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Digital work permits during turnarounds: hands-on practice at Total Refineries Netherlands
Every five years TRN (Total Raffinaderij Nederland) organizes a major stop to clean all units. The first priority at TRN is safety; next come speed and efficiency.
An interview with Jules de Vries, Gatekeeper at TRN
The first time that TRN teamed up with iBanx HSE to use digital work permits (PermitCliq™) for Stops was in 2006. This year they completed their second – and this time full – stop using this system. Jules de Vries, gatekeeper at TRN and Paul de Vries, adviser at iBanx HSE, speak about the development of special options for stops, the ups and downs in working together, the achieved efficiency and safety gains, and possible improvements for the future.
Automation Driving across the grounds of the plant, Jules de Vries enthuses about the on-site installations, products and logistics. This, clearly, is a man who is proud of the company that he has served for 25 years. A lot has changed in that time. Work permits is one area that has witnessed radical change in recent years. The primary reason for automating the work permit system was to improve registration and uniformity. Jules de Vries: “The government wants to keep tabs on everything and an automated system allows you to find data going months back. Besides this, during stops we also have people from other locations such as Botlek working here, and uniform procedures make it a lot easier to do the job together.” To begin with, Jules de Vries himself saw no real need for automating the system. “I was convinced it would cost more time.” And he also had some initial doubts: “We started with iBanx HSE’s own automation system, so changes obviously needed to be made.” Laughingly he adds: “We are Total, we know better”.
Total was the first company where functionalities were added to PermitCliq™ for Stops. Major changes were made to the approach and system, the first (partial) stop was run and after the stop the parties got back around the table. Paul de Vries: “After the first stop we understood each other better. Before TRN, we had mainly worked with smaller firms. After our experience with a stop involving 20,000 permits, certain things naturally had to be added for TRN.” During the second stop, the automated permit system started to bear fruit. An interface between the work permit system and the planning system yielded substantial efficiency gains: the data of works were not only automatically transferred, but it also became possible to cluster works. Jules de Vries: “During the second stop, clustering enabled Operations to reduce the number of permits from 20,000 to just under 10,000, which is less than half.” Another thing was that printing the permits had been a big frustration during the first stop. With the new system, the printing was done well in advance in batches of fifty or sixty at a time. Jules de Vries: “This is something that really does make me happy. And it will also be useful for other purposes besides the stops.”
Apart from the interface, the clustering of works and printing instead of writing permits, something else was new for TRN: barcodes. The faster issuance and withdrawal of the permits leaves more time for other things. For instance, this means that the block coordinators, who are the people with the most experience, can be outside where it is all happening during the turnaround. Paul de Vries: “If a permit is issued or withdrawn during a turnaround, that tells you something about the progress of the stop. Formerly, contractors had to sign off works; now they only need to scan a barcode on the permit and PermitCliq™ automatically sends a message to the planning system. In this way, the parties involved always have up-to-the-minute insight into the status of works.” Jules de Vries: “In the past these people spent a lot of time working inside on the planning and permits; this is no longer necessary, which is a major gain.” And, as goes without saying, the uniformity of the new way of working helps to promote safety. Short cuts are less easy to take because people are guided through the processes step by step.
While scepticism prevailed during the first stop, the employees of TRN are now mainly positive. Jules de Vries: “During the first stop, hand-written permits were still used here and there; but that was definitely not done during the last stop. In the course of the stop the reactions became steadily more positive.” After a slightly sticky start, the issuance of permits became a lot easier and working with barcodes is now commonplace. Looking back, both men agree that, after quite a few discussions and many changes, the two parties are now on the same wavelength. Paul de Vries: “By working together with us as a critical customer, TRN has helped us to make new improvements in the system.” Jules de Vries sees a positive future with this system: “The concept is good, we have also grown more towards the best practices of iBanx HSE; it’s just a question of fine-tuning now. And the coming stops can only get even better and more efficient.”