Reducing Communications Problems during Shift Changeovers

Sources of unplanned downtime can be many including equipment failures and human error. For downtime resulting from operator interactions, one major source of errors is the communications breakdown that sometimes happens during a shift change. If not told or seen in captured notes and observations, the incoming operators may lack visibility to the key tasks and priorities to keep the process operating in a stable manner.

Paper-based operator logbooks have a long history across the process industries, but have the same limitations that other paper-based systems have—difficulty in searching historical information, trends, and situational expertise. The recorded information may also be illegible and disorganized.

One way to address shift handover risk is to incorporate electronic logbooks to capture events, observations, notes and tasks in a fully searchable environment. Logbooks is a web application used to capture electronic records of operator activity as well as plan and track operator tasks during a shift.

Emerson's Mary-Sowders


In this 4:23 video, Operator Logbooks and Shift Changeover with Syncade Suite, Emerson’s Mary Sowders explains some of the ways the shift changeover process is improved to help improve overall process availability.

Mary describes some challenges with operators at shift change knowing which tasks to finish and which tasks to start. Logbooks provides a shift handover dashboard which provides a real-time overview of the activities going on with the current shift. Each part of the overview is clickable for operators to be able to access more detailed information through classification, status, or user configurable filters. Access to past shift summaries is also readily accessible.

A second view provides all the operator entries that have taken place over the course of the shift. Search is available for simple or extensive searches to identify similar situations that may have occurred in the past. Log entries can be performed in several ways. Unstructured entries are simple text that are classified into common areas such as operator rounds and/or associated with a piece of equipment to help with future searches. A structure entry is one selected from a list of templates where entry information is inserted into a list of pre-defined fields. An example of a structured entry is a daily inspection of the fire and gas safety system.

Mary closed by noting how this structured way of communications exchange between shift operators and the knowledge base of fully-searchable information built over time help reduce the risk of unplanned downtime and sub optimal performance.

You can connect and interact with other operations management experts in the Operations Management group in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

One comment so far

  1. Also consider using solutions like wireless position transmitter on manually operated valves. By providing actual position feedback to operators they will know if valves have been changed during a prior shift etc. This can help ensure that product is not offloaded into the wrong tank or wrong product is used in a mix. The position feedback can also be used in interlocks preventing pumps and other equipment from starting unless valves are lined up correctly. Hand valve position feedback is one of many examples of “missing measurements” around the plant that can now be handled by wireless. See this video from the Cisco IoT ASEAN conference where this point is made at the 34 min mark:
    https://youtu.be/Gq8okhmBe5E

    The presentation can be found here:
    http://www.cisco.com/web/SG/iotforum/pdf/jonas_berge_emerson_cisco_iot_asean_2015.pdf

    The gist is that by deploying more sensors and analytics software as a second system, plant can be modernized without replacing their DCS, to improve reliability and maintenance, energy efficiency, operations productivity, and to reduce HS&E incidents and response time.

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