Thank you to the IAM (Institute of Asset Management) for featuring an article and case study penned by our CEO, Ger Carton in their Knowledge Base section of their Winter 2021 magazine issue. Here is the article and case study and you can view the original piece here
Responding effectively to emergencies within large plants means getting to them fast. PlantQuest has delivered a mapping solution for one of the world’s top three pharma companies. CEO Ger Carton explains
For an asset manager, asset hierarchy is much more than steps on stairs, it is a highly networked system, with dependencies going far beyond these steps. It is here we often see the weakness in an asset network. How often have you seen one temperature or pressure transmitter bring down a whole facility’s manufacturing for days, or a spurious alarm from a smoke detector causing an evacuation?
Our view of the networked nature of the life science facilities in which we work is composed of dense systems of assets. With strict functional and regulatory dependence between these systems, they require constant attention by a multitude of workers. Activities within these systems are divided by the life-cycle phase of the plant, such as construction, commissioning, operations, maintenance and environment, health and safety (EHS), and quite often extend beyond locating a single asset. Complex tasks such as line walks, system walkdowns, mechanical isolations and punch list clearance, all require multiple assets to be located in short periods of time – often by workers with no prior knowledge of the systems in question.
The PlantQuest team has spent the past 20 years carrying out such tasks on pharma and oil & gas megaprojects and has witnessed the inefficiencies and waste that occurs first-hand at various stages of the facility life-cycle. Noticing that one of the biggest sources of lost time is locating assets for maintenance and EHS perspectives, the team carried out primary research to discover the true scale of the problem globally. Conducting interviews and surveys with technicians, engineers and managers, the findings proved the team’s initial hunch was, in fact, a major problem. Depending on factors such as industry, facility size and experience level, we discovered technicians were wasting between three and eight hours per week looking for assets in the field. (PlantQuest, 2020)
With the ongoing shift towards digital transformation in asset and facility management, there is no shortage of tools to enhance and augment the execution of asset and facility management tasks. Research has identified that the tools and solutions available to emergency response teams have remained largely unchanged in this era of digital transformation.‘ Pharma manufacturing units are running at a greater capacity than ever before, facing a 24/7 operation throughput. At this critical moment, manufacturers don’t have the time for emergency equipment maintenance, and we’re not talking about scheduled services. With a downtime costing a unit up to $20,000a minute, a manufacturer cannot afford a disruption in the production processes’ (Kruglyak, 2021).
In our everyday lives we use and rely on applications such as Google Maps, so we asked the question, why do we, in our industry, have to rely on complex and non-intuitive drawings for navigation? At one of our client’s sites, they are relying on about 300 layout drawings to locate critical safety assets across their facility – surely this has to stop? Deployed as a learning and productivity tool to allow for fast training of workers, execution of tasks and location of assets, PlantQuest provides an antidote to the lack of experienced staff expected by the end of the decade by locking in existing tacit knowledge. This enables incumbent employees to quickly and accurately execute routines and operations activities by bringing workers to the place of work. Identifying the need for a pinpoint accurate asset location solution, the team developed just that – to help clients take critical knowledge out of the heads of their employees, and thus reduce the time it takes to navigate complex sites locating assets. This could save hundreds of hours a year, increase productivity and reduce emergency response times.
The signal-free location and navigation feature ensures the solution will operate in even the harshest environments. Because of the nature of these facilities and their assets, building layouts change and assets get replaced over time. So, PlantQuest offers a means for the customer to take control and manage the asset base with the ‘Asset Logger Tool’ and the ‘Desktop Management Portal’ ensuring that it stays current and up to date. This unique feature set ensures all the company’s solutions can work offline while automatically being updated when signal becomes available. The intuitive interface masks the delivery of complex functionality to the user regardless of competence levels.
PlantQuest was asked to commission a bespoke solution concerning locating input devices ona client’s fi re alarm system. The site is one of Europe’s largest pharmaceutical facilities, spread across 1,000,000+ sq ft, containing more than 1,700 rooms and 27,000 metres of walkways.
Through the experience of the site-based emergency response team (ERT), the client discovered that its workflow surrounding the location of its 5,500 input devices (primarily smoke and heat detectors) could be streamlined and improved.
The client required a system to visually map, locate and route to any of the 5,500 assets across the 1,700 rooms from any location within the facility. With the client operating 24-hour a day operations and with downtimes potentially costing millions of euros per hour, it was vital that the implementation of the PlantQuest solution would have no impact on ongoing site activities.
Because of the complexity and structural nature of the client’s facility, the availability of both WiFi and GPS connectivity across the plant was at a premium. It was paramount that the solution delivered would operate with full functionality within the areas of no connectivity.
The Fire & ERT solution delivered by PlantQuest enables the client to effi ciently manage its fire and emergency assets aiding in the reduction of emergency response times. It has a user friendly interface, coupled with cutting-edge technology, allowing for the user to navigate to any of the 5,500 assets mapped across the facility. The algorithm-driven navigation element solution operates entirely independent of any signals such as GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi, and 4G, meaning that the customer was not required to install and maintain costly telecoms infrastructure.
Installed on IP67 Active Pro Samsung tablets, both internal and external emergency response, and maintenance teams can now navigate the 1,000,000 sq ft facility with ease, being aware of any hazards, restricted areas, and equipment required to route to a location before departing. The client’s intelligent digital mapping twin was developed and deployed remotely. PlantQuest representatives spent as little as five hours on site.
The client has gained and experienced:
● Improved communication among security, preventative maintenance, EHS and emergency
● Safer environment for both people and plant
● An intuitive and easy-to-use digital twin for the 1,000,000 sq ft facility
● Streamlined fi re system maintenance workfl ows, in turn, reducing costs
● Employees have an effective way of sharing valuable tacit knowledge
● Empowered data – employees can now locate equipment, conduct line
walks and navigate the complex facility in an effective manner
● No time wasted and no guess work. Just crucial information on demand
● Opportunity to scale the solution across the facility to other departments
and disciplines, including:
● Maintenance (preventative and corrective)
● IT (access points and panels)
● Familiarisation and site visitors