The control room is the brain of pipeline operations; it serves as the command center for decisions both inside and out in the field. The brain thinks clearly and strategically when it is used to its full potential; when overwhelmed with information, it causes stress and lack of direction. The same is true for pipeline control rooms and operators.
Control Room Management (CRM) was implemented to ease stress and create direction and structure for those in the brain of the pipeline. However, doing so has added more distractions over time for pipeline controllers, ultimately making it harder to ensure safety. The industry must re-evaluate CRM best practices and turn to innovation so the brain of the pipeline operation can thrive with new ideas and a better environment.
Today, pipeline controllers have a great deal of responsibility in their day-to-day jobs. By implementing progressive ideas into existing technologies, controllers can hone in on the most important aspects of the pipeline operation. Maximizing utilization is key when pushing existing technologies and practices to be more efficient.
With today's rapidly evolving technology, no matter the sector, the full capabilities of existing offerings are overlooked and replaced without ever being used to its full potential. By further examining the resources that pipeline controllers already use, improvements can be made without implementing new and expensive systems. For example, display systems once welcomed fancy graphics and alarm notifications when they first became available in the early 2000s. Now, these elements have created a distracting and complex system with the fruition of alarm capabilities that were never thought possible. This warrants a push for innovation. In an ideal situation, controllers should be able to understand the overall health of the pipeline with more efficient displays.
Simplicity eases transitions
Moving toward simplicity and adapting to new display practices is especially important when the industry will find itself welcoming a new generation of workers in the next few years. Organizations need to do more than just keep up with regulations, they need to think ahead to this inevitable workforce change. By simplifying current displays with modern technology and making it easier to understand, it will help ease this period of transition.
To better explain the importance of innovating to easy-to-understand displays in the control room, let's use an everyday example. If you wear a heart rate monitor during exercise and it tells you that you have a heart rate of 136 beats per minute, it won't mean much to the common person without context. However, if you place that number on a scale that displays the normal range of heart rates for someone your age, even someone who doesn't have any medical experience will be able to understand if the level of exercise is too much or too little.
In the same vein, the new generation of pipeline controllers should be empowered by displays that show them the state of the pipeline in context, without an abundance of alarms and graphics grabbing all their attention, so they can easily understand the health of the pipeline without the years of experience held by the wave of retiring workers. Creating a more user-friendly control room will ease this period of transition and make both teaching and learning easier.
Another way to improve existing technology in the control room is to utilize the most basic building block of the web, HTML. By making data available on mobile devices, using technologies such as HTML for SCADA data, the amount of data visibility and accessibility will increase tremendously. This transition will make the data more readily available and more user-friendly. Implementing better HTML practices will increase the organizations' ability to access data from mobile devices, just as they would with anything else in your daily life. This would open the door to real-time analytics and access to SCADA data faster than ever before.