Optimizing Operations via Business Automation

Feb. 14, 2018
Yokogawa releases its Operations Management software, a tool that assists plant personnel and management by digitizing and standardizing workflows to enhance efficiency and safety.

As market dynamics change and global competition intensifies, manufacturers are examining all corners of the organization to figure out how to cut costs and increase productivity without impacting the efficiency or safety of the factory. In an effort to help, many industrial control companies are extending automation capabilities by coupling software to address business processes, thus elevating overall operational efficiency.

This week at the ARC Forum in Orlando, Yokogawa Electric Corp., announced its contribution to business process optimization with the release of its Operations Management software designed to record and manage the data related to the work performed by plant personnel.

The offering is part of the company’s new business concept called Synaptic Business Automation, which is meant to create value for customers by connecting everything from data to systems to services to the supply chain, as well as people. The Synaptic name is based on the word “synapse,” a structure in the nervous system that plays a role in the transfer of signals to other parts of the body. Similarly, Synaptic Business Automation is designed as a way to digitize and standardize data based on accumulated knowledge, and then facilitate the exchange of information between groups on the plant floor.

The underlying technology comes from the domain knowledge of KBC Advanced Technologies, which Yokogawa acquired in 2016. KBC is a provider of software and consultancy to the global oil and gas industry. It is focused on achieving operational excellence and improving profitability for both the upstream (oil production) and downstream (oil refineries and integrated refining and petrochemical production complexes) segments. Leveraging KBC expertise and the Yokogawa portfolio of automation products, the Synaptic offering is focused on four key areas, including supply chain, asset operations, asset management and integrity, and operational risk management.

The Operations Management software, in particular, can help improve reliability and safety by ensuring the workforce has the information they need to carry out tasks correctly. It is meant to support safe and secure operations, but it can also record event actions and the work carried out based on work instructions, enabling the retrieval and use of information from skilled operators. In addition to oil and gas, the software can be used in other process industries including chemical, power, pulp and paper, food, pharmaceuticals and water/wastewater.

“Automating business processes is a unique capability in the market,” says Simon Rogers, Yokogawa’s vice president of advanced solutions during a press conference. “It delivers quick and sustained value to clients.”

That’s because human factors are often at fault for the emergency shutdowns and other issues that impact operational efficiency in plants. In many cases, work instructions are done through verbal exchanges or with written documents. This can make it impossible to check work progress in real time. In addition, errors can be made when adding information and it can be difficult to locate records of past operations—which leads to the growing need for operations management solutions to enhance efficiency, safety and knowledge retention.

Yokogawa’s Operations Management software digitizes work instructions, including incident management and change management, and includes an intuitive user interface enabling users to understand the status of an operation with just a glance.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)—which Yokogawa refers to as Synaptic Performance Indicators (SPIs), as they are based on KBC’s domain knowledge and experience working with Big Data— cover areas of improvement in management (production, energy costs, maintenance costs, margins and incidents), engineering (yield or quality, performance, energy consumption, availability) and operations (control performance, process performance, asset performance, alarms). When applied, these will transform a business into a profit-driven organization vs. an event-driven operation, Yokogawa officials said.

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