Make the Most of Automation Assets with Modular Procedural Automation

By Mark Sen Gupta

ARC Report Abstract

Overview of Operational Procedures

Procedures are everywhere; and nowhere is this more obvious than in the process industries.  Many like to refer to the process industries as being largely “continuous,” but this – in fact – is a misrepresentation.  The state of process facilities constantly changes.  Whether starting up, shutting down, changing grades, or are in the middle of a turnaround, a plant operates by procedures and transitional states.  These can either run smoothly to provide superior plant performance and a safe and orderly start-up/shutdown/transition, or result in costly unplanned shutdowns, incidents, lost product, and lost opportunities. 

Procedures are a predetermined group of tasks that must be completed in a set order and in a consistent manner to achieve a desired goal or result.  Startups, shutdowns, and grade changes are probably the most common.  Of course, procedures vary in terms of complexity and duration and requirements for plant procedures vary for each industry, but the common denominator is that plants cannot operate without them. 

Manual, Prompted, and Automated Operational Procedures

operational procedures - Distribution of Unscheduled Shutdowns and Slowdowns (Source: ASM Consortium) msgopproced.JPGToday, operational procedures fall into three primary categories: manual, prompted, and automated.  Some procedures consist of all three.

With manual procedures, operators perform the necessary actions either guided by their own years of experience or by a standard operating procedure (SOP) manual.  As one might expect, the consistency with which manual procedures are performed can vary greatly depending upon the amount of experience and attention paid by the individuals carrying out the procedures. In some cases, the written procedures haven’t been kept current, forcing workers to rely more on personal experience than in-tended. Manual record keeping, which often accompanies manual procedures, can also vary in its effectiveness and quality.  However, even when electronic records are created for manual procedures, their quality can also vary depending upon how well they were entered into the system and only reflect the procedures purported to be carried out.  Often, there is no way to verify that the manual procedures followed were, in fact, consistent with printed SOPs. 

Table of Contents

  • Overview of Operational Procedures
  • Real-world Operations Call for Modular Procedural Automation
  • The Value of Sequence-based Operator Procedures
  • Making It Real
  • ARC Observations and Recommendations


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Keywords: Automation Assets, Modular Procedural Automation Operational Procedures, ARC Advisory Group.


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