New, cool, hybrid roles
As remote monitoring and minimally attended “many mini” plants increase at Air Liquide, Martin added that several interesting roles are going to emerge due to SIO that combine skills from formerly separate jobs. “If we’re going to have minimally staffed plants, it’ll be even more important to cover the tasks that remain,” explained Martin. “We’ll need production people that can not just look at data, but analyze trends more thoroughly and understand where their plant is going. We’ll have to pair experts with less-experienced staff, and teach them to understand and make better decisions. And, we’ll also need multi-skilled technicians able to work on more different types of equipment in more applications.” Martin added these new roles and opportunities will likely include:
• Real-time pilots (RTPs), who will perform remote monitoring of operations through service-level agreements (SLAs). They’ll monitor and respond to alarms, and collaborate with on-call personnel as needed. They’ll also handle equipment lists and process variables authorized for RTP responses.
• Operations analysts, who will perform data analytics and case management. They’ll use data analytics to monitor for areas of improvement using smart key performance indicators (KPI); case manage issues detected; optimize remotely performing predictive analytics on key equipment; and help prepare production and energy supply for customer demands.
• Multi-technicians, who will be more analytical and multi-skilled, using data to optimize decisions, conduct remote monitoring and control tasks, and perform some maintenance activities.
New organizational structure
Beyond reshaping individual jobs, Martin added that SIO will also drive a new functional structure for his entire organization. For example, product supply manager will deliver production volume setpoints to the RTPs, who will provide case management information to a centralized team of analysts. The company is also implementing new virtual operator assistant functions by standardizing on Platform for Advanced Control and Estimation (PACE) software from Yokogawa Electric Co. “I put in MVPC 20 years ago, and done right, they can be great,” added Martin. “But once MVPC is in place, the operators may not know as much as before about how the plant works because the MVPC is taking care of it.” “We can make SIO work, but we need the solid tools we’re developing. We also know this process can be frustrating for our plants, which is why we’re also developing the plans and resources to make it happen, and spending wisely about where we want take our plants. We do a lot of replacements because many plant were put in 20 years ago, and they need modernized controls, but they also need enterprise historians, cloud services, virtual backup and artificial intelligence (AI), which we’re also beginning to explore.”