These times of crisis proved how important it is to incorporate analytics into plants’ daily routine. We propose a different approach of integrating analytics into daily operations: building an Analytical Monitoring Service (AMS).

Artificial intelligence and machine learning still have a great many benefits to offer plants of all types, and at this time of crisis, it’s even more important to unlock them all to help overcome some aspects of the “new normal.”

Reacting to last-minute failures was never an optimum way of operating, forcing engineers and control room teams to spend all their time chasing fires instead of making strategic and proactive plans for optimizing production. But during a crisis, it’s wholly impractical. Analytical monitoring solutions such as SAM GUARD have proven their efficacy at spotting the signs of impending failure or a broken process before human experts can pick up on the issue and even before sensors flag a serious deviation from the norm, so it’s more than time to enlist their full capabilities.

COVID-19 pushes advanced analytical monitoring to the forefront

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the working practices for plants almost overnight. Instead of having a full team on hand to carry out repairs, there’s only a skeleton team on site. When a fix is required, it needs to be scheduled to be carried out by the minimum number of employees necessary, and at a time when the plant is as empty as possible. This makes it disastrous to put off repairs until the last minute. With advanced knowledge about an upcoming failure, plants can choose from a position of strength whether or not to effect a repair and when to schedule it.

Additionally, control rooms are chaotic and busy places. Errors can sometimes be picked up by a casual passer-by who looks over someone’s shoulder and points out a mistake. This casual method works well enough when a plant is full, but when it’s close to empty there’s no one around to spot an error like that. Organized, remote monitoring is needed to replace haphazard mutual oversight.

Finally, most plants follow a fixed routine for maintaining or replacing parts which aren’t always based on their real time condition. Again, this might not matter much during ‘normal’ times, but when a plant is operating mostly by remote with a skeleton team, every decision needs to be weighed and made consciously rather than by default. Analytical monitoring makes this kind of foresight possible.

With analytical monitoring, it’s possible to track all the moving parts, processes, production quality, and more all at the same time, comparing each issue to each other as well as judging it alone.

Maximizing the benefit from analytical monitoring solutions: Introducing the Analytical Monitoring Service

Any form of analytical monitoring will bring benefits for busy plants during times of crisis, but our experience has shown that certain methods of implementation have a superior impact.

You can place an analytical monitoring solution in the hands of the control room, and guide them to the best way to use it. However, this requires a great deal of time and management support to make it work. Control room teams are already fully busy with their regular jobs, and don’t have the time to experiment with the new solution, respond to additional alerts, or consider the value the solution is bringing. It takes a good 6-18 months, plus bi-weekly management-led meetings, for this approach to be effective.

An alternative is to create a dedicated Analytical Monitoring Service (AMS) to oversee and manage analytical monitoring throughout the plant. The AMS would have a specific person or small team dedicated to applying and managing the new analytical monitoring tools. The person or team would be responsible for looking at the alerts, understanding each problem that is uncovered, following up on fixing the issues, and then calculating the value of having fixed it. The resolution process may require working together with control systems, control room operators, process engineers, maintenance teams, and the like, however, the AMS leader or team would take the lead and ensure that it happens. With an AMS, employees can gain a holistic view of the plant for an overall grasp of plant health that is useful at any time, but vital in our current situation. An AMS is a scalable solution that can be rolled out to numerous other plants once it’s been tried and tested in the first one.

Integrating Analytical Monitoring Centers into Your Operations
Titan’s remote monitoring center

In large companies with several plants and factories, it’s beneficial to move the solution up a level and create a remote analytical monitoring service, or RAMS. With an RAMS, instead of having a separate, on-site AMS overseeing analytical monitoring for one site alone, you would connect multiple plants under the purview of a single remote control room which can track and respond to alerts across numerous sites real-time.

Like an AMS team, the RAMS employees are responsible for making strategic decisions regarding maintenance and repairs, but across several sites. Their decisions would be richer and better informed since they would be based on vertical knowledge that applies the wisdom gained from one plant to other plants across the organization. RAMS employees can access deeper insights into best practices, and use them to make early, proactive decisions that optimize production and performance across the organization.

Learn More about AMSs in a Webinar

We firmly believe that when it comes to implementing analytical monitoring, the challenge is no longer if a plant should do so, but how it can best do so. The current coronavirus pandemic, economic slowdown, and changed working practices only emphasize the need for process plants to apply advanced AI and ML-powered analytical monitoring solutions. These enable plants to stop chasing fires and instead to operate proactively, make strategic decisions, reduce costs, and maintain peak performance even in times of uncertainty and confusion.

Learn more about AMS in our recent webinar

In our next blog post, we’ll share our client The Titan Group’s experiences implementing analytical monitoring, how they came to create an RAMS, and the benefits they’ve enjoyed as a result.