"As Built" Documentation Goes Real-Time, Supports Cyber Security & Greater Efficiency

  • October 21, 2013
  • PAS Inc.
  • Feature

By Bill Lydon, Editor

Anyone in the automation profession has experienced frustration in troubleshooting a problem or adding something new to control systems where the “as built” documentation does not match the installed system. This gap in documentation results in a significant amount of wasted man-hours and increased MTTR (Mean Time To Repair). In addition, cyber security requirements and regulations require up-to-date “as built” documentation. Recently Eddie Habibi, CEO & Founder of PAS, and I discussed their new product and service developments designed to attack these problems.

Documentation Synchronization

The core of the problem is that there are typically multiple design and change documents including the initial design documents, automation system documentation, and drawings that are not up to date with the actual system installation. This includes DCS configuration files, tag files, I/O configuration parameters, and databases. Typically documentation gets out of synchronization beginning with initial system startup when changes are made to get the system running in the real world. The new PAS product links and synchronizes systems so that there is up to date common documentation. When the new module is added to the PAS Integrity software, it reconciles databases through the lifetime of the system keeping “as built” documentation up to date. This enables design documentation to stay current with real-time systems, making documentation evergreen. Initially, the PAS product interfaces with Intergraph design software products and PAS plans to work with others in the future.

Cyber Security Building Block

Keeping up to date records on the installed operating automation is a requirement to meet cyber security regulatory compliance. Over the last two years PAS worked with the Southern Company to automate the documentation of cyber assets to meet NERC CIP cyber security standards in these areas:

  • Inventory of Systems
  • Configuration Management
  • Change Management

The Southern Company estimated that the cost to manually develop this documentation would take four man months per plant for each of their over 60 plants. By the time they would finish the data would likely have changed. This software automates the process on a continuing basis, updating anything related to the automation system including hardware configuration, I/O version, networks topology, operating system versions, software versions, application versions, and controller firmware versions. In addition to the automation systems, the software interfaces to IT level cyber software including Tripwire. The result is a PAS Integrity software enhancement to automate and satisfy cyber security requirements. The new product will be available in the next few months.

Asset Risk Management metrics

PAS will be introducing another new offering that includes KPIs to inform users about the level of automation systems vulnerability and ways to improve plant efficiency. Data points are used to determine vulnerabilities including configuration errors. The new inbound analytics module for use with the PAS PlantState Suite software provides information on how close the process is running to operating boundaries including safety boundaries, normal operation boundaries, optimum operation boundaries, and physical boundaries such as pressures. The software is designed to assist operators to meet the goal of running the process within safe operating limits and at the optimal operating zone for production. Habibi said, “Invariably the optimum is always closer to the safety limits…as you get closer to the optimum you have less time to pull back if there is a disturbance.” An operator needs to have a sense of what are normal, optimum, and abnormal situations to avoid needless shutdowns that interrupt production.

The various limits and boundaries are not all available in a single reference source for the operator today. They reside in various documents including engineering documents, design documents, DCS, SIS system, control narrative or standard operating procedures. Because of the organizational structures, these data sources are managed by different people and groups. The limits and boundaries also change with plant changes including process optimization settings, catalyst degeneration, and equipment fouling and de-rating. PAS inBound software automates this information to keep it up to date as changes are made. This software provides information to make data driven decisions to identify problems and opportunities to improve the productivity, stability and reliability of the plant.

PAS believes there is more money being lost due to minor upsets over time than plant shutdowns. Finding the patterns that create these losses is fundamental. For example, when an operator runs into a problem getting a high limit, the first action an operator typically performs is to reduce production and nobody ever hears about it. These events may occur frequently and therefore lower plant output and productivity.

PAS offers a program to analyze the last 3years of incident reports to identify patterns in key areas by assigning economic value to them.

Managed Services Model

PAS has created the Enterprise Value Program to deliver software as managed services. This program allows owners to use the software without a capital expense but rather fund the software through operating expenses. The software can be delivered to run on the cloud or resident on the customer’s servers. In either case, PAS will administer the system.

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