Empower P&IDs to connect operations, maintenance, and engineering

Access marked-up piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs) from a worksite mobile device.

By Scott Redford December 7, 2018

Companies within hazardous industries operate departments, functions, and teams that often create data silos based on functional priorities. Technologies and processes are implemented and many times don’t communicate holistically. Multiple disparate solutions selected based on departmental business requirements are often disconnected from other departments’ needs.

Working together in a dynamic environment can be a challenge. Yet operations, maintenance, and engineering departments must work together to safely plan and prepare worksites for efficient execution of maintenance tasks. Each function has a role to play:

  • Operations manages daily production and prepares the plant for maintenance and engineering activities
  • Maintenance keeps machinery running safely
  • Engineering owns the documentation for how the plant was built and is intended to operate.

To safely prepare the plant for maintenance or engineering interventions, certain processes must be isolated and made safe from possible hazards involving pressure, temperature, electricity, or hazardous materials. Performing isolations generally requires the maintenance team to request approval from operations. Operations personnel analyze, schedule, and manage the equipment isolation.

Focus on P&IDs

Process and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs) are the master documents used to ensure isolation plans are properly executed. P&IDs are critical in instances when a standard isolation cannot be achieved, for example because of passing valves and other instances where the isolation boundary must be extended.

Let’s look at taking a pump offline for routine maintenance. Today, operations designs an isolation plan by looking for the correct engineering documentation, typically requiring one or more P&IDs that show how the pump is connected, which valves are used, and other relevant information. The operator takes a paper photocopy of the P&ID, marks it up with a pen, and enters the plan details in the isolations management system. Also produced is a certificate and text list of points to isolate. The marked-up P&ID is passed to the work party executing the task.

There is inefficiency, duplication of effort, and risk running right through this process:

  • What if the paper version of the P&ID is out of date?
  • What if operations miss an important isolation point when entering the plan into the management system?
  • What if the paper mark-up is damaged while on the job site?
  • What if plant changes are not reflected in the P&ID?
  • What if the standard isolation is not successful?
  • What lessons were learned from similar isolations that were previously performed?

Ensuring operations teams always access the right engineering documents and learn from previous experiences in preparing and performing isolations can be a real challenge. Likewise, setting up a proper feedback loop between operations and engineering teams is often a manual, time-consuming process.

Potential of connected platforms

With technology available today, these business processes can be integrated to enable greater efficiency.

Industrie 4.0 technologies can help connect-the-dots between those who manage P&IDs (engineering), those planning the job (maintenance), and those who use them daily to prepare and execute the work (operations). Not only does this make P&IDs a more integral part of the isolations management process, it maximizes system investments already made.

For example, consider a planning meeting where operations and maintenance teams use a common tool to balance the workload over the coming days. Imagine the operations team approving maintenance work on the same screen, where they see the breakdown of the schedule alongside required operational activities to support the isolation, as well as additional inspection-related tasks. Imagine accessing the marked-up P&ID from a mobile device at the worksite.

Operators no longer need to search for the right P&ID. Instead, they access the relevant P&IDs based on tag number. With quick access to previous isolation records, operators know from previous company experience potential problems or bottlenecks that could occur. The previous plan can be reused rather than be built from scratch each time.

By viewing information on a well-understood diagram, they can reduce, if not eliminate, manually re-entering isolation points or having to work through a long list of tag numbers.

They can provide feedback on plant configuration changes to the engineering systems in a simple, efficient, and intuitive way, to promote continuous improvement in the quality of the P&ID.

In practice

Industry solutions and smart integrations for compiling and viewing P&IDs and other type of engineering diagrams are available today. Such tools improve isolation planning. However, an optimal solution is one that integrates operations, engineering, and maintenance processes and makes P&IDs interactive.

The Petrotechnics solution is meant to convey real-time context to the people operating and maintaining the asset. It enables teams to make better operational decisions and execute based on context captured in engineering applications. Engineering data is kept up-to-date using inputs gathered by operational teams in the field. This enables planning decisions and work execution derived from insights gleaned from engineering, maintenance, planning, environment, health, and safety (EHS), and operations management systems. Critical operational tasks such as lockout/tagout (LOTO) are improved by fingertip access to design data.

The digital horizon

Technology plays a crucial role in enabling people across the organization to make better, more joined-up decisions. With next-generation engineers, operations personnel, and maintenance taking the reins from the current aging workforce, digital capabilities are key to retaining domain knowledge and experience.

The digital transformation journey is well underway. Connected processes are integral to attaining the potential benefits in efficiency, productivity, and safety within hazardous industries. Crucial processes governed by P&ID diagrams are worthy of this kind of attention.

Scott Redford is a senior product manager at Petrotechnics.

Original content can be found at Oil and Gas Engineering.

Author Bio: Senior product manager, Petrotechnics