Coping with the Human Resource Crisis

Training Must Change to Compensate for Lack of Experience and Fewer People

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OpsManagement'11

By Walt Boyes, Editor-in-Chief

"These technologies may sound futuristic," said Stan DeVries, director of solutions architecture for Invensys Operations Management, "but I submit that our customers are already using them, and they are being driven to use them out of necessity."

DeVries was referring to new modalities of training and the enabling of "roving" users in the plant, as well as the Invensys Operations Management emphasis on People Excellence.

"People don't want to work in manufacturing," he said, "and the ones being hired do not have the pre-requisite mindset for working in the process industries. Especially, those under 30 don't want to work in 'ugly' places and in 'ugly industries.'"

Yet, studies in the fossil power industry have shown that it takes as long as eight years to fully equip operators with all the training and experience they need for context and appropriate situational awareness.

"With the new experiential training that we can do with our high-resolution virtual reality simulation training environments," DeVries said, "we can reduce that time to less than two years."

"Most accidents happen during HO/TO (hand over/turn over)," he said, "and studies have shown that even after eight years experience, most operators are only up to about 30% to 35% of the situational awareness and knowledge that they should have. This is especially true of the business parameters they should understand and be able to operate under."

The roles people need to be trained for are changing as well, DeVries said. The changing face of training is impacted by the transition to a younger workforce of knowledge workers and digital natives, and the taking on of rotating roles. Plant personnel will begin being asked to support additional tasks simply because "they are there."

The Invensys InFusion Enterprise Control System, DeVries said, is designed to maximize and simplify the collaboration that must exist between people and systems in the future. Technologies like video, audio, messaging, presence detection and workflow management aren't futuristic—they are here, and they can all be used to make the plant operate more safely, with higher profitability.

"We aren't going to get any more people," he said, "so we have to learn to operate differently with the people we have."

There should be a way to migrate data easily across displays he said, so that roles can adapt to changing circumstances and conditions. "We're moving the work to the worker as well as sending the worker to the work," DeVries said.

In this scenario, ArchestrA Workflow, coupled with Avantis and Wonderware InTouch tools, become enablers of adaptive process management. Data can be oriented on situations, value creation and protection and can be used to see the past, visualize the present and even to predict the future.

Decision trees are going to be smarter and more complex, DeVries continued. "Rigid workflows are fine for purchasing and other enterprise tasks, but in the more fluid and constantly changing plant environment, decision trees and decision-support systems must be highly adaptable and flexible."

DeVries described a decision-support system from ViziWare that can be included as part of ArchestrA Workflow. On one side of the process control screen is the decision-support interface, and on the other side visualization of historical data and future trending. "It looks like wings," he said. This gives the operator real-time risk management and monitoring tools too. "The system brings the work to the worker and sometimes ahead of real time."

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