And how good is the training you provide to your operating personnel? How good is the training you provide to your maintenance personnel?
Although we've been listening for nearly 15 years to manufacturing experts talk about the efficiencies and profitability of real time operations management, we still have fewer than 20% of companies worldwide that practice it. And there is a direct correlation between companies who practice RTOM and companies who have been forced into it.
Somehow, we have to learn how to internalize these 21st century manufacturing principles before we are forced to the wall.
Dow Chemical's Levi Leathers described what he called "operating discipline" in which safety was paramount, and drove profits. Based on results, his operating discipline, which Dow still proudly practices, seems to have worked extremely well, and Dow expects it to continue to be the fundamental core of their operating principles.
There is a concept called the "economic calculus." In the 1960s, in North America and Western Europe, environmental pollution was rampant and unchecked. Laws and perhaps as importantly, public opinion, the zeitgeist, if you will, expanded the economic calculus and now it is part of the corporate balance sheet that environmental pollution is abated and plants are designed ab initio incorporating pollution control systems, and whole systems of recycling for profit have been established.
Today, the economic calculus is being widened again to include sustainability…being "green." We now see businesses in all dead seriousness assuring one another of their respective greenness, and we are already seeing companies realize substantial operating savings and even increases in profitability by controlling energy costs.
Tomorrow, we may see the proliferation of real time performance management and inherently safe operation. We may see companies in all seriousness assuring one another of their safety operations consciousness, because the economic calculus may widen once again.
The problem with safety, security, good training and alarm management and other operations issues is that fundamentally, they depend on fear for an argument. "If you don't do this, people may die, people will die!"
Financial managers are rarely interested in listening to such arguments, because it is impossible to show "lives not lost" on a cost accounting balance sheet. You cannot sell fear.
Management staffs are composed generally of very good people, but good intentions in the face of the pressure to show quarterly profits on the stock exchanges aren't good enough, and it is obvious that unless the economic calculus is widened, we will continue to have people die in industrial accidents in process plants with monotonous regularity.
We have to show how to widen that calculus because these issues are not as easily understood as the "green" issues have been.
For years, the TLA (three letter acronym) consultants have been preaching Real Time Control for business and for process. And for years, the captains of industry have been paying lip service to it. But the change is finally upon us. Even SAP has come to the public realization that you can't optimize your enterprise just with an automated balance sheet. With Microsoft and SAP supporting ISA95, and ISA88, it is a sure bet that the Great Divide between the business systems and the plant floor will be erased. But it will not be easy. Invensys' Dr. Peter Martin's pioneering studies of economic information transfer within enterprises makes that clear. There's too much information buried in the plants, that never makes its way to the decision makers, and when it does, it is presented in ways the decision makers don't want, or don't understand.
The financial management system is broken. Worse, we are under great stresses from technological advances– and many decision makers don't understand these, as well.
There are two tsunamis– the wave of globalisation we are riding out, and the wave of disruptive technologies we have been living with for the past thirty years.
In the early days, we were all concerned with sensors, measurement and final control elements: how to build the watch. Later it became imperative that we know how to tell time: how to close control loops.
Our skill sets expanded yet again when it became obvious that it wasn't enough to be able to build the watch and tell time, but now we had to know what the benefits of being on time were: expanding the benefits of control to the entire plant via distributed control systems.
Even though this is where a lot of us stopped, it just isn't enough. We know how sensors work, we know how loops work, and we know how to control a process. Unfortunately, the required skill set has expanded again. Now we have to understand scheduling. Our primary value is to see to it that information from the plant is transmitted to the enterprise. We're now working on fourth order concepts.
Lynn Craig, one of the founders of WBF and a leader in the ISA88 batch standard committee, says that we no longer can hide out in the instrument shop, depending on the fact that our knowledge is so arcane that nobody will bother us there. "We're being dragged kicking and screaming back into the real world of manufacturing," he says.
And we're finally going to have to address the issue of how to measure what we do as automation professionals.
As Dr. Peter Martin, in his book "Bottom-line Automation" says, "If you can't measure it in financial terms, it never happened."
We are going to have to re-frame our skill set so that we can define and describe everything we do in terms that the CFO can understand…because then the CFO and the CEO can explain to Wall Street why all of the productivity gains of the last 30 years have come from operating unit optimization strategies and automation.
And if we want to sell the concept of operating inherently safely, we will have to sell it in these terms as well.