Training and operator effectiveness
Recently I received an email from Tom Williams who is now program manager, operator effectiveness for Honeywell Process Solutions. Tom used to be with the Specialty Materials division and was responsible for many of the process improvements made to the (formerly Allied Signal) plant in Geismar, LA. (Listen to an earlier podcast with Tom discussing that plant project.)
Tom had been reading the article Process Simulation Use Report, about ways plants are using simulation technology to help design control strategy and as an operator training tool. He says:
“I spent nine years as modeling and simulation leader for Honeywell’s Specialty Materials group before moving to Honeywell Process Solutions in November, 2008. I have generally kept up with these developments, but I continue to be amazed at what is possible using first-principles models in real time.
“The operator training system (OTS) that we deployed for our multi-products plant in Geismar as part of the Automation Showcase has gone double platinum. I can’t go anywhere in that plant without folks asking me when we are going to duplicate that on every unit. Of course the real reason for success is that the plant has a dedicated training department that worked with us to identify scenarios critical to plant performance. If the operators didn’t master those abnormal situations, the plant performance would not be nearly what it is today. This tool and the training department’s diligence are paying dividends.
“Of the many good things we did for the Showcase, the OTS may end up being the most influential. The APC projects drove the most immediate business results, but the OTS is changing how the operators think and act. It builds tremendous confidence, not only for the operator in his or her own abilities, but also in the approved procedures, thus driving procedure compliance. We may never know how many upsets we have avoided or how much improvement the OTS is driving, but it is substantial. I believe we will see continued growth in this area.”
Tom’s points are well made, particularly that the success was a result of a combination of technology and training. The modeling capabilities, no matter how good they are, won’t bring improvements without training. And training, when combined with the modeling technology, can be all that more effective. It all builds confidence on multiple fronts.
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After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.