Ei’s next-generation tooling for turnaround planning and execution will save you millions with virtual fly-throughs, improved communication, collaboration, and hazard communication.Read More
Shane Kling of Ei and Philip Frazier of the Marathon Garyville Refinery co-authored a case study on the cost savings of converting standard refinery piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs) to electronic, "intelligent" P&IDs.
The case study, which was published by the trade organization, American Fuels and Petrochemical Manufacturers, presented cost projection data illustrating a “break-even point” (e.g., where initial and ongoing costs for each method equal one another) of 7 years. A 50% reduction of current industry rates to convert electronic P&IDs, then, would present a break-even point of 3.5 years.
Furthermore, the authors discussed benefits of the technology to non-environmental disciplines, such as Process Safety, Operations, Inspections, and Mechanical Integrity – who all maintain P&IDs for compliance or reference purposes. If non-environmental disciplines were included in a subsequent case study, it stands to reason that greater costs savings can be achieved.
Considering that the PSM regulation mandates P&IDs to be revalidated every 5 years, it is a feasible strategy to consider implementation of intelligent P&IDs alongside P&ID updates resulting from the PHA process. The case study also demonstrated that mobile technology utilizing electronic P&IDs can result in environmental productivity improvements representing 60% efficiency gains.
Read the entire case study here:
Over the course of the past year, our LDAR Projects team has been busy with countless projects involving substantial field work. As with any young, growing company: safety is the most important aspect of any project we do. To promote safety on our projects, we've implemented various internal tools to support our field teams and achieve our goal zero work environment. The Beginning: Eliminate Paper
Every one of our LDAR Projects is completed without a shard of paper, and every one of our LDAR Professionals is provided a tablet to use for field work. So we started with simple Google Forms to log the topics we talked about during our Daily Safety Tailgates.
Get Notified on the Go
Internally, we use Slack for a communication / notification platform, and using a very easy Google Script we were able to get automatic messages in our #safety channel (which every team member is a member of) of any safety form that was submitted.
Once we wired up the safety forms to our internal #safety channel, something magical happened: everyone became aware of the topics that were being discussed across various field projects, and we started sharing safety moments and best practices across all levels of the organization. Then we realized: collecting safety "form" information is only an incremental update over paper-based safety forms, but the magic happens when you make all of the information publicly accessible within the organization.
"Let's Share this With our Customers" - Ei Safety is Born
Our close customers loved what we showed them about our internal tools, so one afternoon someone had the idea to make a simple safety-focused app for others to use. And just like that, Ei Safety was born. Since August, we've been refining the application, and look forward to releasing it later this quarter.
Finding a Better Way
One of Ei's clients just wrapped up a project utilizing the same tablet and P&ID technology our LDAR Projects team uses, FieldTech Toolbox. This project was a brand-new inventory project, which also included initial monitoring of the components added.
How FieldTech Toolbox Was Used
Each FieldTech Toolbox tablet was pre-loaded with project-specific quality controls and tools to optimize efficiency, such as Ei's Location Builder, which automates the process of writing a location description.
Furthermore, each tablet was paired with a phx21 which is a Flame Ionization Detector (FID) manufactured by LDARtools. Utilizing FieldTech Toolbox Bluetooth monitoring functionality, components (both Parents and child connectors) were monitored in the field at the same time the components were being documented, eliminating a costly second trip into the field.
After the training and orientation performed during the first week of the project (Week 0 in the table to the right), the field team quickly ramped-up productivity. By the second week of the project, the team was averaging over 2,000 components documented and monitored per day! And from there on, the team began exceeding 3,000 to 4,000 components per day.
As you can see from the chart at the left, daily productivity continued to increase throughout the project, but all-and-all, the team had a relatively short learning-curve. Everything about FieldTech Toolbox is designed for ease-of-use and efficiency.
As for productivity, between 5 and 9 tablets were utilized every day. Extrapolating that, the team averaged 356 components documented per day, per tablet, as plotted in the chart to the right.
By eliminating many manual data-entry processes, as well as unnecessary trips into the field (to do monitoring after a component is added), a team of LDAR Professionals utilizing Ei's FieldTech Toolbox can achieve never-before-seen levels of productivity
This July, Ei has been proud to introduce our LDAR technologies, as well as to provide services, to challenging projects in China through our partnership with Sage Environmental Consulting. The regulatory environment in China is very challenging with tight timelines, decentralized rulemaking, and ever-changing LDAR rules. On top of this, local technical LDAR knowledge is very hard to come by, and the local technician labor pool is extremely inexperienced. Safe to say, the challenges faced in China can only be overcome through technical expertise and technology.
(Ever Changing) Regulations
Currently, Chinese industries are under a province mandate to implement a traditional LDAR program before the end of the year, however, the exact regulatory requirements are left to the local regions to decide - there's limited centralized rulemaking (such as we have in the United States) that outlines the specific technical requirements for these LDAR programs. Regionally, the rulemaking process coming from the local EPBs (Environmental Protection Board) does not stick to "traditional" rulemaking timelines - with new proposed drafts of the LDAR rules being released mid-way through the current compliance period - leaving industry with a difficult decision - do we implement what has been finalized? Or do we implement more-strict version that's already been released for comment?
To adapt to these changing regulatory requirements, such as what wt% VOC determines "in LDAR service" vs not, old school P&ID highlighting practices fall grossly short of fulfilling project needs. If the "in LDAR service" definition changes - requiring updates to the P&IDs - the only way to do this is to re-print and redo from scratch the P&ID. A huge waste of time that the tight regulatory timeline of these projects cannot support. Furthermore, 11x17" color printers are difficult to find in parts of China.
A better practice is to electronically highlight the P&IDs with electronic markups - if anything changes - it's possible to simply update the changes. Furthermore, if plotted correctly, the P&IDs become text-serchable - greatly increasing the P&ID highlight and field flagging time.
A best practice is to simply do away with highlighting markups, and in place use software to make automatic LDAR highlights through data that is integrated in the P&IDs. As the rules and requirements change, highlights can be instantly regenerated - nearly eliminating the re-highlighting time.
Experience, Training, and Quality Control
The most cost effective way to execute the loads of field work (flagging, tagging, documenting, monitoring, and repairing) associated with these projects is to use local technical labor. The challenge with this, however, is that these technicians (and the companies who supply them) have hardly any knowledge of LDAR - and even those who "know" LDAR often don't know the right thing - a dangerous situation. This requires two things: hands-on detailed training from subject matter experts, and technologies to automate and eliminate error-prone manual processes and data collection.
Ei's FieldTech Toolbox™ software is being successfully implemented to eliminate as much manual data entry as possible (while still meeting regulatory requirements) and to implement quality controls to instantly help these technicians and ultimately prevent them from collecting bad data. During the documentation phase, we pre-load FieldTech Toolbox™ with simplified, pre-determined data picklist options to ensure data consistency across a large, inexperienced team. We also set-up customized quality controls to notify and/or prevent the technicians from collecting bad data - including entering the wrong tag number, documenting components which have already been documented by another technician, or location description conformance.
Best Practices in Managing the Inventory and Monitoring Data
With large teams of inventory personnel (>30 personnel per unit), data management will make or break the project. Stick to inefficient management practices and you'll succeed in both not meeting the project deadline and not giving the field crews enough information to do their job accurately, not a good situation!
Using our FieldTech Toolbox™, we're are able to send documenting and monitoring crews out into the field in teams of two: one technician with an intrinsically safe tablet running the software paired with another technician's monitoring instrument. These dual-purpose teams are able to both document and monitor at the same time - eliminating multiple trips into the field - saving time reducing the chance for monitoring oversights. Better yet, with two sets of eyes on every component - components and leak interfaces have a much reduced chance of being overlooked.
Daily, with our FieldTech Manager™ software, we import and compile the day's data in seconds (even across teams of >30 technicians). This data is instantly QA'd, so any issues can be communicated to the field crews before the next days work. For the next day, the we compile ALL of the unit's data (even from other technicians) and send the technicians out with the entire unit's worth of inventory data - helping them know exactly what's been done previously - eliminating wasted time.
With ever-changing regulatory requirements in an environment limited technical LDAR resources, the key to success is proving to be leveraging industry-leading technologies, best-practices, and technical knowledge. Ei is proud to be supporting Chinese industries during this busy and transformational environmental regulatory time.
A question we get at Ei is, “Why don’t you make your software work on Android or iOS?” With mobile platforms like iOS and Android MOS (Android) moving past the realm of cellular phones and into the realm of tablets and desktop electronics, the question is one that every software development company has to consider. Ei recognizes the power of mobile platforms, and we are currently developing a mobile application of our own for Android and iOS called Ei Safety™ which will be available on the Play Store in a few months (follow our twitter @Env_int for updates). However, our core field software, EiMOC™ and FieldTech Toolbox™, will remain, for the time being, exclusively on the Windows platform with our hardware of choice being the Microsoft Surface Pro 3™ (shown below in an intrinsically-safe case provided by our partner, Xciel, Inc.)
There were many factors that influenced this decision, but the biggest one, by far, was hardware. Take a look at the table below. This table summarizes the hardware specifications of the leading intrinsically safe tablets.
Why do we chose the Surface Pro?
- Bigger and more defined screen
The significant larger screen size of the MS Surface Pro 3™ allows images, such as piping and instrumentation drawings (P&IDs) to be viewed comfortably without straining the user’s eyes. Furthermore, it allows all buttons to be of a comfortable and reasonable size, allowing them to be pressed with either a stylus or with your finger. The resolution allows for even small items on the screen to be seen clearly, without the need for excessive zooming.
- More Storage
Beaten only by the iPad Air® for the base model, the data storage capabilities of the Surface Pro 3™ are important when doing fieldwork. Having a high amount of storage allows large amounts of data to be stored on the tablet while doing fieldwork, including database backups, P&IDs, and photos.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 3™ beats the other tablets soundly when it comes to Random Access Memory (RAM). RAM is used to keep applications open and running smoothly. The MS Surface Pro 3™ has nearly the double the RAM that the next best tablet, the iPad Air® has. This comes in handy when running certain basic applications alongside our software, such as Microsoft Word, or OneNote. Furthermore, the more RAM, the more smoothly any application will run, and the less the operator needs to worry about performance in the field.
- USB Port
Most importantly, the MS Surface Pro 3™ is the only tablet above that can receive and send data via USB drives. This allows for increased mobility of data and increased capacity for storage. Whereas the other tablets on this list require a direct connection, either wired or through Bluetooth, to connect to a desktop computer, a MS Surface Pro 3™ does not have this limitation. Files can be stored on a flash drive and shuttled from a PC to the tablet without the two devices ever needing to be in the same room. A technician, for instance, can radio in for any digital file to be brought to them while they are in the field on a device that weighs about as much a paperclip.
Another thing worth mentioning is the universality of Microsoft devices. Windows is compatible with almost everything. Businesses big and small rely on the Windows operating system. By developing on Windows, we’ve picked a platform that won’t become outdated anywhere in the near future, unlike Android and iOS that get competitors by the day, (Tizen, Ubuntu Touch, and Windows Phone just to name a few).
At Ei we’re committed to giving our customers the best short-term and long-term value for their money, and we believe that developing on the MS Surface Pro 3™ is a realization of that commitment. Find out more about our MS Surface Pro 3™ -compatible software and newest innovation by visiting our products page for EiMOC™: http://www.env-int.com/products/eimoc/
Ask any engineer, operator, or manager at an operating plant if their workflows and data systems function at the highest level of efficiency, and you’ll likely get a laugh (we commonly ask that question and get that response). One need only to look at any paper-based processes – checklists for inspections, field verification and redlining of P&IDs, or printing MOC packages for review – for opportunities to improve workflow processes. “Workflow” seems to be one of those buzz-words that far too many people use without understanding its true importance. We believe that optimizing “workflow” is critical for three, fundamental reasons: 1) Increasing productivity, 2) Reducing operating costs, and 3) Mitigating environmental and safety compliance risk.
Creating a workflow diagram is an exercise that is little more than mapping a process from the beginning-to-end. We swear by workflows at Ei, because it helps us identify how we can improve processes through eliminating unnecessary steps and by automation. In fact, Ei was started 7 years ago by attempting to do little more than improve the process of managing LDAR applicability with industry-standard CAD platforms.
Now, we have something much greater to offer the industry – a software solution that integrates any plant data management system through a P&ID interface. It may seem like a radical idea, but we believe that this is the best approach to achieve integrated engineering document and data integrity while reducing operating costs and compliance risk. Don’t take our word for it – let us know what you think after you watch our YouTube video for: PLANT Intelligence™ - Plant Data and P&ID Technology that Reduces Operating Costs and Compliance Risks
With the goal of sharing ways to improve upon compliance inefficiencies, Ei hosted a training workshop at 4C entitled Compliance Tech Trends. Among other insghts, we shared a little-known (yet free) application called Autodesk Design Review 2013 that eliminates paper, increases efficiency, and improves management of P&ID markups for any compliance purpose, including LDAR, PSM, BWON, flares, etc. Autodesk Design Review is an application that is not only compatible with Microsoft products but also with mobile platforms for Apple and Android products. The way the application works is simple – in fact it works just like MS Paint but with an astonishing difference. The highlights made are really data objects which can be used today for engineering reviews, questions and mark ups. One can also manage their P&IDs electronically as a multi-sheet and search through them for texts.
The image below shows a P&ID from AutoCAD® exported into DWF format with the ability to search for equipment (see blue outline below). These are not “smart P&IDs” – they are just like every other P&ID stored in AutoCAD but with “block information” included in the export! Compliance professionals can highlight P&IDs in just seconds using a touchscreen Windows 8 computer or tablet, with the ability to store multiple drawings (including PDF) in a single file (see red outline below).
Among others benefits, all compliance professionals should consider electronically highlighting their P&IDs using Autodesk Design Review because: o Adobe PDF, DWF, and other P&ID formats are compatible with the application. o Highlighting P&IDs electronically saves countless hours on your next re-highlighting project. o Markups can be transferred from old P&IDs to new P&IDs within standard copy/paste in seconds. o Create searchable P&IDs for fieldwork from existing CAD drawings – that’s right, your current P&IDs are capable of being searchable to find any equipment on the P&IDs, such as a flow transmitter (we can’t express how much field-time this saves).
To learn more about how Ei can help you eliminate hard-copy markups in favor of electronic ones that you or your contractor can manage, feel free to contact our EngTeam at email@example.com.
The fundamental challenge facing Business Enterprise with respect to the Big Data Movement is the fact that “the cloud” in presently an ineffective method for data transfer and information sharing. Business Enterprise has data security challenges that the average consumer does not. For example, let us consider a computer chip manufacturing company. This example company is in control of proprietary information related to the technologies they use to manufacture computer chips. They safeguard confidential data relating to their inventory, production, and financial performance. And, they have other plant data stored on their network, which is protected under stringent data security controls. The adoption of cloud-based technologies is not a viable solution due to the threat of data security breaches and outside threats to hack or otherwise compromise invaluable data. Heck, some of these companies are so tech-savvy that they have proactively implemented wireless interference tools to render one's cell phone unusable upon entering a facility. Therefore, “the cloud,” is simply not a viable data solution for most Business Enterprise customers (think energy and manufacturing operations, such as oil refineries, chemical plants, electrical utility, and the like).
Before I discuss the solution that I envision, let us examine the data transfer and information needs of such an energy or manufacturing operation. After all, operational efficiency that involves plant data has wide-ranging impacts for all plant disciplines at such a facility. Most databases utilized in the plant environment are disconnected data systems (I call these “data silos”), which require manual data input. Worse yet, some enterprise applications require one or more administrators to manage. These circumstances represent significant cost impacts for data management, and, very simply, this reduces profitability.
Beyond profitability, such a manufacturing facility will rely upon its "knowledge workers" (a term referenced from Bill Gates' Business @ The Speed of Thought) to perform tasks that can be automated, but are not yet because the tools in use have been trusted for the last 20, 30, or more years that the company has been in operation. This is the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset (stay tuned in future blogs when I expound on how this old adage is the pandemic of a complacent society). To remain competitive in a global economy, however, Business Enterprise must proactively implement technology to optimize its operations, which inherently means automating every task that computers can do – thus, leaving "knowledge workers" to make decisions that computers cannot handle (so-called “judgment calls”).
There are profound impacts to technology adoption and automation that affect good manufacturing practices as well as safe work practices. Quite frankly, the risk of managing data in antiquated systems presents safety and manufacturing risks that can, and do, lead to regulatory violations, as well as, worker exposure to health and safety risks. This is a microcosm of where the industry is today - look no further than the critical datasets managed by many, large manufacturing facilities in a Microsoft Excel™ spreadsheet. In today’s world of sophisticated databases and network servers, this is an UNacceptable format for any critical dataset.
So, what is the solution? I believe that it involves bringing “the cloud” inside of the security firewalls of the owner-operator. In the above example, I believe that it involves “intra-virtualization” of the data management systems used at that computer chip manufacturing facility. I believe that it doesn't require a new application or interface; but the key will be database integration, in combination with software delivery tools to facilitate data transparency and render more efficient processes. I believe that it involves a common file format not called paper, which is the bain of a Business Enterprise that subscribes to processes that are unprofitable, inefficient, and risk-maximizing. I believe that we have developed the solution at Ei, and it’s only a matter of time before we help Business Enterprise overcome the Big Data Challenge.
Shane E. Kling