope with the seismic shifts of the pandemic, one thing is clear; COVID-19 has proven to be an accelerant for first movers to stop thinking about change and make it happen. Many have recognized the need for long-term, strategic changes in information management systems in operations and maintenance to provide resilience and a much-needed competitive edge in a slow growth economy.

Cybersecurity and Operational Risk Mitigation
This convergence of IT/OT is even more important for asset-intensive industries. However, this brings to light another key concern: Cybersecurity.

Attacks on OT systems are rapidly escalating in terms of both frequency and sophistication, yet far too many industrial organizations continue to focus cybersecurity efforts on IT-centric – rather than production-centric – endpoints. They also continue to rely on manual, error-prone email- and spreadsheet-based vulnerability management processes, leaving their industrial facilities exposed to unacceptable production safety and reliability risks.

In short, you can’t just fit-and-forget process automation systems. By embedding the appropriate controls in the design rather than after implementation of the software, you can take a more proactive posture to mitigate cybersecurity risks.

Hexagon’s understanding of the need for greater cybersecurity, was a main factor in our acquisition of PAS Global. With operations in over 70 countries, PAS helps many of the world’s leading industrial organizations ensure OT Integrity from the sensor to the cloud.

This puts us in a position to help our customers prevent, detect and remediate cyber threats, reduce process safety risks and ensure trusted data for decision-making. And because cybersecurity is not a one-size-fits-all process, Hexagon’s partnership with PAS ensures we can not only offer our customers solutions that are tailored to their priority assets and risks but also solutions that are scalable to their future growth and needs.

Increase employee safety and ensure operational continuity
The operations and maintenance teams are the people we rely on the field to operate and maintain assets and infrastructure that keep all chemical plants, petrochemical, refineries, LNG plants, pipelines and power plants working.

Often these employees are juggling a large amount of unstructured data – documents and drawings from suppliers, vendors, and engineering partners in order to make informed decisions – that could be critical to ensure safe operations in the facility. However, often some of the information may also be outdated or inaccurate. Further complications arise when widespread lockdowns are in place across the globe. It’s just not feasible anymore to head into the office to look for paper copies.

The situations above can and often do create safety risks. In fact, Hexagon’s PPM division recently studied 101 industrial accidents and found that poor procedure was a major contributing factor – in particular, management of change (MoC) processes. These accidents killed 405 people and injured 2,163 others, which is a heavy toll that’s almost completely preventable!

Instead of all this unstructured information, imagine all your employees – from the plant floor to the board room – having ready access to historical data as well as real-time information from a single information management system. If you include 3D models, laser scans or integrated operations systems with high-quality structured information, you’ll have relevant data for every asset or piece of equipment at your fingertips.

Combined with a role-based view of information relevant to specific functions or individuals in an operating facility, this will be extremely valuable, as it reduces your exposure to risk and makes the whole process safer and more efficient for your workers.

Optimizing Processes and Knowledge Transfers
According to the ARC Advisory Group, 42% of unplanned shutdowns are due to operational error, of which 16% are directly related to procedural error. Add an aging workforce, and it’s easy to see why proper transfer of knowledge between outgoing and incoming operators is imperative to ensure plant operations continue effectively.

Technology can help close this growing knowledge gap and reduce the potential for human-error driven downtime by incorporating tools, processes and systems design that empower and enable workers to standardize operating methods and improve efficiency.

Ensuring availability of accurate, validated and current information managed through appropriate work processes can help to test, analyze, validate and improve process design, engineering, maintenance, operational, safety workflows and overall asset integrity. Such tools enable faster start-up, for both new plants and existing ones coming back online after a shutdown.

Increase asset utilization and performance management
Advancements in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) mean new-generation data analysis tools and software let you perform predictive – rather than reactive – maintenance of your valuable plant assets. This prevents potential shutdowns, loss of production and negative budget implications.

We worked with Leica Geosystems to create a web-based tool for Eskom, Matimba in South Africa. This tool allows a maintenance technician who needs to access specific plant documentation and data to simply navigate through a HD laser scan, visually identify the equipment, click on the geotag and immediately retrieve all related information.

To carry out further investigations, the technician can navigate from the HD laser scan to the concerned piping and instrumentation diagram to identify the tag in question and any potential instrument or equipment connected to the equipment and all the relevant data and documentation associated. Put simply, the tool gives you all available tags, documents, and tag/document relationships in an integrated, intuitive navigable system.

This means your maintenance team will be able to review all required information prior to carrying out work orders while on-site or at the site office from a single source of information. This ensures valuable uptime and the ability to complete work orders with little to no disruption.

An added enabler is the integration with other systems such as maintenance management systems, real time data gathering systems and data historians. From experience, we know that asset information resides in a multitude of systems in an operating facility, often with conflicting information. Not having trustworthy information serves very little purpose as the value of the systems erode over time. Hence, breaking down silos and having a strategy to ensure proper interfaces and collaboration across systems, processes and people is extremely important. Hexagon provides solutions to address these challenges.

Lower OPEX with smaller insurance premiums
A recent Hexagon customer reduced the cost of risk to the tune of over $1.5 million dollars (USD).

In this example, the main driver was shift handover. The facility, part of a leading U.S. chemical manufacturer, had experienced some incidents in the past but was actively trying to improve. In discussions with its insurer, the company came to understand that its insurance premiums are largely driven by the “risk profile” assigned to it by insurance underwriters; by digitizing key processes, specifically shift handover, it could significantly improve that risk profile and reduce its overall cost-to-insure.

The company invested in software and services to implement Hexagon’s j5 Operations Management solutions across its entire facility. By digitizing its paper activity logs and shift handovers, the company not only streamlined processes, but it enforced accountability and consistency across processes that previously had been largely uncontrolled, resulting in a safer operating environment.

The value of these changes was recognized and validated by its insurer, allowing the plant to justify the entire j5 Operations Management solutions implementation on the basis of insurance savings alone.

In cases like the one outlined above, when customers do manage to improve their risk profile, it means the insurers have a much better chance of avoiding pay-outs, and they are willing to reduce premiums to achieve this.

Remember, a robust asset lifecycle information management system and strategy are investments in the long-term resilience of your facility, the safety of your personnel and your financial bottom line.

It’s time to shed old legacy systems – like a snake casting its skin – adapt along the way and grow to embrace the Next Normal.

LEARN MORE: Download the whitepaper “Information Challenges in Brownfield Projects” or watch the j5 on-demand webinar, “It’s Time to Digitise Your Shift Handovers.”


Santosh Raghavan
Santosh has over 30 years of experience in the oil and gas, petrochemical, refining, power, marine and offshore industries. He has worked for Hexagon’s PPM division in several critical roles, ranging from project management for engineering IT solutions to business development manager and regional manager for Singapore, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand. Now he is regional director for Japan and Korea, where he utilizes his deep insight to advise customers on the best digital solutions for them.

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