LIFETRACK — Enhancing Team Knowledge and Corporate Memory in Petrochemical Operations through Sharing Lessons Learnt
Petrochemical plant operations have an inherent risk. To minimise these risks and prevent economic loss, injury or loss of life, operational teams need to share a compatible perspective on the plant. Otherwise, there is a risk of working at cross-purposes. This means that all operational staff should be able to draw on a consistent set of information and knowledge describing the plant and be aware of relevant experiences and lessons from past events. Maintaining a reliable corporate memory for those working in the operational environment is therefore important.
Unfortunately, due to the complexity of petrochemical plants, maintaining an effective corporate memory for operational teams is a non-trivial task. A particular complication is the need to manage on an ongoing basis “soft” factors, such as team knowledge and culture, in conjunction with the “hard” technological and systems factors. Traditional engineering and management approaches are inadequate as they do not provide an appropriate holistic framework.
The LIFETRACK project addresses the need to identify areas of risk related to soft factors in a systematic way. The result is a practical management framework, a set of operational bench marking techniques and an illustration of how electronic techniques can improve corporate memory for the benefit of operator teams. A particular focus is information use and communications at the operator level of a plant, with electronic approaches allowing improved shift handover, log keeping and recording of shift highlights by operators, and common access by all staff to a consistent plant records. Technology in the form of electronic information storage and computer-based decision support is necessary to deliver and sustain improved operational practices. Reliable information management practices must be designed into the organisational framework if this electronic storage is going to provide a sustainable corporate memory facility.
The LIFETRACK framework has been developed in collaboration with operational staff at a state-of-the-art process plant in the UK, with cross-industry critique used to ensure general applicability. Options for ongoing work include wider application and bench marking, with the development of compatible approaches and processes to share lessons learnt across the industry. A particular issue is the application of this framework to operations in developing countries, where the operational team culture and attitudes to safety reflect local rather than Western values.
KeywordsOperator Team Safety Culture Soft Factor Operational Staff Technology Provider
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