The Humans behind the Data: Visualization and Collaboration

[Real-time process management] is by nature strategic: It creates possibilities that did not exist before, but without innovative processes, all you have accomplished is the automation of current bad processes and procedures, and sometimes this only does bad things faster and more accurately.

Pat Kennedy


In this chapter, we take a short hiatus from describing the technology behind the South Texas refinery enterprise industrial data infrastructure (EIDI) initiative. Instead, we discuss the human aspects of making such an initiative successful. Technology by itself will not solve business problems. Workers who are willing to collaborate with other teams to improve the business are essential for a successful outcome.

We describe some of the essential topics that the Proclndustries management team needs to address and plan for to ensure that South Texas refinery employees buy in to using the new EIDI system productively. Company leadership also needs to effectively communicate impending changes to work- flows and what is expected of the employees. Uncertainty should be reduced as much as possible during the initial phases of the deployment. Team managers should make sure that employees understand their new responsibilities and new workflows, motivating everyone to pull in the same direction for refinery operations improvement.

We also present Proclndustries' plan to educate knowledge workers to effectively use the EIDI and make sure workers get the help they need during the transition. As the deployment progresses, people become self-sufficient so they can create their own customized data views.

The week after sending refinery data to the enterprise industrial data infrastructure (EIDI) and building some configuration templates, the team from the South Texas refinery regrouped. They had recently performed some successful pilot tests to make sure the EIDI was collecting complete and accurate data from the refinery's control system. They had also prototyped a digital plant template to help them analyze efficiency during various operating states. Now, it was time to address the human aspects of the continuous-improvement project. They needed to determine how to best present the new EIDI information to workers in the most beneficial way.

Because of the meeting importance, Bill Roberts, the vice president of operations and executive sponsor of the EIDI project, attended. Bill asked the team members to keep in mind the following five themes:

  • 1. Present the EIDI data in a role-based manner, so that workers consume the information that is most important for them to be productive.
  • 2. The team must make sure that all users stay informed regarding deployment plans and are regularly informed on significant progress or delays that occur. If there is a change of design, the team must make sure that the appropriate people receive the news, so there are no surprises.
  • 3. People should collaborate using the data to solve plant or company problems together. Remove all spreadsheet silos, so that people do not create and hoard valuable reports. It is also key that everyone has visibility and access to the data, so that people can immediately solve problems rather than debate who has the correct data.
  • 4. The team must discuss EIDI visualization design with those who will be viewing the information, so their needs are heard and taken into account when designing role-based dashboards. The goal should be to make sure they get the information they need quickly and in an easily consumable way.
  • 5. The team should regularly meet with corporate management to keep them engaged and updated on EIDI deployment status. The team plans to produce summarized, easy-to-read key performance indicator (KPI) dashboards that contain fleet status information, such as actual production versus targets, cost variances, and plant availability information. This information needs to be visible to management and others. Management should be kept aware of what gains and cost avoidances have been realized since using the EIDI system.
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