That old P&ID has finally had a makeover, a digital makeover.

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

Regardless, P&IDs have been manual, siloed processes for as long as they’ve been around, but software advancements have made Interactive P&IDs a possibility. The software helps break down those silos and offers greater insights into best practices while ensuring continuity when experienced people leave an organization.

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 an isolation generally requires the maintenance team to request approval from operations, and then operations personnel analyze, schedule and manage the equipment isolation.

Companies that operate within hazardous industries have departments, functions and teams that often create data silos based on departmental priorities. Technologies and processes are often implemented in a way where they don’t “communicate” with each other to create a truly holistic experience. Solutions that are 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 work sites 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.

Focus on P&IDs

Let’s look at the scenario of taking a pump offline for routine maintenance. Today, operations designs an isolation plan by looking for the correct engineering documentation, which typically requires one or more P&ID, that shows 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 isolation management system. A certificate is also created with a text list of points to isolate. The marked-up P&ID is passed on to the work party executing the task.

There is inefficiency, redundant work outputs and risk inherent throughout this process, including:

  • What if the paper version of the P&ID is out of date?
  • What if operations misses an important isolation point when entering the plan into the management system? What if the paper markup 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 could be incorporated into the current process?

Ensuring operations teams always access the right engineering documents and learn from previous experiences in preparing and performing an isolation 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 the technology available today, these business processes can be integrated to enable greater efficiency.

Integrated Risk Management 4.0 technologies can help connect the dots between those who manage P&IDs (engineering), those who plan 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 isolation management process, but also it maximizes system investments already made.

Operators no longer need to search for the right P&ID. Instead, they access the relevant P&IDs based on any particular tag number. The previous plan can be reused rather than 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.

All of these efficiencies, by the way, are designed to help boost productivity while lowering costs.

In Practice

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

Sphera’s new Interactive P&ID solution enables teams to be more efficient and make better operational decisions safely. Engineering data is kept up to date using inputs gathered by operational teams in the field. Critical operational tasks such as lockout/tagout (LOTO) are simplified thanks to fingertip access to the right data.

The Digital Horizon

Technology plays a crucial role in enabling people across the organization to make better, more informed decisions. With next-generation engineers, operations personnel, and maintenance taking the reins from the current aging workforce, digital capabilities are key to helping retain 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
Scott Redford

Scott Redford is Sphera’s senior product manager for Operational Risk Management. He has two decades of experience in designing and delivering software solutions to address business challenges. Prior to working at Sphera, Redford specialized in providing data integration and consolidation solutions to large-scale organizations with complex business processes.

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