By Aaron Hand
Industrial plant operators face an overabundance of alarms—about 6,000 in a typical day, according to some reports. The issue is being addressed from a variety of angles, including coming up with new ways to eliminate many of those alarms. Nonetheless, when your operator is hit with 14 alarms at once, you hope he or she follows the best procedures to address those alarms, keeping the plant running safely and productively. You can hope he remembers a particular piece of advice that he got trained on three months prior, or you can automate your workflow process in such a way that your operators automatically receive the reminders they need, when they need them.
ArchestrA Workflow, the latest version of which was released by Invensys Operations Management last week, effectively "empowers the edge" of plant operations. "It's empowering the people who are doing that job, at that time, in real time," said Nick Santucci, technical sales consultant for Invensys. Santucci explained in a hands-on workshop at Invensys OpsManage'11 how the ArchestrA automated workflow can help operators follow a procedure correctly every time.
As an example, Santucci helped participants walk through a situation in which a barrel of toxic material has fallen off a conveyor belt and spilled in the plant. In this case, when the barrel falls, Kevin the operator automatically receives a notification to fill out a report to detail what he's done to take care of it. Michelle the supervisor either receives that report or receives a reminder to make sure Kevin gets it done. Once Michelle receives the report, she can approve or reject it, and production can get back up online as quickly and safely as possible. As Santucci demonstrated, it's also a simple step to set the workflow to automatically start up production again after Michelle makes her approval.
"What's important here is escalation," Santucci pointed out. The operator is sent the form to fill out. His supervisor can monitor that activity, and if it doesn't get done within, say, 10 minutes, it can be escalated. The workflow system can also be programmed to make sure the message gets to the right person at any given time. "Instead of hard-coding an email address or text message, you want to find out who's actually working that shift," Santucci said. "If Kevin the operator says I'm going to be on holiday Nov. 12-15, his alternate actor is Michelle, so we send it to Michelle instead."
Regardless, the demonstration illustrated how simply and seamlessly operators and supervisors can work between workflow and the HMI, particularly with ArchestrA System Platform 2012, which more tightly integrates ArchestrA Workflow with the Wonderware InTouch HMI. The procedure visualization is done through a visual model that is very similar to Microsoft Visio, making it particularly simple for those familiar with the common flowcharting software.
There is a wide range of procedural collaboration applications that ArchestrA can help with. In a situation where an operator is getting 10 alarms at once, for example, the alarms can automatically trigger workflows. "The operator is running around trying to fix these things, so he might forget to tell the scheduler," Santucci explained. "Workflow can notify the scheduler automatically."
ArchestrA also can be used for electronic work instructions. It can guide operations through standardized and validated processes that have been established for common production activities such as machine set-up, line shutdown, product changeover, etc.
Through interaction with Invensys' IntelaTrac mobile workforce software, standard procedures can be sent to a mobile device for coordinated HACCP (food safety) inspections—to coordinate appropriate resources, for example, enforce the decision-making process, communicate the decision back to the stakeholders and more.
A significant aspect of what ArchestrA Workflow is able to automate and ensure is the audit trail—important in a number of industries, including oil and gas, food and beverage, and pharmaceuticals. In the oil and gas industry, 49 CFR dictates workflow. To show compliance with that, the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) wants to see an audit trail. Likewise, in the food and beverage industry, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) demands a clean audit trail to see that proper procedures were followed. That is not so easy to do with a paper standard operating procedure (SOP) document, Santucci noted, particularly without an automated reminder system and knowledge base. With ArchestrA, however, every single process and every single step of each process goes into the historian. "If you ever get audited, you can actually show visually that that process was run," Santucci said.
Invensys got the ArchestrA workflow technology through its acquisition of Skelta about a year and a half ago. The technology has been working in the IT world for about eight years, so has been "nicely fleshed out for us," Santucci noted. Invensys brought it into the manufacturing space, adding new connectors to the existing SharePoint, BizTalk and SAP connectors, he added.
The technology is application-agnostic, Santucci noted, so that users can collaborate with SharePoint or SAP if they want to, but can also collaborate through a number of other interfaces.