Reflecting on the Past Year in Energy & Engineering

Sean Baird

Sean Baird

Sean leads Energy and Engineering Industry solution marketing and market development for EMC’s Information Intelligence Group.

As 2014 draws near an end, we reflect back to review what was significant in the past year. As we have worked with customers across the world, experienced their challenges, and worked together on strategies to improve their business practices, there are a few themes that consistently emerged.

Addressing an Aging Infrastructure with Innovation

Talking with energy enterprises revealed that there are big consequences when asset information is incomplete, hard to find, incorrect or inconsistent. As companies struggle to manage an aging infrastructure, we identified the benefits of asset management and how important it is to get control of asset-related documentation.

  • At the ARC Industry Forum, there were many discussions about the connected plant. It became clear that asset lifecycle information management enables the connected plant and moves the needle of information management into a goal-oriented focus of better collaboration and connectivity.
  • Ovum-ALIM-BenefitsA new report from Ovum opened our eyes about how state-of-the-art asset lifecycle information management (ALIM) provides significant operational and competitive advantages. It even helps avoid certain risks and reduce costs.
  • In a foreshadowing of events to come, we urged readers not to “wait for the big one” to prevent aging asset disasters and discussed best practices for organizing critical SOPs and asset-related documentation. A short month later, there was a significant earthquake in Napa, California that killed one, injured about 200 and interrupted power to 69,000 Pacific Gas and Electric customers. An early warning system automatically shut off gas lines to prevent some fires, but did not save 4 homes that burnt down in a mobile home park.

Better Information Management Eases Many Pains

With years of experience applying information management across the entire asset lifecycle, identifying best practices in plant information management was also a recurring topic. Our customers are increasingly recognizing that information being created through our plant information systems has considerable strategic value and needs to be properly maintained, continuously improved, and further extended.

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‘Tis the Season

Robin Gellerman

Robin Gellerman

Robin Gellerman is a solution marketing manager for the EMC Information Intelligence Group and writes about topics concerning the energy and engineering industries.

'Tis the SeasonIt’s the season to reach out to friends and family. Chatting with colleagues at the company party, making holiday plans with the extended family, and receiving cards from old friends that tell of the noteworthy events from the past year are just a few ways this happens.

The Energy & Engineering team in the EMC Information Intelligence Group recently caught up with our friends, both newly acquired and long-term customers, by conducting a survey. We wanted to hear about their top business and operational challenges related to information management, and how Documentum and related technologies were providing value.

Survey: Here’s what they told us

When asked to identify the top challenges, insufficient management of critical documentation and disconnected departmental and legacy systems were tied as the top response at fifty-two percent (52%).

But these issues were not alone. Followed closely were three other prominent concerns: Continue reading

Information Transparency in the European Oil & Gas Industry

Jasmit Sagoo

Jasmit Sagoo

Jasmit Sagoo, Principal Systems Engineer, EMC Information Intelligence Group

Transparency (both regulatory and voluntary) is vital to any industry as it is the only effective way to keep all stakeholders, decision-makers and the public more informed about the realities of individual initiatives. This is no more important than in the oil and gas industry. Transparency can reduce environmental concerns or confusion that involved parties might have and ultimately reduce risks associated. This is nowhere more important than in contentious projects, such as those associated with fracking.

Information transparency is vitalFracking has the potential to revolutionise the supply of energy in the short to medium term and as such cannot be ignored. In the United States, shale gas has seemingly emerged from obscurity to become the main engine of economic recovery in the country. Meanwhile, Europe’s future gas supply has seldom been less certain. According to figures from Oxfam, Europe currently imports half of its energy, with Russia the top supplier for both oil and gas. Indeed, European countries paid more than £200 a person to Russian oil and gas companies last year.

Europe clearly needs a long-term solution to its energy needs and one that will allow it a measure of independence. On the surface, shale gas seems the perfect fit.

But many Europeans are not so sure. For some, the social and environmental impacts of fracking, the process by which shale gas is extracted, are too big a price to pay for a secure energy supply. Many Europeans worry that fracking will disrupt their local communities and bring with it mining techniques that may not be safe. There is a perception fracking could also cause gas to leak into the water table, potentially polluting potable water reserves. Though these contentions have yet to be proved, the worry remains.

Opinions on fracking vary greatly across EMEA. In France, Bulgaria and Romania fracking is illegal because their governments are concerned about the potential environmental impact. Other countries, such as Germany and the Czech Republic, are considering Continue reading

Where are the Dangerous Intersections of Information in Your Organization?

Joe Morray

Joe Morray

EMC Information Intelligence Group Worldwide Energy and Engineering Practice

In every town there is often one location referred to as “that dangerous intersection.” It Intersection 1could be a roundabout or just one yield sign on a road. But it’s the place where accidents always happen, and nobody is especially surprised.

The same is true in our energy and engineering organizations, except that these dangerous intersections can be even more difficult to distinguish. It’s only when combustible dust catches fire or there is an oil spill resulting from an outdated procedure that has not gone through a management of change (MOC) update.

Three Work Streams that Feed a Power PlantOnce you have identified the three work streams driving your organization (see my last blog), the next step is to uncover your onerous intersections. The third work stream, managing your Plant Information Asset™, is an appropriate place to begin.

Death, Taxes, and Regulations – True for Every Industry

Let’s look at a common activity among energy and engineering customers, which parallels many industries governed by regulations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Management of Change process instigates many sets of information and tasks. For virtually every activity that we perform in a plant that deals with safety related systems, we need to propose, document, implement, verify, update documentation, and advise personnel in order to adhere to OSHA regulations.

The lesson we have learned over and over again is that having a consolidated set of electronic information to flow through the third work stream of managing the Plant Information Asset is critical. It does not come from the CMMS system or the process control system.

The requisite information to support the third work stream includes plant configuration information (specifications, drawings, schematics, etc.), management of change documentation, procedures, training materials, and regulatory/licensing documentation. This information is often scattered everywhere, on paper, shared drives or not findable in the plethora of documentation, as our video aptly describes.

A Real-Life Example

A valve that is leaking needs to be replaced. The maintenance management system has alerted the maintenance supervisor to allocate repair time. And a contractor technician is called on site to implement the repair. Sounds routine?

Unfortunately, the technician has no access to electronic documents detailing the current valve configuration schematic and specification. Just an old hard copy of a repair manual was provided. Schematics for the plant are at a different location, too far away to transport to the work site on time.

Nonetheless, the work gets completed, and the maintenance management system documents that an update was made. However, all of the below information and procedures never made it to the rest of your work streams:

  • The newer valve model has a slightly different threshold pressure point than the former valves
  • The contractor technician learned, through trial and error, that two steps are required before valves can be installed, otherwise they won’t function properly
  • The change was never communicated to plant operators for review and sign-off on, and no advisement/training was completed regarding the changed operating procedure, all of which is typically required by OSHA

Imagine the safety hazard of running an oil refinery with the wrong valve pressure point information! Not to mention the regulatory fines and subsequent maintenance issues lurking in this scenario.

Plant operators thought they were maintaining the plant. They thought stop signs were enough to prevent accidents. But it takes knowing what information is flowing through your organization and how it interacts with your critical work streams before you can improve safety.

Where are the dangerous intersections in your organization? What people, processes, and technologies can you deploy to alleviate them?

When Taking a System Offline Is Acutely Unacceptable

Tom Broering

Tom Broering

Head of Americas Alliances and Channel Sales, Information Intelligence Group at EMC

Keeping enterprise-scale repositories online with minimal downtime to handle backups, data repair and recovery saves more than dollars, as Mike Fernandes, VP, Products, enChoice, can attest. Read his blog below to understand the truly critical impact of backup and recovery in today’s connected world, particularly in the highly regulated industries that EMC and enChoice serve.

When Taking a System Offline Is Acutely Unacceptable

Mike FernandesMike Fernandes, VP, Products, enChoice
Mike Fernandes has over 20 years’ experience in the technology industry encompassing the management of IT departments, online banking hosting centers, and B2B support organizations.

In life sciences, energy, financial services and just about everything else, compliance is the 800-pound government gorilla in the room. Following the rules has never been simple, but the often mind-boggling complexity of the process for regulatory audits, inquiries, inspections, and eDiscovery, plus industry-specific documentation requirements with all their associated demands and deadlines, makes it almost unthinkable to take a major system offline for any significant length of time.

Imagine the consequences if a major bank runs afoul of Dodd-Frank because of a glitch that interrupts the mandated capture and preservation of data at numerous points along the value chain. Now imagine the compounding of the pain when ordinary recovery processes, requiring a system shutdown, trigger permanent data loss or corruption.

At each stage of a drug’s development, the FDA watches everything from software systems to labeling information, all with strict guidelines for record retention and compliance. Violations can halt production, delay or deny an approval, and patients who need the drug, don’t get it, certainly not when they expected it. Data must be protected, and 24-hour or multi-day downtime windows for fixing problems is not an option.

NuclearFrom OSHA to FERC, operating an energy enterprise is a nonstop exercise in regulatory routines with little leeway. Non-compliance can lead to significant fines, business shutdowns, and a damaged reputation. Not to mention the lights going out.

Next-generation data protection software, like our CYA HOTBackup and CYA SmartRecovery solutions, appeal to organizations concerned with compliance issues, because they factor in the human cost along with the dollars. Having the ability to back up your ECM system without shutting down, without risk of data loss or corruption, cannot be underestimated. The capability to recover from operational incidents in minutes, with everything running, instead of after 24 hours or even days of system inactivity, is a game-changer, and it’s going to become equally attractive elsewhere.

We are exploring deployment possibilities in areas where the human cost of taking a system offline, even for a short time, is acutely unacceptable, and data loss, no matter how small, is intolerable. Judicial. Military. Corrections. Places where for obvious reasons, records cannot afford to go missing or get damaged, and slow, imperfect recovery can be disastrous. We expect broad acceptance as the benefits become apparent. Because so much is at stake.

How would a data disruption affect your compliance environment? Have you dealt with compliance violations brought on by corrupted or lost information? Let us know.