Voices: Hebert

Improve Access to Plant Information

There Are Four Stages of Content Management Maturity: Content Under Control, Access Anywhere, Managing Change and Integration With the Business

By Dan Hebert

Process plant designers and operators are good at generating lots of documents, drawings and diagrams—but not always adept at keeping track of all this content and transferring the knowledge embedded in it to others. This can present problems when information is needed to solve an operational issue, comply with regulatory requirements, or make an upgrade.

The challenge of finding, organizing and storing process plant content so it's easy and quickly accessible by the right people can be overwhelming, so it's best to take things one step at a time. Automation systems seem to generate a disproportionate share of this information, thus any content management effort will require the involvement of process automation professionals at the plant and possibly throughout the organization.

Enterprise content management industry leader EMC labels the four stages of content management maturity as: Stage 1, Content Under Control; Stage 2, Access Anywhere; Stage 3, Managing Change; and Stage 4, Integrating with the Business.

These stages follow one another in sequential fashion, and process plant personnel can follow three steps to progress from the baseline of Stage 1 to Stage 4, allowing them to proceed at their own pace and consolidate changes before proceeding to the next stage.

Stage 1 is defined as the point where a plant has its content under control with all documents managed electronically, and stored in a single repository that can be accessed throughout the enterprise. Most process plants are part way to Stage 1 completion with a combination of paper and electronic documents residing in multiple repositories.

Complete transition to Stage 1 requires evaluation, purchase and installation of an enterprise content management system, and conversion of all paper documents to electronic equivalents. Conversion usually requires third-party assistance because digitizing paper documents, drawings and other content is a specialized task. Once the transition to Stage 1 is complete, plants can take the step to Stage 2, where project and role-based controls are put in place to ensure access to the approved content through the web and mobile devices.

"Because access now moves from within the walls of the enterprise IT system to web access, often via mobile devices, security becomes a paramount concern. If the enterprise content management system is hosted in a private or hybrid cloud, as opposed to the public cloud, access can be more tightly controlled and security can be enhanced," says Chris McLaughlin, vice president and general manager for Energy & Engineering at EMC Information Intelligence Group.

Security and safety also are improved by implementing role-based controls, so each group of individuals can only access and make changes to relevant content. For example, many employees might be able to view overall plant performance data, but only a select few would be allowed to make changes to production plans. For upgrade, retrofit and plant-expansion projects, role-based controls are particularly important for restricting access and changes to content.

Stage 3 is a further refinement during which change management procedures, including simultaneous collaboration on documents, are implemented. Workflows should  be defined to control the flow of content from one role to the next. Moving from Stage 2 to Stage 3 requires a thorough examination of the content stored in the content management system, so roles and workflows can be more closely defined.

The final step is moving from Stage 3 to Stage 4, where content stored in the enterprise content management system can be accessed directly from existing business systems and applications, enabling personnel to author, distribute and collaborate using familiar tools—which reduces training expenses and increases productivity. 

More from this voice

Title

Web mash-ups: 1+1=3

CONTROL Senior Tech Editor Dan Hebert, PE, takes an in-depth look at a new web technology that will affect how you'll use the Internet, and how this latest trend could be applied to automation.

01/16/2006

Old flywheel technology finds new uses

Read how high-tech flywheels can be used in place of batteries in process plant UPSs when backup power is needed during short-term disturbances and to ride through from utility to generator power.

12/21/2005

Is advanced control ready for Prime Time?

Fuzzy logic can minimize false alerts without compromising detection and notification of actual events, but there is always a tradeoff between sensitivity and increasing likelihood of false notification.

11/10/2005

Into the mesh

Senior Tech Editor Dan Hebert, PE, identifies the leading candidates for best system architecture supremacy in the wireless arena and believes software algorithms will be key for high bandwidth mesh networks.

10/19/2005

Fiber optic sensors on the horizon

The spread of fiber optic sensor technology from the laboratory into everyday use has barely begun. It's slashed the cost of communications, and may be poised to do the same for sensing applications.

09/27/2005

Use RFID to improve your automation systems

Senior Technical Editor Dan Hebert, PE, addresses RFID technology and explains how RFID systems are being lnked to process automation systems to deliver process improvements.

08/22/2005

Do you need a single-source middleware solution?

As integrated middleware solutions vie with best-of-breed products, Senior Tech Editor Dan Hebert wonders if there will ever be a true integrated solution that covers the entire middleware space?

07/21/2005

Applied control theory moves out

Industry group gets automation industry support from companies that believe the partnership between industry and academia is most beneficial when theory moves out of the classroom and into the plant.

06/20/2005

An alarming situation

Alarm systems of one type or another always have been part of industrial machine, robot, and skid control systems, but CONTROL Senior Technical Editor Dan Hebert, PE, notes that there's more to alarm technology than meets the eye ... or ear for that matter.

06/05/2005

Make your automation processes better

There is no lack of technologies available that can improve your automation systems. The trick is to find, evaluate, and implement them without spending an inordinate amount of time, or taking on too much risk.

05/20/2005

Process controllers don't do windows

Embedded operating systems dominate the process control market, but this soon could change according to Senior Technical Editor Dan Hebert in his monthly Technically Speaking column for CONTROL.

02/22/2005

Technically speaking: Will standards mesh?

Reliability, scalability and mobility are the trump cards of wireless mesh networks and should result in triumph over other wireless topologies, according to Senior Technical Editor Dan Hebert, PE.

10/24/2004

Measuring Viscosity With Coriolis Flowmeters

It Can Be Deduced From the Excitation Coil Current

05/14/2003