The IT Department’s Role

After Peter, Paul, and Monica finished their conversation, Peter asked Monica to join him in a conversation with Ron Erickson, the energy and utilities manager, and Pat Verlaine, the IT manager. Ron had been with Proclndustries for 10 years. Ron told Peter that their energy report was built several years ago consolidating the overall energy consumption used by the refinery. The energy report showed the total consumption electricity for the refinery but did not specify usage by individual process unit. Peter noted that the production report did not include process performance analysis for process engineers, machine operators, and managers.

Peter asked Pat about the IT department's role at the refinery. It quickly became clear that while Pat knew much about IT systems at the refinery, he did not have a good understanding of the process. For example, he didn't know the sensor-naming convention used in the aging SCADA system. That meant when someone asked for help to assemble a spreadsheet report about refinery production, Pat was unable to find the data needed to create it. No one had established a data model of the refinery, which mapped the available data to the manufacturing assets.

Ron was frustrated: "I want to know what we should do about this situation. The transformer blew. We're losing significant revenue from lost production time. We need to fix broken compressors. We can fix them, but who knows what will break next? We can guess, but what we really need is a plan."

"We understand the urgency of the situation," Monica interjected. "That's why Peter is here."

Peter shifted the discussion to the digital data infrastructure project: It was time to talk about data mapping for digitizing the refinery. Peter was coming to see himself as the digital transformation coach to turn traditional engineers into digital process and maintenance engineers (see the box "The Engineering Group's Role").


In an organization like Proclndustries, the engineering group plays a critical role not just for making oil-based products but also for the data collection and analysis that will be part of this project. Two roles in particular are essential for the digital plant:

  • 1. Process engineers define and monitor the operational conditions for production. They set conditions to meet product specification requirements while also minimizing costs and maintaining environmental and workplace safety compliance. In best practice organizations, process engineers evaluate process improvements and manage needed equipment upgrades.
  • 2. Process control engineers define and maintain the equipment controls to ensure stable production runs. They monitor readings from instruments associated with the production process to maintain optimum operating conditions (e.g., flows of petroleum, pressures and temperatures) and ensure that they match target ranges. They monitor process control system performance and add new instrumentation, as needed. They also define when process alerts occur.

"Now," Peter concluded, "we need to adapt the scope of our process and business personnel to bring the operations and IT worlds together. The process of data mapping needs to be done by the process engineers and the process control engineers, and they have to make time to do it."

Proclndustries has a plant information system but needs to improve it. The information gap caused by data silos affects everyone at the plant. To understand the context of the data describing the operating conditions at the refinery, upgraded and connected user interfaces are needed. There are


The major business impacts to be addressed by the EIDI.

essentially six impact areas affected by siloed operational data. Figure 1.2 summarizes the data challenges by operational area at the South Texas refinery.

The Cost of Downtime

Before he left for the day, Peter met with Alex, the process engineer, to find out the operating costs associated with downtime that resulted from pushing units to their limits. They reviewed estimates of how much additional output could be realized if unplanned equipment downtime were reduced.

Together, they determined that an upgrade from the existing plant information system to the proposed EIDI would reduce unplanned downtimes by more than 15% and trim power consumption by 3% to 5%. Peter noted this estimate as another supporting argument for a digital data infrastructure project.

Peter felt encouraged by his talk with Alex, but he worried about Paul, the plant maintenance manager. Peter was concerned that Paul would be reluctant for his maintenance crew to take on the additional work required to support a digital data infrastructure project. It was understandable; the maintenance crews were already overtaxed with equipment problems. The work Peter anticipated meant they would have to connect major equipment to systems that would provide both process and equipment data. That was in addition to their role of maintaining and repairing machines.

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