Users Discuss Remote Operations Experience

  • July 18, 2011
  • Feature
July 2011
By Bill Lydon, Editor
From the Remote Monitoring Panel at 2011 Honeywell Users Group Americas Symposium
June 12-16, 2011 – J.W. Marriott, Phoenix, Arizona
At HUG 2011, the following four users shared their remote operations & monitoring experiences along with lessons learned.
  • Tom Moroney, Manager, Technology Deployment and Geosciences - Shell E&P Co.
  • Peter Stamp, Information & Process Systems Manager – Alcoa
  • Steve Beamer, VP, Asset Management - Peabody Energy
  • Michael Rikkola, Program Manager, Remote Health Monitoring - P&H Mining Equipment
Shell - Tom Moroney
Shell has been live with a remote monitoring and operations system for about one year. They have experienced some growing pains, but have already realized many great benefits. “We saw a tremendous opportunity to standardize and automate our frontline engineering and operations surveillance activities,” said Moroney.   Moroney specifically referred to monitoring deep water assets in the Gulf of Mexico in Brazil. The objective was to continuously monitor so they could be proactively on top of operations, always optimizing production and throughput of complex integrated production systems. The scope of this system includes the undersea oil wells, subsea gathering systems, and top side through the export systems. They refer to the system function as, “exception-based surveillance.” A physical monitoring center staffed with engineering and operations personnel was built in New Orleans. Matrikon was their key partner in the four year development and refinement of the system. The system incorporates advanced alarming to determine in real-time when an oil well or any equipment is not performing optimally. The system also provides functions to remediate and address these issues with the goal of maintaining maximum production. Moroney said, “We are very much focused on reliability, continuous improvement, and optimization of production systems.” The overall solution addressed technology, people, and process. Moroney noted that there are four important pillars they based this system upon.
First, they needed software to handle complex nuances in performance to detect anomalies. 
Second, they needed to automate and standardize the workflow so that everyone is working through issues in a “stepwise fashion so that operations knows what they should do and engineering knows what they should do.”
Third, they needed knowledge management of the wide range of information being monitored.
Fourth, they needed situational awareness to remotely immerse engineering and operations staff in the real-time performance of their production systems, enabling them to make improvements. 
P&H Mining Equipment  - Mike Rikkola
P&H manufactures large mining equipment and they are monitoring equipment they sell and thus providing a value added service to customers.   Rikkola stated the primary goal that motivated the development of remote monitoring was to, “Provide the most reliable, productive machine on the planet, at the lowest cost per unit produced, tons per yard.”   “This means having subject matter experts available, automated workflows and systems always watching the machine for our customers.” The advantage beyond helping the customers is P&H gets real information to improve their products by having a wealth of knowledge on equipment in operation. They use this information to improve products in a number of ways including engineering, manufacturing designs, and vendor quality. The information is also used to improve training programs. The improved reliability also directly contributes to better safety.
Peabody Energy - Steve Beamer
Beamer described how early, unsophisticated remote monitoring brought to light poor practices by operators and was then used to create training simulators. Now, they are improving the approaches by sharing subject matter experts, transferring business knowledge, and taking good practices to all sites. The goal is to drive performance management to all locations using remote access and monitoring. This provides a platform for the best engineers to improve operations. 
Alcoa - Peter Stamf
Alcoa and Honeywell have a long relationship, including one of the largest process control projects in the world named QUASAR (Quality Automation Solutions in Alumina Refining).  QUASAR is a network of interconnected systems throughout the world, designed to improve automation at nine refiners. Advanced Process Control (APC) was a big driver for this project because their “network” included more than 250 instances of APC.  Another driver was to have a single ‘source of truth’ across operations. The information has allowed Alcoa to make a step change improvement in the implementation of APC (Advanced Process Control).
First Steps
Here are recommendations from the panel for companies considering remote monitoring and operations:
  • Clearly define your business case and include top management and operations.
  • Get operations involved early, if they don’t buy into the concept, you’re dead.
  • Think long term about what the system will look like in full operation including support, operations, change requests, and maintenance.
  • This is a transformation to a new operational model requiring a balance between IT, operations, and engineering. 
  • Initially start by thinking from a systems point of view before getting into specific products.
  • Have a clear vision of what you are trying to realize. Engage the frontline operations engineering staff early. Ask them to define what threatens the reliability and delivery of production on a daily basis. Based on that, how can we automate, simplify, and standardize so we are not hunting and pecking for information. 
  • Think about how you are going to deal with remote and mobile communications difficulties and latencies.
  • Talk to people in industry that have done something similar to avoid making old mistakes.
  • Going to a 24/7 operation is a challenge that takes a “leap of faith” for IT. 
  • This is different than IT operations, so it is best outsourced to experts to build it.
  • It is at least as big as an SAP implementation - this is like SAP for operations.
  • Find an experienced technology partner.
Thoughts & Observations
These companies are all sold on the value of remote operations and acknowledge that it is a journey with continual refinement that takes time and investment to reap the benefits.
Honeywell is clearly seeing this as role for them as expressed by Honeywell’s Mark Skokowski at the end of the session.  “Honeywell will be moving beyond just a one off engagement, really institutionalizing it,” said Skokowski. “You will see a lot from Honeywell over the next year or two making a big play to be an end to end provider to enable you to move to remote operations.”
Honeywell Process Solutions has always been a service-oriented organization. The refinement of remote monitoring and operations products, services, and consultancy certainly fits this model.

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