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A Day in the Life of .. Part 2

Here is the second in a short series showing how Hexagon products assist some typical industrial roles in coping with daily challenges and achieving better performance. In Part 1, we featured the Production Unit Engineer and the Site Control Systems Engineer. Now we follow a Production Unit Manager and the Site Manager.

A Day in the Life of… Production Unit Manager 

Your name is Lloyd, and you are a production unit manager. You run one of several departments in a medium-sized chemical plant. Your unit makes several different chemicals in large volumes with tight quality specifications.  
It is your first day back in the plant after a week’s vacation. Well, as much of a vacation as a production unit manager can actually have... But as you think that, you realize it sure is a lot better than it used to be. You only got two calls from the plant last week, both dealing with very minor injuries (a wasp sting and a sprained ankle) but following your standing orders of being called for all injuries. You used to get a half dozen calls every day of vacation, many having to do with production issues. 

You can take some time off because your unit production engineers are really keyed into the operation. This younger bunch are fast adopters of technology. All of them monitor their parts of the process closely, using information straight from the control system and process historian.  They bring this into custom dashboards for their areas using Hexagon PAS InBound® technology. They’ve all configured automated boundary management alerting and reporting – so that quality or efficiency deviations can be spotted and handled immediately. 

You had your engineer Cran, who is kind of a wizard at this, do a custom dashboard for you that covers all of your engineer’s areas. It’s good that they know you can look over their shoulders. Just a couple of months ago Cran spotted early fouling in a heat exchanger, and came up with an easy fix with the reliability group. In the discussion, it came up that the same exchanger had severely fouled ten years ago and cost a lot of money in lost production. You made sure Cran got a bonus for that! 

You remember spending many weekends in the control room, when you were first promoted to unit manager as a transfer from another site. It was impressive that the control room alarms were not sounding almost continuously – this unit had completed a best practices alarm management effort and got that under control. But the screens! They were still horribly cluttered multi-colored P&ID representations with little context. The operators relied on their long years of experience to spot problems in that maze of tiny numbers. New operators often missed those, with resulting process deviations. What to do? 
Coincidentally Carlos, one of your best control room operators, got a bit frustrated while training the new operators. He came to your office with a book and some presentations he had come across. The High Performance HMI Handbook from Hexagon spelled out this very problem and exactly how to go about HMI redesign for effectiveness. Carlos pointed out that the control screens he had to work with were just the same as the very worst examples in the book. You spent some time looking into it as there were a lot of online presentations covering the subject. It all made sense, there was a truly better, more effective way to display the process on the screen. You talked about it to Sherry, the Site Engineering Manager. She agreed to assign one of her control engineers that had come across the same issue at an ISA symposium. You worked out a trial of these new approaches and arranged for some design work to test. Now two years later, the control HMI is totally redesigned and even your newest operators spot and resolve issues well before they become serious. Plus, you regularly get visits from managers of other plants to take a look. Leading a unit that is used as an example? That can’t hurt your career… 
You check your Hexagon j5 Control of Work system to see what hazardous work permits are coming up in the next couple of weeks. Yes, there is one job that will require your approval. Some think it strange that you require a personal checkout of the planned work for the control system’s UPS – an uninterruptible power source with battery backup and switchover. But you once lived through an unnecessary total unit shutdown because of a mistake in such work, and you intend to see it is done right! The same j5 system shows you a few upcoming Management of Change signoffs you will need to look at.  All routine, most of these are handled by your unit engineers. 

It is still early in the morning. You are amazed that you now have a full picture of what was going on in the unit while you were gone, and what is coming up. Now it's time to talk to Lourdes, the engineer you put in charge in your absence, and get the human side of things. You think, “this was some good experience for her, it was her first taste of running things here.”  
The phone rings. It is Eddie, the VP for your business area. 
“Lloyd – got a minute?” 
“Yeah Eddie, what’s up?” 
“Good news, we just got approval for that major expansion of your unit. Double the capacity, second train, new control room, the works! Official announcement is later this week.” 
“Great! That was faster than I thought it would be.” 
“Yes. So, the project team needs to be put together. Do you have someone in mind for the production representative? Remember, the first six or eight months will be in the London engineering offices, so they will have to do temporary duty there.” 
“Temporary assignment in London. I don’t think it will be very difficult to find someone willing to do that! I do have a couple of good candidates. I’ll discuss it with my top choice and let you know. I think he’ll go for it.” 
“Choose well. When the project is done, that person will be a prime choice for the next Unit Manager.” 
“Will do. Send me the draft announcement!” You hang up and send a message to Cran to drop in before lunch.  

A Day in the Life of…  a Site Manager

Your name is Marcy, and you are the site manager for a medium-sized chemical plant, with several different production units making different products. The site also has maintenance services, site engineering, a central quality lab, and several other support departments. 

You used to be a production engineer, then a production unit manager. Fun times! Actually being responsible for making real stuff was a lot more fun than dealing with a lot of the headaches you have now… 

It is Tuesday afternoon after a long holiday weekend. You kept up with the plant performance using your custom software dashboard. For each of the production units, you see summaries of production, efficiency, emissions, quality results, and several other items. Cost tracking for various departments is shown, updated weekly vs. the target plan. You HATE to get budget surprises at the end of the month! While the dashboard shows recordable injuries year-to-date, all of your production managers know to call you and the plant safety manager as soon as any injury occurs. There are some things where the phone remains the best tool. 
You also examine a separate summary page for “boundary excursions.” Every production unit now uses Hexagon’s Boundary Management (PAS InBound®) system. Anytime a process deviates from several chosen optimum ranges, automatic reports are generated summarizing the excursion’s scope and effect, which includes the dollarized cost impact in some cases. Units analyze these reports as improvement opportunities. You get a listing of the most significant of these reports. You flag a couple of them, with notes to the unit managers to discuss them with you in a few days, after their evaluations. 

You are spending some time preparing for one of your favorite monthly meetings tomorrow. Your site safety manager monitors several websites that report and analyze industrial accidents. Many of those turn out to be potentially applicable to your site. He sends summaries of those to you and your leadership team for review, then all of you meet once a month to brainstorm improvements based on them. There was a particularly horrific accident in this last batch. The worst ones almost always involve stuff getting outside of the pipes when it shouldn’t, and often during maintenance work. It is human error that most often gets you. Reducing the potential for human error is a perpetual effort. 
As an example, even though you have stringent lockout/tagout and safe work procedures, there is always something to learn about making them better. It isn’t good enough to just have maintenance procedures. Since you deployed Hexagon’s Knowledge Management System (AcceleratorKMS), you can now incorporate video demonstrations into those procedures. Last month, you looked into a case at another company where technicians, who were working on the instrumentation portion of a control valve, were accidentally sprayed with hot acid. Their work did not require taking the valve itself apart, only removing the actuator. But doing that incorrectly could and did cause the valve to leak. The right way to do the job was not obvious unless the technician had experience. Some might say “Always read the valve’s manual first!” Sure, in an ideal world, but you live in the real world. Your team investigated and found all of the similar valves in your plant. This didn’t take weeks; it was easy since all plant P&IDs and other design records are now digitally searchable using Hexagon technology. So, videos were made of the correct way to work on them, then the videos were incorporated into maintenance checklist procedures. Signs were also made and hung on every valve, mandating a video review before working on them. 

You are once again surprised about how quickly you can come into the office and attain a thorough understanding of the state of the plant, even after this long holiday weekend. And you know that all of your production unit managers, and their staff, are looking at the same data in even more detail. Departmental alignment towards achieving plant goals has never been better. 

OK, time now to go to that capital project review meeting. There are some major unit expansions in the planning stages. And your site was chosen for them because (you were told) corporate management was impressed at how “on top of things” your management team was. You think to yourself “This is still a lot of fun. All the action is here. Do I really want a higher-level job at headquarters if they ask?” 

About the Author

Bill Hollifield is the Hexagon Principal Alarm Management and High Performance HMI consultant, with more than 25 years of experience in the process industry in engineering, operations, and control systems, and an additional 20 years in alarm management consulting and services for the petrochemical, power generation, pipeline, mining, and other industries. He is a member of the ISA-18.2 Alarm Management committee, the ISA SP101 HMI committee, the American Petroleum Institute’s API RP-1167 Alarm Management Recommended Practice committee, and the Engineering Equipment and Materials Users Association (EEMUA) Industry Review Group. In 2014, Bill was named an ISA Fellow for industry contributions in these areas. Bill is also the co-author of The Alarm Management Handbook, First and Second Editions, © PAS 2010 The High Performance HMI Handbook, © PAS 2008, The ISA book: Alarm Management: A Comprehensive Guide, Second Edition, © ISA 2011 and The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) guideline on Alarm Management for Power Generation (2008) and Power Transmission (2016). He has authored several papers, articles and ISA technical reports on Alarm Management and High Performance HMI and is a regular presenter on such topics at API, ISA, and Electric Power symposiums. He has a BSME from Louisiana Tech University, an MBA from the University of Houston, and has built his own plane (an RV-12) with a High Performance HMI.

Profile Photo of Bill Hollifield