10 Tips for Success

Paying attention to the following points can ease implementing and improving critical plant procedures:

By Patrick Kelly, Honeywell Process Solutions

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  1. Develop a site-wide strategy and guidelines for procedures. This should specify how to draft and revise procedures, contain details on human factors, such as graphics, that can help people interact with these procedures, and include sample procedures.

  2. Employ a consistent, structured, modular approach that focuses on small, meaningful procedures that can be used and combined as needed.

  3. Carefully audit procedures that are being used today (written and non-written). Conduct interviews and assess findings against best practices. This typically will require observing how the operators execute existing procedures, as well as reviewing system journals and logs to assess the consistency and effectiveness of the existing procedures.

  4. Ensure the procedure content is understandable to the target user and responsibilities are clearly outlined. Often, operations experts are called upon to write procedures. They may assume a level of competency higher than some operators actually have. So, an operations team member who is representative of the minimum competency level should help evaluate the procedure content.

  5. Define the competencies required of the operator to execute the procedure. For example, for startup and shutdown procedures the console operator should understand and demonstrate the ability to manipulate control points for introducing or reducing feed to the unit.

  6. Define operating targets and limits appropriate to the mode of operation. Conduct a process hazard analysis as part of the review process. For instance, the outside operator is instructed to open a valve to start up a compressor at a slow roll speed of up to 1,200 rpm. A caution advises that damage to the turbine may occur if speed reaches 2,800 rpm.

  7. Integrate procedural support with console operating displays and provide automated support for execution. Some activities require the console operator to make several moves in proper sequence at the right level within a short period of time. These kinds of procedures typically are related to startup, shutdown or abnormal response. Moving from manual procedures to procedures with automated support can significantly reduce execution time, cut material waste and avert process safety shutdowns. One example is the loss of hydrogen to a polymer reactor. Here, the procedure must isolate feed, put the splitter on reflux, and reduce feed to minimize flaring. By providing automated support, procedure execution times have been decreased to three minutes from 12 minutes.

  8. Empower the operator to deviate from the procedure under specific circumstances. Ensure, though, that deviations are logged and reviewed. For example, the execution of a procedure may lead to a condition that requires the operator to bypass an interlock. For this special circumstance, the procedure highlights the risk associated with bypassing the interlock and the specific conditions for removing the bypass.

  9. Define metrics to track impact of procedural operations and integrate with incident reporting system. Publish metrics to support continuous improvement. A systematic analysis of the ways a procedural system might fail may provide the foundation for a set of metrics to measure effectiveness. Typically, issues with procedures are categorized into root causes (e.g., incomplete procedure, incorrect procedure, difficult to use). The system should provide a function that generates a summary report that shows the frequency of each type of cause for a specified period of time. This enables the team to prioritize the types of errors that are most important to tackle next.

  10. Integrate procedure development into the management-of-change process. Establish a periodic review process as part of a continuous improvement program. For example, the training specialist should use refresher-training exercises to identify areas in which procedures could be enhanced for understandability to competent operators.
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