The Operations group at a major company engaged with ARC to conduct primary research to help identify the key factors that help make operators in process plants more effective. This research involved a survey and one-on-one interviews with plant executives, engineering managers, training managers, and process control leaders representing many major process plants. The study results would help the company prioritize and justify financial expenditures and new projects, add to ARC’s knowledge base in this important area, and potentially help benefit the entire industry.
While it’s often difficult to assess and measure operator effectiveness in process plants, creating the proper environment with careful management techniques can have great benefits. Certainly, different operators have different styles; some refuse to share their know-how with others to preserve job security; others just show up for their shifts and passively wait for the next alarm to show up on the control system. In the best-performing plants, operators strive to work together as a team to achieve the company goals of safety, product quality, and efficient utilization of the manufacturing assets. Operations management at a major process company saw the need to improve the effectiveness of the operators in its various plants to ensure alignment of future human and financial resources with the company's business requirements.
A senior ARC consultant worked with the client to develop a series of detailed survey questions. ARC identified several leading industry stakeholders to interview to be able to objectively identify and prioritize the key factors that influence operator effectiveness. While each survey participant had different experiences and viewpoints, all were very familiar with how operators interact with the plant. ARC collected and analyzed the survey and interview results and prepared a summary report.
While survey participants represented multiple companies with different automation systems, local strategies, and several expressed their personal favorite approaches for improving operator effectiveness, there was a clear consensus that certain methods worked best. The resulting insights helped this client prioritize future business and process automation projects. ARC also provided recommendations for ways to adjust operator training methods and priorities and improve methods to communicate management priorities and gain the all-important “buy-in” from operators. This activity documented practical methods to improve operator effectiveness throughout the industry.