Let us start with the premise that most facilities, through company policies and industry guidelines, laws and regulations, have built site-specific programs, practices and procedures to support their daily operations.
To be clear, the conversation is not about how documentation is stored, how training is implemented or the need to modify procedures in place, but rather what can be done to enhance existing processes through the use of electronic desktops and mobile integrated solutions.
We understand that you are probably doing things well beyond industry standards and guidelines. If you were not, you most likely wouldn’t be in business anymore and wouldn’t be reading this article. If you agree with the point above, in all likelihood you may be one of the many companies looking for software solutions that add value to how you perform and execute these critical tasks and activities.
Most companies have devoted decades to building, documenting and training on programs, practices and procedures required to provide a safe work environment that meets regulatory compliance within their industries. Many of them are very proud of their incident/accident rate, lost-time injury frequency and overall culture of health, safety and environmental responsibility – and they should be!
Over the last decades, companies have invested millions of dollars on industry consultants and staff expertise to help in critical areas, such as mechanical integrity, environmental, health and safety, risk mitigation, engineering and production to install programs related to environmental, occupational, industrial safety, risk assessment, hazard analysis and equipment reliability. Methods, such as root cause analysis, various investigation technics, audit/review driven by continuous improvement and optimization approaches have been used to enhance efficiency, productivity, compliance and safety.
So why change these processes?
The answer is you shouldn’t have to and don’t have to, as there are solutions that can digitize and enhance what you have now. The gap to be addressed is how digitalization of the existing processes, such as site-specific audits, inspections, checklists, shift logs, isolations and permit-to-work can best be achieved. Through optimization and continuous improvement efforts, in addition to departmental challenges to increase daily work activity efficiencies, software and mobile solutions are becoming more prevalent within the “day in the life” of operators and maintenance technicians. Through the use of handheld devices, ruggedized tablets, laptops, printers and barcode scanners connected to cellular or Wi-Fi networks, plant personnel can now more efficiently and safely track, manage and execute critical tasks and activities in their complex facilities. The way this critical information is collected, tracked, managed and shared within a facility significantly affects daily production, environmental impact and safety in either a positive or negative way.
The process is one of migrating from paper-based systems developed over decades to electronic software solutions, which provides additional capabilities and use of mobile technology. Even though there have been significant advancements in production and maintenance management, supply chain, HR and all other facets required to manage multi-site and multi-million or billion-dollar companies, have you done enough in the area of operational processes digitization? Especially in areas such as lockout/tagout, logbooks, operator rounds, safety checklists, inspections, environmental audits or control of work, all of which are critical processes.
Companies that operate in high-risk environments, or facilities using complex infrastructures and procedures with hazardous materials which include corrosive, toxic and explosive components, should ask the following questions: How many of the daily tasks and activities have been electronically optimized, and what tasks are still performed with paper, which is more difficult to track and manage efficiently?