Understanding the Barriers to Success

The Process Engineer’s View

Tom suggested Peter work with Alex Moretti to understand the role of the process engineer in charge of the production systems. Alex explained that the South Texas refinery has several process control systems. For example, the refinery has a DCS, which uses communications networks to command production during several points of the manufacturing process. Peter found out that the refinery had several process control systems implemented over the years in efforts to enhance the oil and chemical production process.

The main production line was well instrumented. Peter learned that the refinery has a process data historian, which provides real-time streaming data (also known as a time-series database) to the process engineers, who use the data to generate their daily spreadsheet reports about production at the refinery. However, each of the process engineers creates their own spreadsheets using their own formats. All of these spreadsheets with daily, averaged data are emailed to the administrative office to be consolidated and manually entered into the Proclndustries ERP system.

But Peter also learned that the refinery's energy supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system was a completely isolated system. This was a surprise to him because he had expected it to be integrated with the refinery's process data historian. In a facility like the South Texas refinery, measuring the specific energy consumption for every unit operation involved in the production process is a key business metric. Having daily or average energy consumption rates is not specific enough to evaluate the efficiency of production processes. Peter knew this lack of visibility would make it impossible to evaluate changes in the production process that related to equipment idling or malfunctioning.

The SCADA system was not the refinery's only data silo (see Table 1.1). Alex explained to Peter that he collected data for the production lines from their DCS local historian, which is not integrated with the refinery's other systems. Once Alex collected this data, he then had to query the LIMS to get the quality data for the day. Alex also gathered more information, using a printed daily report from the utilities SCADA system that showed the refinery's daily energy consumption. He added this information to a spreadsheet he shared with the production team.


Plant Systems: Current Status Versus Peter's Vision for the Future

Data Source

Current Status

Future Goal from Investments in Digital Data Infrastructure System

Business Benefit of Future Goal

Data historian

Provides real-time data for spreadsheet reports. Data is archived offline after two months, making it unavailable for analysis.

Real-time data feeds to asset- and time- context database. Provides context data for production, quality, maintenance, energy, and environmental regulations. Enables data analysis based on operational events and over longer time periods.

Data analysis identifies areas for process improvements, leading to productivity gains.

Distributed control system (DCS)

Separate, disconnected systems provide data about production processes.

Connect these systems to the plant network. Upgrade technology to synchronize all data sources.

Enable plant to employ performance monitoring and instrument validation to confirm equipment is running optimally.


TABLE 1.1 (Continued)

Plant Systems: Current Status Versus Peter's Vision for the Future

Data Source

Current Status

Future Goal from Investments in Digital Data Infrastructure System

Business Benefit of Future Goal

Laboratory information management system (LIMS)

LIMS system was recently upgraded; need to collect chemical analysis data from the production process.

LIMS system interface should be upgraded to integrate data analysis into the plant information data system.

Faster report generation. Additional time to correlate process data and quality data for all unit operations. Set stage for future systems with advanced analytical technologies like machine learning.

Supervisory control and data




SCADA monitors utilities energy usage. The old system requires upgrading to accommodate additional

measurements and is not integrated with the plant data historian.

Integrate with plant data historian and add additional sensors to all motors in the plant.

Provide real-time energy data to the plant data historian for energy management. Set stage for future integration with smart grid.

Production reports based on raw

material usage

Time consuming because data does not have context. Performed manually and locally in spreadsheets by one individual.

Reports become part of master plant information asset framework to gather and analyze all data received from process units in the plant.

The reports need to be obtained from one source for analysis and evaluation of conditions. More effective analysis to identify process improvements and diagnose problems. Automate real-time alerts about plant operations.

Energy report on electricity consumption

Reports show usage for whole plant, rather than on a unit or process basis.

Utility consumption is accurately measured for each process unit with specific usage by work shift, product, and operating mode.

Identify trends in consumption, resulting in optimization, and cost savings. Take advantage of unused capabilities in the existing system.





Collection of process flow diagrams, piping and instrumentation diagrams, manuals, material data safety sheets.

Information is available via plant information and asset framework system, documentsharing system, and web-based data visualization and analysis tools.

Operate the plant in more efficient and safe manner by providing necessary information to all plant staff members on demand.

It was a tedious task that took Alex several hours per day. He said it was a commonplace that several engineers were days late in adding the production line data into their spreadsheets. The problem worsened when they were sick or took vacation. In addition to collecting data from various sources for reports, Alex explained he had also been dealing with changes to the raw materials coming into the refinery.

Peter asked Alex about process flow diagrams, which refining and other process industry companies use to document production flow and equipment used in the refinery. Alex noted that he kept his process flow control diagrams updated in the Microsoft Visio application together with a spreadsheet of the process diagram containing the process data. Alex explained to Peter that other engineers at the refinery had created similar process flow control diagrams using AutoCAD, the company's official drawing package. Peter asked if this meant Alex and other colleagues shared the same view of the refinery's processes or if they had different views. "I think they vary somewhat," Alex said. (See the box "More about Process Flow Control Diagrams.")


The process flow control diagrams (PFCDs) are the schematics used for building the plant and their process simulators. These diagrams contain valuable basic information for digitizing a process plant. See Chapter 4 for a discussion on the importance of process flow diagrams to an effective digital data infrastructure.

Listening to Alex, Peter thought that having process flow control diagrams with key metrics for each process unit could be a great opportunity to connect the process units with the new digital data infrastructure tools. Proclndustries would need a process data model for digitizing the refinery. The diagrams could also be used for collaboration and to identify process improvements.

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