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Why permitting needs to go digital

April 10, 2020

We can no longer tolerate the risks of rigid, outdated paper processes.

According to Deloitte, poor maintenance strategies can reduce a plant’s overall productive capacity by 20%. To address this issue, it’s time for asset-intensive organizations to move maintenance processes from traditional pen-and-paper methods to digital systems.

Prometheus Group's Jarrad Huby

Organizations need to streamline processes, reduce redundant efforts, and integrate intelligent automated systems to help optimize maintenance and operations. While planning and scheduling have embraced technology with the goal of increasing wrench time, permitting has remained resistant to the transformation.

Efficiency and safety are critical in industrial environments, and a paper-based permitting process opens up a multitude of potential problems. Organizations can no longer tolerate the risks of rigid, outdated paper processes that create inefficiencies and limit communication and visibility. This can create an unsafe environment for employees as well as hampering an organization's ability to meet compliance regulations.

So, what are the benefits for maintenance and operations resulting from digital permitting? Here are five examples:

1. Ensures a more efficient permitting process. With electronic permitting, there is greater clarity and better access to records, which has a positive impact on efficiency. Key maintenance workers no longer need to spend valuable time filling out a mountain of paperwork, which can slow down plant production due to equipment remaining idle. It also removes delays caused by illegible handwriting or lost paperwork. A web-based or mobile permitting solution is more efficient and accurate than a traditional paper-based approach.

2. Removes human error as protocols are now mandatory, improving safety. Planning is a critical step in managing permitting and related activities. Poorly planned permits can lead to unsafe plans and isolations, placing the plant and worker at risk. Maintenance managers often require employees to follow a series of pre-determined steps when completing the permitting process to reduce errors. Without a digital system, it's impossible to ensure that permitting protocols are adhered to. If maintenance and operations staff are juggling multiple permits and isolations, it increases the risk that steps will be missed, which can have safety implications.

3. Increases wrench time as administrative tasks are reduced. With digital permitting, maintenance and operations staff no longer need to spend time on administrative paperwork, and instead can focus on carrying out vital work. The electronic approval of permits accelerates the entire permitting cycle and reduces lost-tool time.

4. Reduces the risk of unsafe isolations and sub-par risk assessment. With digital permitting, work conflicts are identified much earlier, and therefore, time is not wasted in planning and implementing controls only to find the work cannot proceed. Digitizing permitting accelerates planning with equipment items and isolation points selected from pre-approved lists.

5. Reduces the risk of being out of compliance with OSHA. OSHA regulations place a greater emphasis on compliance, verification of processes, and training. Failure to meet the guidelines results in significant penalties for businesses where incidents occur because of poor processes. Digital permitting creates a detailed, traceable audit trail that can easily be searched and reviewed as needed. This protects an organization from unnecessary fines as well as ensuring a safer working environment.

A paper-based permitting process can't keep up with today's demands. If companies want to maximize uptime, stay compliant with increasingly strict regulations, and optimize how labor hours are spent, they need to move to digital permitting. Those industries that have already embraced electronic permitting have an operational advantage. Asset-intensive organizations can’t afford to wait when it comes to adopting digital permitting.

Jarrad Huby is product lead, permitting & isolations with Prometheus Group

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