The major mid-February winter storm that hit Texas left more than 4.5 million people without power for days on end. Nearly every county in Texas was covered up in ice and snow, and at least 57 people tragically lost their lives as a result of the storm’s devastating effects. An unwinterized power grid worsened an already bad situation.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a lone case. Many facilities, even power companies, in the southern United States aren’t properly winterized. This said, process and production disruption aren’t just owed to inclement weather. It can be caused by Mother Nature, other acts of God, a pandemic, or even a facility fire. However, automating processes and your means of production, and preparing control systems accordingly, can help your facility weather disruption when it strikes.
Digital Transformation Helps You Overcome Disruption
There’s a lot to be said about digital transformation. It’s an effective way to bypass significant disruptive forces, as the uncharted waters of the COVID-19 pandemic showed. According to FSN’s recent study ‘The Future of Automation in the Finance Function,’ digitally transformed companies who embraced automation fared much better in terms of disruption. The study showed that 43% of digitally transformed companies reported zero disruption in their planning, budgeting, and forecasting.
FSN’s study also disclosed that digitally dynamic companies faced less problems when switching to telework. A majority of companies were able to handle queries, modify core processes, and manage at-home collaboration. This was done through utilizing on-site automation and cloud-based solutions. Interesting to note, FSN’s study also revealed that already digitally transformed companies kept ongoing automation projects on pace instead of putting them off. Automation’s benefits outweighed the costs and associated difficulties.
Incorporating automation into processes helps pivot critical functions on a dime. Think of it as a first-line disruption defense. But that’s not the whole enchilada: There are things you can do to ready your control systems for whatever form of disruption is thrown your way.
Keeping Control Systems as Disruption-Proof as Possible
There’s a saying attributed to Ben Franklin that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” While we in automation might call it “preparation” rather than “prevention”, the same sentiment holds true. Preparing control systems is essential; here’s a checklist:
- Updated system backups. Hardware is increasingly likely to fail in the event of a power loss or restart. Ensure all servers, workstations, network devices, controllers, and distributed control systems are properly backed up. Recovery might be needed after a major disruptive event.
- Documented system protocols. Keep restart and related documentation updated, accurate, organized, and available. System documentation and drawings can be the difference in facility uptime and downtime.
- Well-prepared staff. On-site and remote support staff need to be informed ahead of time who does what and where when there’s disruption. Doing this will help get things back online much quicker.
- Signal freeze detection. Put programming in place that catches signal freezes in key control processes. Programs can alert appropriate personnel about signal loss before equipment shutdown or blackout. A freeze can occur from failure in signal lines, control systems, or instruments.
For producers, disruption happens. It can come about from a wide range of factors, from natural disasters to plant failures. But there are ways to prepare for, and mitigate, disruption’s effects. Unsure about how to set up a preparedness plan for your facility and control systems? We’re here for you at Revere. We’ve been putting systems and plans in place for decades. Contact us to see how we can help your facility, keep goals on track, and prepare for possible disruption. Plus, stay in the know with our on-demand online resource!