Mind the Gap: Integrated Operations Management w/Smart PTW, the Key to Improving Tool Time


Leading companies are increasingly pursuing Operational Excellence as a means of confidently running their assets safely, reliably, sustainably and cost-effectively. A key component of operational excellence is an integrated approach to Operations Management. A first step in delivering integrated operations management is to recognise the gaps between activity planning, maintenance management, operations and the reality of how work gets executed.

When coming under pressure to improve tool time, one Senior Global Vice President of Maintenance recognized the biggest lever for incremental improvement was the availability of operational resources to prepare the worksite for maintenance.

In practice, multiple gaps exist between the plan, the executable schedule and the actual execution of work, reducing tool time and work productivity overall. Industry research shows, of the available work hours recorded in maintenance management systems, on average only 69% of maintenance is scheduled, 33% of work is recorded, and only 17% of work is planned. In short, unplanned, dynamic work activities must be accounted for as it bears the greatest weight on an operator’s ability to execute work safely and effectively.

A more integrated approach to managing operations requires new ways of controlling and managing work. This is where the age of Industry 4.0 and a consolidated, real-time view of ‘big data’ coming from Operations, Maintenance, Planning, Engineering and HSE systems can help. Before moving forward, it’s worth taking a step back to understand how operations management systems and tools have evolved to help operators standardise human work management to the achieve necessary gains.

In response to a number of serious incidents, Permit to Work (PTW) systems were developed to deliver a more systematic way of managing controls associated with work activities. Next was to integrate disparate paper processes – including risk assessment, permitted work, and isolation lock-out-tag-out (LOTO) – to help frontline terms better understand and manage the risk impact of their work.

Systems were introduced that contributed to frontline safety performance; however, these systems focused on managing the controls associated with a single job and ensured the controls remained in place during the permit period with the focus of improving personal safety. As industry operators know, hazardous activities can collide at any point within a 12-hour shift. Permit systems need to manage activities rather than controls in a time window.


The next evolution of permit to work systems must provide an integrated view of permitted and non-permitted work, critical safety dependencies, all of the tasks and subtasks required for executing a job, and any lessons learned – in addition to needed inputs from enterprise management systems and data historians.

Operators must begin to find ways to integrate operations, maintenance and planning systems in an activity-centric manner, making risk one of the key lenses through which activity is prioritised, defined, planned and executed. Schedules should be made executable according to safety standards as well as the operators’ ability to effectively support the plan. When operators know what they need to do to comply with a pre-defined sequence of work, they can manage the dynamic execution of the plan as the schedule unfolds.

Industrial connected mobility can help work teams manage and record the duration of hazardous activities in specific time windows and capture safety and productivity details to improve currently scheduled work and future plans.

Ultimately, it’s not just about having more wrench time available. It’s about having more work available for the wrench time and having the ability leverage insights for better, safer work environments.


In 1989, Phil Murray recognised the need to provide technology-based solutions to hazardous industries to reduce operational risk, and to help them move beyond compliance to optimise operational performance and drive continuous improvement. Founding Petrotechnics was the result.

Today, Phil is responsible for managing and driving global teams to support our customers in over 22 countries. For over 25 years, Phil has been instrumental in changing the way people work, giving them the tools to manage the relationship between operational performance and risk.

Prior to founding Petrotechnics, Phil spent ten years with BP in a variety of technical, operational and managerial roles. He’s won numerous business awards and has authored a number of articles, including ‘Bringing Frontline Workers into the 21st Century’ (‘Journal of Petroleum Technology’).

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