Most businesses in the processing industries have spent the past several years establishing solid technology platforms and infrastructures to gather production data to improve operations. The next step lies in intelligently using those technologies to foster better decision-making, communication, and process improvement.
As an example of how this is actually occurring in industry, Joe Staples, head of Manufacturing Systems North America for Bayer CropScience (Kansas City, Mo.), said that Bayer CropScience has equipped its operators with Invensys Intellitrack mobile devices with workflow software to direct them on how to safely perform the operations required of them.
During his presentation at The Automation Conference 2012, Staples said Bayer CropScience is now looking to extend its use of mobile applications so that plant managers, engineers, technicians and maintenance can get the information they need at any time without having to carry their laptops around or refer to a terminal or a PC.
Core to this extension of the mobile workforce at Bayer CropScience is a push for greater employee and operations connectedness through the use of analytics and communities.
Analytics for Operations, Training and Risk Evaluation
As part of a long-range goal to use all the data they are collecting in their various systems to enable better safety through a more rapid identification of risks, Bayer CropScience is first targeting its process control systems. Having a set workflow process accessible via a mobile device, the interaction of operators with the control systems can be better managed, said Staples. Standard operating procedures can be kept up to date and automatically pushed to operators. All changes to the system are instantly recorded and shared.
For operators that may not be fully trained in all production aspects, the operator at the machine now has full access to the information needed to do the job. The same goes for maintenance inspections; when coordinated through workflow on a mobile device, all maintenance activities are captured and accessible for future reference. “What we ultimately want from this is to be able to have a better risk evaluation and faster notification,” said Staples. For example, if an operator who hasn’t been fully trained is interacting via a mobile unit with a control system on which certain interlocks have been bypassed, managers could remotely shut the system down or not let it go to the next step until a properly trained engineer or plant manager is there to review and give the go-ahead to move forward.
Bayer CropScience is actively looking at using social media to help in its operations. One of the questions the company is asking is: Why can’t the machine participate in a social network? After all, since those devices are now connected, they can provide information via a Facebook page about its health and what it’s doing. And someone in maintenance at the facility can access that information just as an engineer in another part of the world can.
Beyond ubiquitous communication and connectedness, Bayer CropScience is looking to use social networks as a means to leverage its widely scattered technical resources for better collaboration across the globe.
These are the benefits Bayer CropScience is already seeing and expects to see more of from its deployment of mobile devices to take advantage of analytics and community:
- Retention and sustainability of knowledge. The company is now capturing the expertise of operators and dispersing it so that any operator can become the best operator.
- Improved performance. In operations where mobile devices are in place, Bayer CropScience is achieving higher and higher levels of consistency across the board.
- High-velocity collaboration of experts. Communities enabled by mobile devices are proving to be the best way to get people involved immediately in understanding what’s going on and being able to contribute quickly.
- Better, more rapid focus on issues. By giving operators the information they need to have, Bayer CropScience is creating a collaborative work environment among all workers no matter where they are located. “We can now collaborate on a global basis to deal with issues that arise anywhere,” said Staples.
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