For NOVA Chemicals, this remains a work in progress. As advanced as today's computing technology is, providing the ability to view data in a summary format and then dynamically change the view based on user preference is still difficult — especially because the report is saved in PDF format rather than the native Excel format.
For instance, within Excel, you can view the metrics by facility name. With only a simple drag and drop action to pivot the visualization, you can compare similar facilities to determine where to focus resources grouping facilities by name, geographic region, or type of facility (Figure 4). I haven't been able to offer this functionality in the PDF format report.
Excel pivot tools enable quick generation of a simple trend for each KPI — but linking the KPIs to contextual information like production rates, business plans and market conditions is still elusive. Integrating historical information for these three specific needs would require additional complexity that may not be worth the effort.
Providing clear visibility has enabled transparent monitoring and reporting of automation performance at NOVA Chemicals. It's no longer a mystery where our automation professionals should focus their efforts. Manufacturing leadership can compare their automation performance to others without asking someone for the information. The cultural impact has been powerful. The visibility fosters focusing on the areas of automation with the most impact. The reporting also supports sustainment and continuous improvement philosophies.
There's still work to be done to get to where we imagine we can go. Computing power and software capability must catch up to our imagination. Even then, of course, we must assess what's worthwhile by balancing the additional benefit against the extra effort.
The final piece that must fall into place is a world-class group of automation professionals who use their knowledge and experience to act on the KPIs to improve the process automation. Without that, this would be a fruitless exercise. NOVA Chemicals has such an organization.
DOUG LUTZ is a Red Deer, Alta.-based process control engineer and member of the Automation Leadership Team at NOVA Chemicals. E-mail him at email@example.com.
Sean Ward, NOVA Chemicals, provided the image and advanced programming related to alarm actuation rates.