DSM Pharmaceutical Products:
Improving safety and annually saving € 85,000 on Permit to Work
At DSM, the issues of sustainability and safety play a key role. The group ranked first in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index in both 2009 and 2010. Safety is also a major priority at DSM Pharmaceutical Products in Venlo, which produces semi-manufactured products for the pharmaceutical industry. The last six months have seen major investments made in changes to behaviour in terms of safety in the plant. The alliance with iBanx, designed to optimize processes and behaviour and implement a digital work permit system and a Lockout/Tagout (Loto) system to isolate the installation, fits in perfectly with this. An interview with Martine Meuwissen, Planning & Scheduling Manager.
“We optimized processes and behaviour together with iBanx and implemented their Unite HSE software modules for Permit to Work and Lockout/Tagout (LoTo).
With this project the cost of the Permit to Work process has been reduced by an annual €85,000 at least.
Therefor we signed up the team involved for the 2011 DPP Exceptional Achievement Award in the categories “EXCELLENCE and IMPROVE” and “SAFETY, HEALTH and ENVIRONMENT.”
- Zef Bos,
The issue/initial situation
Until very recently, handwritten permits on paper were still being used at the plant in Venlo. “It was an old-fashioned system,” says Meuwissen, “so it was high time to improve efficiency and find a better alternative. We investigated the issue at a number of our fellow companies. DSM Anti Infectives in Delft was already working with iBanx and the system they used and their working methods appealed to us. We invited iBanx to come along and talk to us.”
One of the disadvantages of the old paper system was that permits were regularly being lost. Meuwissen: “Before being issued, the permits had to be processed by numerous layers within the organization which repeatedly resulted in them going astray. That meant starting again from scratch, which can be very frustrating.” In addition, it was necessary to reinvent the wheel in terms of working safely every single time; according to Meuwissen, it was not possible to learn from previous experiences when using paper permits. “With the new digital system, you can copy the successful parts of previous work permits and update your work permits by making additions. When the work is over, the permit is stored and can be very easily retrieved.”
As well as increasing efficiency, there were also significant benefits to be gained in terms of safety. Meuwissen: “When we used the paper work permits, they would often have sections underlined or additions made by the issuing authority or by the Service Foreman, which can result in safety risks. The four-eye principle does not work if an addition is scribbled onto the permit in the very final stage.”
Before iBanx implements its Unite™ software module(s), the customer’s processes are first compared with Best Practices developed over the years by iBanx in partnership with dozens of customers. This also happened at DSM in Venlo. Without compromising on safety, this resulted in a simplified process by removing a number of stages. For example, we now work with digital authorization and responsibilities are allocated in a different way. Meuwissen: “One example of a stage that has now been removed is the signature of the Maintenance Supervisor. This is now the responsibility of the department that issues the permit. So the department and the holder of the permit, who will carry out the work, check whether the measures are correct. In the past, it was possible for someone simply to sign the permit. Now, the holder also checks the workplace, meaning that safety is considerably improved.”
The improvement project
Meuwissen explains how the initial contacts with iBanx came about as a result of consultations with other DSM plants. “It turned out that the iBanx work permit system in Delft also suited our plant, or at least 85% of it. The remaining 15% was successfully modified in consultation; I found it to be an excellent service.”
It was not only the system, but also the method of implementation that led to the choice of iBanx, according to Meuwissen. “I noticed that the approach taken to implementation was very effective. This was all helped by the cooperation between a DSM project team and an IBanx team, combined with an effective schedule, the training of our staff and the support offered by iBanx in the initial stages. iBanx keeps to its agreements and the whole project ran smoothly. Any remaining issues during the roll-out were quickly adapted and dealt with.”
Meuwissen points out that safety has been improved by the adoption of a standardized approach. Any new system involves changes that people need to get used to and there is often initial resistance. “The new work permit system ensures that people follow a proper procedure: it is no longer possible to make last-minute changes to permits, as was previously the case. It may cause some problems and be a little frustrating, but it is an improvement in terms of safety.” Meuwissen is particularly enthusiastic about the work floor support. "For one or two weeks, the iBanx people shadow our staff in the process and provide on-the-job training. In practice, when people actually start work training is required to convince them to use the system. Any difficulties are noted down during training and adapted afterwards.” In addition to the people on the shop floor, a number of internal DSM staff also trained as trainers to provide support after iBanx had left.
"All in all", adds Meuwissen, "we spent almost six months on the whole PermitCliq project. In the initial stages, we kept the old system running alongside PermitCliq and only disabled it after about three months. The transition actually ran very smoothly. The iBanx people know their business and understand the industry. They also continue to ask questions, which is a key strength. They can use their knowledge to challenge other companies and to question ingrained habits.”
Results and aims achieved
The aim of the transition from paper to digital permits in Venlo was to improve efficiency and increase capacity. Meuwissen and her staff are now working on the second stage: automating the isolation procedure. Meuwissen: “There are major improvements to be made in LockOut/TagOut, partly because we currently still take the stop folders round by hand. PermitCliq has already enabled us to make improvements in this because we now copy permits instead of writing them out manually and we can learn from the past. The permits process has also become quicker; in the past, we would walk around the plant with folders including the permit, a task description for the mechanic and a site map. Now we can retrieve all of this digitally at the touch of a button. We no longer have the problem of folders ending up piled up on a desk and needing to be searched through. I look into the system, make a phone call and the problem is solved; everything can be traced. In terms of throughput, it makes a difference of a few days and perhaps even a week. When LoToCliq goes live very soon, the whole package will be digital and there will be no need for folders at all. Thanks to the Task Risk Analysis (TRA) and the Risk Determination Checklist, which increase safety even more, there is very little more we could wish for.”
Changes to procedures also call for adaptations by the people who work with them, but everyone is now working with the system and people are positive about it. Meuwissen: “It encourages people to follow procedures, which helps improve safety. It also helps provide a bigger picture. Whereas in the past, a department head would have a pile of slips on his or her desk, he or she now has a comprehensive overview built into the system. People also take a more critical approach to the work permits. Within the plant, we were already working on changes to behaviour in terms of health before we started working with iBanx. The cooperation with iBanx, the automation of work permits and the isolation procedure and the introduction of TRA and RDC are a logical follow-up. It has delivered systems and procedures that are effective and we have no doubt about that. But appropriate behaviour, which is something in which we train our people, makes a significant additional contribution to increasing safety and efficiency.”
Adrie Wolters, Day-shift Coordinator: “The work is easier now; it is no longer necessary to reconsider everything for every different job and to write it down when it comes to the isolation procedure. For example, the numbers of the manual switches, valves and pumps that need to be isolated. In the past, if I lost track while I was writing things down, I would have to start again from scratch. Everything is now solved instantly and digitally. We are currently still working with stop folders, but we will switch to LoTo lists in two weeks’ time. Where we used to have to enter everything into a Word document, we will soon have digital LoTo lists that are archived for later re-use and copying. We will then no longer use separate documents in stop folders; instead, the lists will be linked to the digital work permits, giving us an idea of the bigger picture.
We are now working hard on the training process and need to consult with the iBanx programmers and change a few things, but we can already see that it will make a big difference. There are particular advantages for the Service Foremen, who are responsible for issuing permits. The automation of LockOut/TagOut saves time, provides an overview and puts an end to papers being lost.”
Zef Bos, Senior Maintenance Field Planner and Planning Engineer: “The work has become less stressful and staff are enthusiastic about PermitCliq. We got plenty of practice while iBanx were here to give us workplace support.
One major change is that packages now only go missing very occasionally, which saves a lot of time and effort. It is no longer necessary to write out permits yourself and they no longer need to be sent from Maintenance to Production and back again. In urgent cases, depending on the risk, all we have to do is make a telephone call. That reduces the time by half. If a permit is refused, it is easy to change it, whereas in the past we had to throw away the written version.
Permits are now clearer because it is no longer possible to write things on them, which makes the whole procedure much safer. During preparations, people take a more critical approach and think things through more than in the past, all of which helps improve safety.
We are also now building up an archive, we can copy permits for recurrent jobs and we have prior knowledge that is useful for those issuing and preparing permits. This makes the work more standardized and templates are created.
At the moment, we are in the middle of phase two and RDC has been integrated. PermitCliq is easy to use and much better than the previous points system involving counting up the risks on paper. Now, the risk only needs to be determined once and the job is done. The system and new working method make things faster and much more convenient.
With this project the cost of the Permit to Work process has been reduced by an annual € 85,000 at least. Therefor we signed up the team involved for the 2011 DPP Exceptional Achievement Award in the categories "EXCELLENCE and IMPROVE" and "SAFETY, HEALTH and ENVIRONMENT."
Manager Planning & Scheduling
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