Petrotechnics http://www.petrotechnics.com Improving Production Efficiency & Lowering Operational Risk Wed, 27 Apr 2016 23:01:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.2 Big Changes for Big Oil http://www.petrotechnics.com/news-and-media/big-changes-for-big-oil Wed, 27 Apr 2016 14:15:46 +0000 http://www.petrotechnics.com/?p=4647

Big Oil has weathered its fair share of turbulence in recent years. But to what extent is the low oil price impacting the performance of supermajors? And, importantly, how can the effect on operational excellence be minimized?

The ‘reserve-replacement ratio’ is a commonly used metric indicating the performance of Exploration and Production companies. It compares the volume of proved reserves with the volume of oil and gas produced in a single year. For years, the long-term sustainability of an organization was judged by its ability to exceed simple replacement of the reserves they produced, indicating an ever-increasing reserves base and growing future cash flow. In recent years, many companies have been unable to find reserves to replace production, which indicates the difficulty of gaining access to prospective acreage. Last year, the seven biggest publicly traded energy companies realized a reserve-replacement ratio of just 75 percent.

Low oil prices have hit capital budgets this year, resulting in cutbacks to drilling programs. We can only assume the level of new reserves discovered and proved this year will suffer – further lowering last year’s ratio.

What’s more, just last month Marsh, an insurance broker and risk adviser, highlighted a  pattern of oil price drops followed by an increase in the frequency and size of major incidents. So, the industry is faced with two linked but distinct challenges: performance is down, and the risk of incidents is up.

But in every challenge, there is an opportunity. The oil price is cyclical – we expect it will recover…eventually. Now, more than ever companies must maintain operational excellence. That way, when prices recover, they are in the best position to reap the benefits.

One way supermajors can maintain healthy operations is by employing enterprise software to help mitigate incidents, increase productivity, and improve operational and financial performance. If employees are enabled to work more efficiently together – regardless of department, position, or location – then everyone across the organization is empowered to make smarter, safer, and better-informed decisions – giving executives confidence in the operation of their assets across the board.

NOW is the time to provide decision-makers the tools they need to achieve operational excellence, reduce overall risk, and ultimately improve performance. The future of the industry depends on it!

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Managing Offshore Operational Risk in a Low Oil Price Environment http://www.petrotechnics.com/news-and-media/ogfj-managing-offshore-operational-risk-in-a-low-oil-price-environment Mon, 25 Apr 2016 18:54:11 +0000 http://www.petrotechnics.com/?p=4633 Petrotechnics_OGFJ_April 2016_Offshore Risk

Offshore Risk: Managing Offshore Operational Risk in a Low Oil Price Environment

By: Mike Neill, Petrotechnics President – North America

ONE YEAR AGO, I shared how operators were adjusting their operational risk management initiatives to lowering oil prices (OGFJ, April 2015). Since that time, prices have continued to fall, and the industry is now accepting this downturn will be protracted.

Many operators are taking a conservative view. ConocoPhillips’ CEO Ryan Lance stated in February, it was smarter to plan “lower for longer.” He also added ConocoPhillips is “…trying to drive [its] portfolio down to as low cost of supply as [it] can,” a tactic which, no doubt, will be repeated by most International Oil Companies (IOC).

Producing basins are squeezing lifting costs, rationalizing capital spend, and disposing assets with minimal operating margins at prevailing prices. It is a familiar pattern which many of us veterans in the industry have seen repeated during such cycles.

Unfortunately, the threat of Major Accident Hazards (MAH) does not turn down with the oil price; so, how should we behave to properly manage our risks?


Petrotechnics Editorial - OGFJ - April 2015 - CTA2

OTC Event CTA

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Friends or Foes: Safety, Productivity, and Today’s Oil Price http://www.petrotechnics.com/news-and-media/friends-or-foes-safety-productivity-and-todays-oil-price Tue, 29 Mar 2016 12:11:47 +0000 http://www.petrotechnics.com/?p=4575 Petrotechnics MNeill Process Safety Management Friends or Foes

Friends or Foes: Safety, Productivity, and Today’s Oil Price

By Mike Neill

Over the past 18 months, the declining oil price has forced oil and gas companies to make critical operational changes. These adjustments – which can be seen in the form of budget cuts, project deferrals, and layoffs – are putting safe, productive operations under pressure. With reduced resources at companies’ disposal, it is vital to understand how to manage tighter budgets and improve operational efficiencies while managing the dynamic between safety and productivity.

For operators who are trying to do more with less, safety can become marginalized, particularly when it comes to prioritizing operations and maintenance schedules. Under increasing cost and productivity pressures, operational decisions can lead to inadvertent risk-taking with Process Safety Management (PSM) and barrier health. It’s precisely these times that we need to consider changing PSM culture so that it becomes a critical enabler for ensuring safe, reliable production.

The fact is a safer plant is a more reliable plant. And a more reliable plant is a more productive plant. But how do operators know, with confidence, the real-time health of their plant?

The oil and gas industry needs to find new ways to holistically understand how operations and maintenance activities and risks work together to impact potential exposure leading to a major accident. Process Safety barriers are designed to prevent or mitigate the consequences of major incidents. These barriers include hardware equipment, ranging from vessels and pipe walls, to safety instrumented systems – such as pressure and level switches or automated valves. All require regular inspection, testing, and preventative maintenance to ensure they perform as designed.

With cost pressures driven by the low oil price, there is temptation for operators to prioritize simple, obvious work that presents the lowest threat to ongoing operations. Instead, operators should focus on scenarios that pose the biggest overall risk to productivity and safety – and, as a minimum, they need to inspect and maintain the associated barrier systems. Without a complete understanding of the consequences of each and every risk on the plant, as well as cascading risks, operators could potentially increase their exposure to process safety-related incidents.

It can be nearly impossible to evaluate and prioritize risk across an asset and throughout an organization, as each department will have its strategies and priorities. Maintenance data is collected through separate, autonomous inspection, testing, and enterprise systems – adding unknown risk to each team’s understanding. What is often seen in an industry downturn, operators will defer costly preventative maintenance – creating backlogs that prove difficult to reduce – and, more crucially, elevating risks across the plant.

For example, an offshore operator could save millions of dollars by deferring a plant shutdown when executing platform or equipment maintenance and upgrades. But, if operators continue to stretch their maintenance schedules to the limit – only executing the bare minimum – this can result in major operational and safety issues down the line. Unfortunately, the degree to which risk is increased is not always obvious, which is perhaps why some of these cost-saving decisions are made.

As operators continue to tighten their budgets, they need access to more sophisticated tools to improve insight and ensure better operational decisions. A solution that can widely communicate the real-time exposure of Major Accident Hazard (MAH) risk and prioritize operational tasks based on an enterprise-wide language of risk can help operators manage safety and productivity in a simple and effective way.

By understanding how to get more of the right work done, at the right time, in the right way – operators can make smarter, cost-effective decisions to ensure a safe, successful, and sustainable future.

To learn more, please visit my team and me at the 2016 AIChE/CCPS Global Congress on Process Safety. More information on the event can be found here.

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Safety Matters http://www.petrotechnics.com/blog-2/safety-matters Thu, 17 Mar 2016 11:34:07 +0000 http://www.petrotechnics.com/?p=4558

Technology has penetrated almost every aspect of refining and petrochemical operations, with many believing it has made them safer, more secure and less harmful to the environment. Process automation now more than ever allows workers to perform their duties without even leaving the control room, while smart equipment can deflect, predict and prevent potentially life-threatening situations.

 

‘Adopting technology has brought about a number of health and safety improvements since I started in the industry 30 years ago, and we can see the benefits today,” Bernard Sanseau, drilling manager at Total Abu Al Bukhoosh, told RPME.

 

“Automation brings additional layers of safety. Now it is possible to work remotely from a ‘cyber chair’. It is a completely different way of looking at things. At Total Abu Al Bhukoosh, we marked 1000 days without a single Lost Time Incident (LTI) and automation has played an important role.” Sanseau added

 

The oil and gas industry, especially the refining and petrochemical ones, have been known for their conservative approach to adopting new technologies, but those days are long gone now. Both refiners and petrochemical producers are operating under new and much more challenging dynamics, with worker safety, increasing productivity and improving environmental footprint occupying a prominent role within the organisation.

 

Technology one again is seen as the key enabler to achieve these targets leading operators to drop their scepticism and embrace the latest innovations on the market.

 

“This is not simply due to the availability of technologies, but also because of the increased capabilities of technology providers to proof test the new technologies more quickly with improved reliability.” Said Ghassan Barghouth, vice president, oil & gas and industrial segments, MENA, Schneider Electric.

 

“Safety and security have always been a top concern for the industry, particularly in terms of ensuring the safety of plant, equipment and people, as well as meeting environmental standards.

 

“With telecommunication networking at such an advanced stage of saturation on existing platforms, process automation system implemented with safety and security provides immense benefits for operators not only monitor their operations in real-time , but also to perform all necessary controls on remote and unsecure locations from a central hub,” Barghouth added.

 

One of the main causes for accidents is an industrial environment is the lack of understanding when it comes to risk. According to Ken Ume, director of product marketing at Petrotechnics, innovative uses of technology can help operators visualise and better manage operational activity and risk.

 

“With this kind of technology, organisations explore opportunities for improvement that can easily get lost in the complexity that makes up most modern operational environments. All too often deviation in process safety, where barriers become impaired, can be lost or misunderstood because it is difficult to connect them to daily operations. Deviations in process safety barriers can lead to increased downtime and in the worst cases – to major accidents.”

 

Stuart Douglas, regional manager for Petrotechnics in the Middle East, added: “We have a product called Proscient. It is a software application that brings a common language of risk, or a common view of the risk across an organisation’s operations from the frontline activity right up to the board.

 

It allows everybody to collectively see what the risk is to safety and what the risk is to business. Once you have looked at all that operational common view of risk and made sure you have mitigated it all through your barrier management and so on, it gives an operation a more streamlined process.

 

On the back of that, what it will do is, it will give the management of an organisation the chance to prioritise maintenance, or what they really need to get done on the plant in a more efficient and safer manner, which again, brings optimal performance and a heavy return on investment.”

 

Click here to read the article in full.

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Petrotechnics drives rail sector growth with strategic hire http://www.petrotechnics.com/news-and-media/petrotechnics-drives-rail-sector-growth-with-strategic-hire Tue, 15 Mar 2016 11:52:05 +0000 http://www.petrotechnics.com/?p=4542

Rail subject matter expert brings over 15 years’ experience to Petrotechnics

 

Aberdeen, UK, 10 March 2016 – Petrotechnics, the leading provider of enterprise operations excellence management solutions, has appointed Michael Brown as rail subject matter expert to support its expansion in the sector.

 

Brown has 18 years’ experience in the rail industry. Having worked on major infrastructure projects including London Thameslink and Crossrail, Brown was most recently seconded from Balfour Beatty Rail into Network Rail on their ‘planning and delivering safe work’ programme.

 

Operating in Europe, Brown will be responsible for the optimal configuration of Petrotechnics’ flagship solution Proscient for rail clients. His role will also be to act as a conduit between the rail industry and Petrotechnics, including developing HSEQ best practices.

 

“I’ve seen the UK rail industry go through many changes since privatisation,” comments Brown. “Joining Petrotechnics has given me a fresh perspective on the sector. The company has a wealth of experience in optimising operations and managing risk for hazardous industries. I’m delighted to take up this new post and to be driving Petrotechnics’ expansion in the rail space.”

 

In 2015 Petrotechnics was awarded its first rail contract with a major UK rail infrastructure operator to reduce complexity and bring more focus to managing operational risk. The company has ambitious plans to expand its global footprint of rail clients.

 

“Petrotechnics’ solutions allow operators to get more of the right work done safely. We are thrilled to be expanding our rail team and are confident that this hire will support the growth of our client base in the sector,” adds Iain Mackay, Executive Vice President of Petrotechnics. “Michael’s expertise, unique insight and understanding of rail operations from an HSEQ perspective will make him an invaluable member of the team.”

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Securing Vital Operations with PSM http://www.petrotechnics.com/news-and-media/media-coverage/securing-vital-operations-with-psm Tue, 08 Mar 2016 09:28:26 +0000 http://www.petrotechnics.com/?p=4526

By Simon Jones, Head of Professional Services, Petrotechnics

Petrotechnics was privileged to chair and present at the Fleming Gulf Process Safety Kuwait event from 16th to 17th February. Attended by senior oil and gas industry professionals, the event explored the role of Process Safety Management in securing Kuwait’s vital operations.

 

While most of the audience believed they had – or were on the path to – strong PSM disciplines, the precipitous drop in oil prices has resulted in many challenges. In a nutshell: companies are under immense pressure to reduce costs, improve operational efficiency and increase productivity – but safety still needs to be a priority.

 

The impact of these challenges were discussed and debated by many industry players during the event. Many reported difficulty in getting an accurate picture of barrier health. These barriers are the warning signs, procedures and processes that are put in place to prevent a minor safety breach from becoming a major hazard.

 

Concerns were also voiced around having the right tools to communicate the problem to all levels of the company in a common way. Often it wasn’t until a compliance issue, unplanned shutdown or near-miss occurred that PSM became a focus.

 

The key to successful PSM is for all workers to have the same picture of barrier health and the associated risk regardless of whether they are on the frontline or in the boardroom. Once a common view of risk is in place, much of the complexity is removed, enabling more effective collaboration and coordination across the organisation.

 

By visualising this risk and connecting it to daily operations, operators can improve risk awareness and mitigation from planning through to execution and prioritise resource allocation accordingly. Risk can be placed at the heart of all of operational decision-making and barrier health awareness and maintenance can be properly integrated into daily operations. With this insight, operators can dynamically prioritise work and maintenance according to risk to get more of the right work done, at the right time – ensuring a safe and sustainable future for the industry.

 

About Simon Jones

Simon Jones has 24 years’ experience in chemical, oil, and gas industries. Simon is Head of Professional Services at Petrotechnics where he leads the consulting practice in the fields of operational management, safe systems of work and operational risk management in client oil and gas facilities around the world.

 

Simon’s background is in process safety – he holds an engineering Master’s degree in Process Safety and Loss Prevention from Sheffield University in the UK. Before joining Petrotechnics, Simon was Manager of Operations in an engineering centre undertaking benchmarking of process safety practices in downstream and chemical companies across Europe.

 

Simon is a member of the Institution of Chemical Engineers and the Royal Society of Chemistry and is actively involved in the Centre for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS) European Regional network.

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PETROTECHNICS AWARDED CONTRACT WITH MAJOR LNG OPERATOR http://www.petrotechnics.com/news-and-media/press-releases/petrotechnics-awarded-contract-with-major-lng-operator Thu, 25 Feb 2016 11:11:29 +0000 http://www.petrotechnics.com/?p=4460 North American LNG operator strengthens operations and risk management programs

Houston, Texas – February 25, 2016Petrotechnics, the leading provider of enterprise operations excellence management software solutions, has been appointed by a major LNG operator to deploy its Proscient platform at the operator’s Gulf of Mexico facilities. Petrotechnics’ software will help improve operations and risk management at the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal by standardizing initiatives, policies, processes and procedures across its operations.

The operator has received approval from the US Department of Energy to export domestically-produced LNG and is in the process of expanding its natural gas liquefaction and export facility to support commercial operations. Proscient will support the operator’s objective to safely and efficiently increase overall export capacity – making it one of the highest volume exporters in the United States.

Proscient enables better operational decision-making by providing stakeholders with a new way to visualize and manage operational risk and activity. The operator will integrate its SAP work management data with process safety management principles and internal best practices to ensure operations and risk management are standardized and systematized across the business. Proscient will enable the company to understand how to best reduce its risk profile and optimize operations throughout commissioning, facility modification, and ongoing work activity.

“We are proud to announce Proscient’s deployment to support LNG operations in North America,” said Mike Neill, North American President at Petrotechnics. “Proscient enables LNG operators to align their work culture and processes while standardizing operations and risk management practices across the business. Crucially, our software helps them achieve their strategic goal of safely, efficiently and sustainably increasing their overall export capacity.”

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Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail http://www.petrotechnics.com/news-and-media/fail-to-plan-plan-to-fail Tue, 23 Feb 2016 16:46:25 +0000 http://www.petrotechnics.com/?p=4441 Petrotechnics Executive Perspective: Oil & Gas Operations, Maintenance and Planning

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

By: Mike Neill

As oil prices reach a 12-year low, already tight margins have become even tighter, increasing the necessity for operational excellence programs to drive efficient, productive, and always safe work environments.

As operators sharpen their focus on operations budgets, routine maintenance work will be increasingly scrutinized. Inspection and maintenance work – particularly updates and repair of safety-critical equipment – is vital for ensuring the integrity, safety, and reliability of assets.

Operators invest millions of dollars in their maintenance plans to sustain, if not improve, production and operational efficiency. However, a gap exists between maintenance, planning, and work execution. Maintenance schedules for time-based inspections and preventative maintenance work are often set years in advance. Within closer planning horizons, other long term planned activities, such as project work, is added. As the execution phase draws nearer, plans become more defined, and repair work is mixed into the schedule with additional condition-triggered maintenance activities. Typically 7 days out, the plan is “frozen” and is handed to the operations team to execute.

The problem for the oil and gas operators is adhering to the plan.

Issues can arise if the asset is working differently to the original design – for example, a change in production due to a sharp decline in oil price. Some equipment might need to be assessed quickly while others can run closer to design tolerances to meet production targets. Other variables such as contractor availability, unforeseen equipment failure, logistics, and even the weather can compromise maintenance schedules. However, with all of these variables, do operators have the insight they need to understand the importance of when to execute or defer work?

Furthermore, planning usually stops at the work order and often does not take into account operations time, capacity or safety constraints. Rarely are plans granular enough to include interrelated factors such as ancillary jobs and safety dependencies. For example, while the plan may say ‘change out a relief valve,’ it often doesn’t specify that it is 30 feet in the air – requiring scaffolding to be built for access and lagging to be removed. Nor does it specify that the section of line has to be isolated, depressurized, drained, and have gas freed. All of this takes time and resource that needs to be sequenced in order to meet the schedule.

These unscheduled activities can turn routine maintenance into an operational nightmare – as adequate time is rarely allotted to complete work safely. This tension between managing risks and completing activity according to schedule becomes a constant challenge and builds tensions between departments.

No matter how well planned, maintenance and operations can’t be executed safely and efficiently unless everyone understands all the activities that need to be completed alongside the interrelated operational risks on the plant. We call this “all of the job” and “all of the jobs.”

In today’s business dynamic, operations teams are measured on asset uptime, equipment availability, and production levels. Maintenance is measured on plan attainment and wrench-time in the field. Both are charged with executing the maintenance schedule, but if it lacks the detail to make it an executable plan, then success will result from how conflicts are managed on a day-to-day basis. Since both maintenance and operations are measured on different success criteria, it is not surprising they view conflicts from different perspectives.

However, if asset operators have the ability to rank tasks based on a common parameter, such as risk, everyone from the ground up can understand how workload can be safely optimized. By better visualizing and integrating operations and maintenance activities, along with hazards and risks, the following can be achieved:

  • Operators can better understand how to get more of the right work completed, at the right time, in the right way,
  • Operations’ teams can quickly recognize the causes and consequences of executing particular work at a specific time and,
  • Offshore and Onshore Installation Managers (OIMs) can make smarter decisions about how to organize staffing and resources more effectively.

The overall result –- operations teams can more safely and cost-effectively ensure their uptime metric is achieved.

With a new holistic perspective on risk and activity, safety becomes an enabler of productivity. By optimizing operations without compromising safety, the industry can set the basis for a cost-effective and sustainable future.

Mike Neill is the President of Petrotechnics USA. With more than 35 years of experience, Mike has helped to improve safety and performance management for companies in hazardous industries around the world. Prior to joining Petrotechnics, Mike held roles in Operations, Drilling and Petroleum Engineering for BP Upstream, in Scotland, Norway, the South of England, and Egypt.

Mike holds a BSc in Mechanical Engineering, MSc in Petroleum Engineering from Imperial College of Science and Technology at the University of London, and an MBA in Strategic Management from the Peter F. Ducker Graduate Management Centre, Claremont Graduate School in California. He is an active member of the CCPS, AIChE, ASSE, GPA, and the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center.

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Training, Technology Increases Safety http://www.petrotechnics.com/news-and-media/training-technology-increase-safety Tue, 16 Feb 2016 17:25:42 +0000 http://www.petrotechnics.com/?p=4417

In an ideal world, blowouts, leaks, fires and worker injuries on onshore and offshore assets would be banished to the history books. But despite a tremendous effort by professionals and organizations across the upstream industry, these events still can occur. In fact, the most recent edition of Marsh’s list of the 100 most expensive losses in the hydrocarbon industry during the past 40 years shows 35 percent of the total occurring within the past 10 years. The recent entries include four upstream events between 2011 and 2013.

While completely eliminating risk is impossible–even with oil and gas companies committed to safety as job one the industry continues to develop and implement procedures, equipment and best practices to minimize the occurrence of health, safety and environmental incidents.





Click here to download the full article




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Breaking the back of overwhelming maintenance http://www.petrotechnics.com/news-and-media/media-coverage/breaking-the-back-of-overwhelming-maintenance Wed, 03 Feb 2016 15:15:24 +0000 http://www.petrotechnics.com/?p=4394

Petrotechnics’ Neil Singh explains in this month’s Railway Strategies magazine how the big-picture view can help improve the safety-productivity dynamic.

 

Behind the operation of any rail network are two essential, but often contradictory priorities: productivity and safety. Ensuring one, without compromising the other, is a constant challenge, particularly in an organisation as complex as a rail network.

 

Most rail networks represent huge national investments of time, money and effort. They appear straight-forward to commuters waiting for the 8.15 to Paddington, but are in fact highly complex. They are not just a collection of track, signaling, trains, power and people. Trains get from A to B thanks to the daily interactions between them all. It is these interactions that dictate how the network runs. They also make the rail network an extremely dynamic operation, with an almost infinite number of variables – all of which have the potential to affect safety and productivity.

 

The point at which the tension between productivity and safety is most keenly felt is maintenance. Given the demands on the rail network, and the growing volume of passenger and freight activity that it must support, the pressure of finding the balance is increasing. On the one hand, there is pressure to complete more and more rail maintenance work within very tight timeframes with limited resources. On the other, the task, location and infrastructure must be properly assessed to ensure that these maintenance jobs themselves does not cause harm to people, the environment or the infrastructure.

 

There are any number of ways in which a seemingly insignificant error, like a piece of equipment left track-side, or an unexpected event such as a hidden wasps’ nest in an overhanging tree, can escalate into a major problem. Seemingly inconsequential operational events, activities and decisions have an immediate impact on maintenance schedules but can also roll up into something substantially larger. Like the hurricane caused by a butterfly flapping its wings, some of the biggest headaches on the railways can have some of the simplest and unexpected causes.

 

Equally, commercial reality puts significant pressure to get more work completed in a shorter time frame. Rail infrastructure companies are observing more ‘at risk’ behaviour, where workers are taking chances and exposing themselves to high levels of risk in order to get more done. When times are tight, and the pressure is on, safety becomes a compliance issue rather than a life-saving issue. The difference is a subtle but important one.

 

Of course, the complex interactions involved in scheduling and carrying out maintenance are largely invisible to passengers. Rail travel is one of those things that people only talk about when it goes wrong. And so despite attention from media, politicians and public alike, when bank holidays are disrupted, most people do not see the lengthy decision chains and variable work schemes behind a late train.

 

The problem is that many of these interactions are also invisible to managers and decision-makers. Although there are rules in place to govern and manage maintenance scheduling and work execution, there is only a limited amount of data available to support informed decision-making and few controls in place to make sure rules are being followed. Line managers are left to make decisions based on their experience and instinct. Often there is no global view of where the work is happening or who is doing it – let alone that it will be done safely.

 

To maintain the most effective balance between safety and productivity, rail infrastructure operators must find a way to simplify that complexity. They need to see the big picture and still find the relevant detail so that every decision enables safe delivery of work.

 

However, if we go back to our definition of the railway as a series of interactions, it soon becomes clear that the ‘bigger picture’ is not a static portrait. Nor is it a two-dimensional one.

 

Therefore, successful rail maintenance scheduling should not be a question of running a straight up-and-down to-do list and ticking things off as they are finished. Priorities can change in a very short amount of time, and the order of work gets shuffled around. There are consequences to each of those moves: a change in people, equipment, location, or time required will cause additional changes to other areas of the maintenance schedule.

 

This changing environment is the bigger picture, and rail operators need to understand those consequences and make allowances for them in the planning process in order to run a safe and productive rail network. They need a far more dynamic way of managing maintenance scheduling that takes into account all the factors that affect job scheduling and the way that they interact with each other.

 

To do this, they need a view of all operational activity that takes into account the three key dimensions of each job: time, location and risk.

 

Risk is the important factor here. It is often last-minute or unexpected risk that prevents scheduled maintenance from going ahead. And of course, when risks are ignored, safety is compromised. The compliance approach often relegates risk to just one of a number of factors to be considered. But by choosing risk as the prism through which all work is defined, planned and executed, it becomes much easier to schedule rail maintenance effectively – and so keep to productivity targets.

 

For many organisations this will require a change in culture and its associated processes and procedures. There is no silver bullet or simple switch that can be flicked to transform a complex operation like a rail network. But if a technological solution cannot do all the heavy lifting, it can certainly play a key role in enabling a new risk-centric approach.

 

The right systems can make information transparent to all levels of the organisation at any time. They can provide that essential three-dimensional view: not just what is happening now, but what happened before and what happens next. It can make clear the inter-dependencies and relationships between individual jobs, disciplines, equipment and schedules.

 

It does this by acting as a central repository for all data inputs, and then converting this data into useful decision-making information through visualisation techniques or reporting capability. One of the challenges that rail managers face when trying to get the bigger picture is not necessarily the shortage of data. It’s more often about hard-to-find or hard-to-use data, which is then trumped by the need for quick decisions with the best information available.

 

Visualising and understanding the bigger picture in this way helps reduce the number of coordination issues that arise when planners are unable to see what other works are scheduled at their worksites. It reduces the number of re-planned jobs caused by unknowns on the railway. It enables better use of ‘possessions’ (maintenance periods when all train movement operations are stopped), because all teams can see what work they have on their radars for a given location, and what is planned in that possession.

 

Crucially it also provides all necessary information about jobs up front. During planning, risk assessments and controls can be incorporated in a timely fashion to ensure a coordinated and safe execution of work. Decision-makers have the information necessary to plan work effectively around safety requirements. In this way it supports a better safety-productivity dynamic – with no compromises.

 

To read the full issue of Railway Strategies February issue, please click here.

 

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