Boost Operational Profitability With Safety
EP Editorial Staff | December 19, 2018
Your industrial-safety assets and programs can become a profit engine.
By Chris Stogner, Triconex Safety, Schneider Electric
Most industrial professionals recognize the high cost of a safety-related incident. In addition to the primary concern, potential injury to people, these events can cause equipment damage and plant downtime, often resulting in higher insurance costs and fines from regulatory agencies. All of this can also have a negative impact on operational profitability. Forward-thinking leaders understand the positive impact a strong safety program can have on operational profitability. With that in mind, many are beginning to convert their industrial safety assets and programs into profit engines. The process involves three simple steps.
1. Implement process-safety-management programs that increase productivity and reduce costs.
Process and occupational safety are always top of mind. To be even more effective at safeguarding equipment and operators, however, companies should incorporate process-safety-management (PSM) programs. These programs and compliance procedures keep people safe and prevent production from being interrupted. That leads to increased productivity and profitability. With strong PSM programs in place, operators can continuously evaluate production processes to identify and control potential hazards while ensuring equipment is operating at peak performance.
To properly ensure the integrity of any industrial business, leadership involvement at all levels of the enterprise is required. PSM programs not only encourage, but require, proactive involvement from safety, operations, maintenance, and management teams, as well as those in leadership positions. PSM programs require the application of recognized safety and cybersecurity standards (such as ISA S84, IEC61511, IEC62443) and hazard analyses to identify potential risks and set safety targets. Businesses should implement real-time PSM data and use analytics to turn the data into actionable insight, which can be used to illustrate the relationship between plant safety and profitability. As the first step in a profitable safety model, PSM programs can increase productivity and reduce production and maintenance costs.
2. Harness the power of IIoT and digitization to drive cost-effective industrial safety.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and related concepts, such as digitization, big data, analytics, visual clues, and digital twins, are rapidly changing the nature of how work gets done. The influx of technology is improving the performance of industrial assets and how operations are controlled and managed. Therefore, safety-management programs need to be modified and improved as well.
With today’s technological advancements, safety and control systems are more powerful, efficient, and secure. By leveraging IIoT and digitization, cost-effective industrial safety can be achieved. The data flowing from distributed control systems (DCS), safety instrumented systems (SIS), and intelligent sensors is immensely beneficial to improving safety and profitability, but only if it can be consolidated into a database to make safety-critical information accessible and quick and easy to use.
Once data is captured and collected, layers of analytics, including descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive, can be combined to reveal interdependencies between seemingly disparate data points and to highlight conditions and trends that identify potential operating risks and or problems before they occur. For example, operators can use predictive analytics to gather historical and live equipment data from sensors to create equipment profiles that can be used to identify abnormalities and potential threats to safety.
With equipment profiles established, operators can set guidelines for how an asset is supposed to perform and compare expected to actual performance. If deviations are detected, operators can alert the safety and maintenance teams to minimize potential risks and prevent equipment downtime or damage.
As the number of smart devices that measure plant process conditions increases, industrial safety can benefit from the opportunities the proliferation of data provides. When operators use predictive-maintenance techniques, there is less human involvement and a smaller risk of human error or accident, meaning the industrial process and the operators who control it will be safer.
In addition, there are now safety applications specifically designed for real-time safety analytics. These applications eliminate the need to invest in teams of IT professionals to develop bespoke applications and manage their software and hardware infrastructure. Instead, the rise of cloud-computing systems and software-as-a-service (SaaS) capabilities are driving changes across industry.
Cloud-based systems make process-safety data accessible to a wide variety of stakeholders, improving its utilization and reducing and deployment costs of an organization’s safety systems. While safety systems have been operated as separate entities for many years, IIoT and digitization provides a means of connecting and centralizing plant and process data so that the performance of safety functions as-operated versus as-designed can be easily compared to improve decision making and broaden the potential for smarter and faster safety practices.
3. Take control of real-time safety and profitability to start your profit engine.
While improving the financial performance of an operation is of utmost importance to executives, the impact functional safety control can have on operational profitability is not always clear. To better comprehend this relationship, you must first understand how variability and profitability affect industrial operations and how these forces have evolved over time.
For example, the business variables of energy, production, and material costs have evolved from being predictably stable to very unstable. Adding to the complexity, these variables once required measurement on a consistent, less-frequent cycle, i.e., monthly, but now require real-time measurement and reporting.
Creating a balance between those three variables to maximize profitability is a classic control problem that requires a classic control approach. Application of a simple feedback loop to control real-time profitability, coupled with information sharing, can empower plant personnel to make better operating decisions that have a measurable impact on operational profitability improvements.
While manufacturing capacity and output are common constraints on an operation’s profitability, there is one constraint that, much like profitability, tends to fluctuate in real time. That’s operational risk. People, process, and environmental safety are three aspects to the safety constraint that affects the real-time profitability of an operation. For example, if the safety risk of a piece of equipment, process unit, or plant area can be measured in an ongoing, real-time manner (similar to that for other business constraints, such as energy output or material cost), operators will be better able to determine how hard they can safely drive plant operations without causing undue risk to their equipment or people.
To do this, companies must be able to measure the operational risk in an ongoing, real-time manner by developing a dual view of safety risk and combining this with composite safety risk measures. While following processes and procedures for inspections, audits, and reviews reduces the risk of unsafe events and conditions, unplanned events still happen, and plants must be able to monitor and measure events on a continuous basis. By developing a dual-view of safety risk, they can better monitor suspicious events and predict when those situations might cause harm to personnel or processes. This approach leads to a greater understanding of the impact operating decisions can have on the safety risk of a plant and, therefore, how they affect profitability.
Maintenance approaches are already shifting from reactive to proactive in identifying and acting on potential hazards. Creating a balance between variability, profitability, and safety can help operators proactively improve the safety and profitability of their operations. For operational and compliance safety risk, in particular, controls can be applied by keeping operational safety risk measurement visible to environmental, health, and safety (EH&S) teams, who are responsible for safety and compliance audits. Businesses need to invest time and resources into developing systems that notify and guide compliance processes and keep stakeholders updated on changes to pre-configured baselines to alert teams if safety risk levels are elevated.
Modern industrial plants use predictive, conditional-safety systems to monitor potentially unsafe conditions and take corrective action to proactively remedy potential failures and hazards. With a detailed understanding of plant-operation history, teams can accurately analyze historical data to inform their approach to emerging events. Plants that have holistic safety-condition identification functions in place can take corrective actions more quickly and accurately than those that neglect to fully contextualize the operating state of the entire plant.
Once a safety-control system is in place, plants can use a similar approach to control the real-time profitability of their operations. Lifting safety constraints on an operation alone does not lead to increased profitability. Instead, control theory should be applied to measure, empower, and improve the manufacturing resource base. This is how operators can monitor the effect their actions are having on key business factors, including safety, and, over time, learn how their actions impact
operational profitability. By combining safety risk and profitability controls together, plants are empowered to use the data at their disposal to take actions that not only mediate safety risk, but also improve profitability.
TIME FOR CHANGE
As industry becomes more competitive and the regulatory environment stricter, every stakeholder in a plant needs to keep a strong focus on process safety. Safety cannot simply be viewed as a means to comply with rules and regulations. It must become an integral part of corporate values.
By maintaining a continuous focus on investing in and improving safety programs, businesses will not only ensure the safety of people, but be able to drive better production outcomes, improve process efficiencies, and make real-time, safe profitability a reality. With the right process-safety programs in place, strategic investment in technological capabilities, and a dedicated approach to enhancing control, safety will peacefully coexist with profitability and, in the process, jumpstart the profit engine of an industrial plant. EP
Chris Stogner is brand director for Schneider Electric’s Triconex Safety division, Schaumburg, IL (schneider-electric.us). Stogner is responsible for defining and managing strategy and investments for the Triconex Safety business and product lines.