How Dow Leverages Support Services to Improve Operations

After aligning its Siemens control systems operations with Siemens Industry Online Support, The Dow Chemical Company is using the higher levels of availability and reliability it now gets from its automation systems to achieve a steady state of operations for better continuous monitoring and improvement.

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Dow is a global science and technology company with customers in 175 countries, annual sales of $48 billion, 56,000 employees worldwide and more than 7,000 product families manufactured at 189 sites in 34 countries across the globe. The company recently expanded its footprint through an ownership restructuring of Dow Corning, previously a 50/50 joint venture with Corning Inc., with Dow becoming the sole owner. In the footsteps of that transaction, Dow is also looking to merge with DuPont, which will bring the combined companies’ market cap to $130 billion. This combined company will eventually separate into three independent, publicly traded companies to become the global leaders in agriculture, materials science and specialty products.

In the meantime, as the company positions itself for this transformation, Brian Clemons, Process Automation Product Manager at Dow, has to support the company’s fleet of Siemens control systems across various businesses. To help support the vast numbers of control systems across its facilities, combined with contract services, Dow utilizes Siemens Industry Online Support (SIOS). The aim of this, Clemons said, is to “elevate service levels in support of higher availability and reliability with the intent to arrive at a steady state of monitoring and improvement.”

Some of the key aspects of SIOS cited by Clemons as being critical in helping Dow achieve this goal include the no-charge direct line to Siemens customer care center at 800-333-7421, Siemens no-charge standard technical support, and online support services—which offers technical bulletins, CAD files, code examples, community forums and the ability to create and save your own custom manuals.

This service and support arrangement has produced a team of workgroup leads from Siemens to work with Dow to address “global service and support response and reporting, root cause investigations, training management, and commercial and contract concerns,” Clemons said.

“We also have an embedded Siemens engineer on site with heritage Dow Corning assets working with Dow engineers and technicians,” said Clemons. “This relationship brings value in sharing and documenting best practices to help improve reliability.”

More specifically, Clemons cited six key benefits Dow could receive from its service and support alliance with Siemens for DCS support:

  • Significantly improved situational awareness, i.e., the ability to identify, process and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening in its operations.
    • Increased cross-functional awareness and cooperation. Clemons said this agreement leads to clear “silo busting.”
    • Less frequent, more productive meetings.
    • Internal users have become increasingly proactive.
    • Reduced Siemens Process Automation incident rates.
    • Reduced overall support costs relative to their installed base of equipment.

 

In his presentation at the 2017 Siemens Automation Summit, Clemons made it clear that, although he manages a large fleet of control systems, the same principles Dow has adopted to support its operations could be applied to small fleets and even individual systems.

Getting Started

Explaining how Dow came to recognize the benefits of SIOS, Clemons said the catalyst was the realization that the company had a significant “non-standardized” Siemens installed base that was in need of support.

Some of the internal challenges Clemons noted that Dow faced in developing an effective use of SIOS to remedy this situation included:

  • Gaining acceptance of commercial control systems coming from a non-commercial control system solution.
  • Dispersed workgroups.
  • Varying service levels from plant to plant and region to region.
  • A shrinking Process Automation talent pool industry wide.
  • Gaps in visibility into support issues. “We had issues we knew we needed to address but not the data we needed to address them correctly,” Clemons said.

At Dow, the control system support organization’s vision became “to be the most effective and reliable process automation support organization.” Clemons said, “I wanted to live in a world free of the 2 a.m. phone call and cancelled vacation plans.”

With this vision in place, Clemons said the mission become clear: “To provide sustainable solutions to our people in support of safe and reliable production so that our customers are best served.”

Measurement

Clemons said it is important to determine success measures to gauge your progress toward achieving your goals. These measures can include markers such as user satisfaction, talent retention, uptime, MTBF/MTTR (mean time between failure/meantime to repair), reduced conversion costs, etc.

Communication

Communication is key to your program’s measurement aspects as well, Clemons said. “Make the raw measurements available. Throughout the entire communication loop, ensure all stakeholders and decision makers are viewing the same measurements in a common format,” he said. “Avoid repackaging information for different audiences.”

Looking Back

This process to build a community of users, maintainers, managers and leaders at Dow within the Siemens Process Automation User Community began in 2012 with an initial membership of seven employees. The idea was to leverage expertise internally and with Siemens to achieve Dow’s vision and mission by learning how to properly “respond, escalate, resolve and improve” effectively and repeatedly across the company where Siemens solutions were implemented, Clemons said. They also sought to build and retain knowledge that could be shared company wide as part of the process.

“Within the first year, the community grew to over 70 with representation from nearly every business,” Clemons said.

By 2013 closer connection between Siemen’s technical and commercial support with Dow’s processes had become the “new normal” with the arrival of Dow’s first formal introduction to SIOS Support Portal. “Siemens became active in our support community at this point,” Clemons said, adding that the user community membership had, by then, increased to over 100.

Since that time there has been an increase to Dow’s installed base with the Dow Corning transaction, but they are keeping up with greater utilization of internal technical resources and increased Siemens engagement. Today, Dow’s community of users stands at 170 individual members.

Breaking down silos was a big part of the alignment between Dow and Siemens, Clemons noted. Based on his experience with this project, he advises that, “when you're trying to break down silos, it is helpful to be prepared for some confusion and even some pain. It will take some time for people to become comfortable and trust that it is okay to share thoughts and ideas outside of traditionally guarded and sometimes protective workgroups.”

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