Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Cost of Risk vs. The Value of Knowledge

Today's oil and gas companies must contend with many issues related to the safety, reliability, and environmental performance in running a successful plant.  Incidents, near-misses, plant upsets, and production mishaps pose a constant threat to safe and efficient operations.   

There's no question that workforce knowledge is critical to smooth running plants. It is estimated that more than 40% of all plant incidents are initially caused by some form of human error.  Plants lose billions of dollars every year from operator and maintenance worker errors due to insufficient employee knowledge. Gaps in knowledge among workers are major risks and potential downfalls.

The difference between a worker's existing knowledge level and the complete knowledge required for 100% job proficiency are knowledge gaps. Knowledge gaps are risky business. Savvy employers recognize that single gap can seriously jeopardize safety and quality improvement efforts, as well as a company's good standing with regulatory compliance agencies. Consider this situation where knowledge gaps caused significant disruption, including equipment damage and production loss:

As in many plants, removing water or moisture from a liquid stream can be critical to processes. In one plant, propane LPG was treated with a caustic wash and amine treatment, and then went through a dryer before refrigeration. But when the plant increased LPG production, the sudden change in feed rate caused the caustic to be carried overhead and upset the amine unit. Both caustic and amine were carried into the dryer. Unknowingly, operators carried on normal operations for the next few days, and when they began the next dryer regeneration, they discovered that the molecular sieve had become clogged with cement hard masses due to the caustic and amine contamination. The dryer had to be removed from service for repair. The operators didn't foresee the upsets caused by the sudden feed increase. The knowledge gap produced an inadequate response causing equipment damage and lost production.

To remain on solid ground, plants must eliminate knowledge gaps and develop a more knowledgeable workforce.  100% proficiency is needed in all knowledge required for safe and productive operations. How can this be done? We've identified 4 steps necessary for eliminating the gaps:

The crucial foundation for identifying gaps is understanding what knowledge is required. Defining what is actually required for best job performance involves recognizing every single procedure, issue, or parameter that could affect that job. When all requirements are defined, a thorough assessment can identify gaps in the total required knowledge.

Content must be developed that will effectively transfer the required knowledge. Well-designed learning content incorporates proven Instructional Design Methodology (ISD) with relevant content to produce effective, engaging programs geared for adult learners in technical industries. Individualized curriculum paths organize these programs to address the knowledge gaps of each learner. 

The appropriate learning modules must be delivered consistently to each individual based on their current abilities. Differential learning allows redundant training to be filtered from delivery, and only those programs that align with the knowledge gaps are delivered. This means learners reach proficiency more quickly without unnecessary training.

The actual knowledge acquired must be measured against the defined knowledge requirements. This requires well designed assessments and strategies for remediation. When competency is not attained, the personal learning path must be adjusted and the appropriate remediation completed until 100% proficiency is reached.

So, what size knowledge gap is acceptable? Any knowledge gap is too much risk. Creating an environment that consistently and accurately checks and updates each of the four steps above will eliminate the gaps and reduce of risk.  With gaps eliminated, valuable knowledge can be realized in:
  • Productivity increases
  • Improved safety
  • Improved performance
  • Reduced process upsets
  • Reduced operator errors
  • Fewer machine breakdowns and shutdowns
  • Less time spent correcting mistakes
PetroSkills RDC Solutions is in a unique position to close the knowledge gaps. With over 50 years of knowledge transfer experience in the process industries, we've worked with leading companies, licensors, and manufacturers gleaning industry experience and technical know-how. By optimizing learning with proven instructional design methodologies and technology, we enable our clients to improve performance while reducing risk.  Based on this experience, we can deliver a job-specific, adaptive learning and knowledge transfer environment focused on developing and maintaining 100% knowledge proficiency. Visit our website or contact us via email at