Perfect Fit: Operator Performance

Enhancing Operator Performance Means Tailoring the Right Combination of Situation-Aware Displays, Rationalized Alarms, Ergonomic Consoles and Field-Capable Interfaces. Here's How Users Maintain Operator Effectiveness

By Jim Montague

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Stan Devries, senior director of software solutions architectures at Invensys Operations Management, which is becoming part of Schneider Electric, explains, "We need to rethink training to include in-class, on-the-job and regular refreshers, instead of the usual training for a new project before start-up, and then neglecting it later. We've found cases where it took eight years of traditional training for operators to reach error-free status, but using established metrics could reduce that time to 1.5 years. This training is also important in pulp and paper, refining and other industries where operators can go seven years between shutdowns and overhauls, so many operators have never started their application up from zero.

"Effective training based on best practices is also crucial because more operators are becoming at least partially responsible for business performance, so they're trying to declutter their displays. This means focusing on quality alarms and grade-change alerts, but operators also want to know at the console about broader situations that their applications are in. They also want quick look-backs at previous batches to help show next steps, assist situation awareness, and avoid undesired situations or make the most of good situations."

To help these efforts, Invensys maintains a Situation Awareness Library that works in conjunction with its new Foxboro Evo process control platform and Wonderware InTouch software. The library's polar plots, spider charts and other indicators also are combined with Invensys' Dynamic Performance Measures consulting service, which takes a process unit's existing economic, quality and efficiency measures, then develops new targets and measures operators can use to make better decisions.

"The library works with our new InTouch 2014 software and Wonderware System Platform 2014, and gives operators a better context for their information instead of just showing them values, which they report is allowing them to find significant issues about 40% faster," says John Krawjewski, Invensys' product management director for HMI and supervisory control products.

Organize, Supervise, Optimize

Of course, one of the best ways to improve operator—and manager—performance is to provide an overall view of the entire facility and its processes before drilling down to individual applications or equipment. These big pictures remind users of the full scope of their responsibilities, especially at shift changes, and helps put subsystems and individual applications into a more understandable context, particularly in relation to their upstream and downstream processes.

For instance, India's state-owned Gail Gas Ltd. in New Delhi includes all aspects of the natural gas supply process from exploration and production to distribution and customer service. It operates two major liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) pipelines, Jamnagar Loni and Vizag Secundrabad, which move gas to bottling plants, and it runs seven natural gas pipelines across India with a total length of more than 10,700 kilometers.

Previously, Gail's operators used telephones to manually collect operations data for each regional pipeline. However, because its operators and administrators were having increasing problems managing so many different SCADA systems for their LPG and natural pipelines, Gail recently decided to install one centralized SCADA system for all of them, and integrate it with all future pipelines that were either under construction or planned.

After investigating several solutions, Gail selected Fast/Tools SCADA software from Yokogawa Electric Corp., which also designed and implemented a system architecture suited to Gail's existing pipeline network and able to integrate with its expansion requirements.  Consequently, Gail and Yokogawa replaced the pipelines' former networks and equipment, installed their new, unified SCADA system and integrated many types of remote terminal units (RTUs) and hundreds of individual devices in just 15 months, ending in July 2012.

The new SCADA system is in a main master station (MMS) that houses all of Gail's primary SCADA servers, which are located at the National Gas Management Center (NGMC) in Noida. This system was also installed at a hot back-up master station (BMS) in Jaipur in case of a disaster. Along with implementing Fast/Tools, Yokogawa installed a high-availability computing (HAC) solution that uses history, client and zonal servers in a triple-redundant configuration (Figure 1). From their terminals in the central control room, operators can view operations data 24/7 for all of their regional pipelines.

Each regional gas management center (RGMC) also has a Fast/Tools-based HAC that uses dual-redundant, front-end processor (FEP) servers for continual monitoring and control. Thanks to this redundant design, operations and maintenance data from the field also is uninterrupted, and operators, production engineers and analysts at the NGMC have real-time, visual access to information needed to run their nationwide network. In fact, Gail reports system availability for its entire pipeline network has increased to 99.5%, which ensures a steady supply of gas across India.

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