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Maintenance, securing the cloud and a pep talk

03.01.2011  |  Thinnes, Billy,  Hydrocarbon Processing Staff, Houston, TX

Keywords: [Microsoft] [preventive] [predictive] [maintenence] [cloud computing] [archie manning] [business logic] [aging workforce]

Microsoft’s Global Energy Forum was held in January at the Westin Galleria in Houston. The gathering offered a little bit of everything for interested parties: some upstream, some downstream, lots of intensive technology sessions and a keynote lunch address from former New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning.

I was at the event to explore several action items. I was interested in a session on proactive plant maintenance that focused on the expertise of GenOn and Accenture. I wanted to learn more about Microsoft’s efforts to ensure security with its cloud-computing concepts that are being implemented at sensitive refining and petrochemical facilities across the globe. And, finally, I wanted to know what Archie Manning thought about former Saints and Houston Oilers’ coach Bum Phillips. Thankfully, I was able to satiate all levels of my curiosity.

Proactive maintenance session.

The proactive maintenance data gateway (PMDG) is based upon the Accenture plant performance solution (APPS). PMDG correlates transactional and real-time plant information relative to critical equipment and systems. The overall goal is to provide management, engineers and station personnel access to accurate plant and financial performance information that is needed to support operations and maintenance decisions in the most efficient manner.

This software suite helps a company like GenOn look at its equipment via a life cycle, especially in procurement procedures and keeping track of repairs. It also helps with re-commissioning.

GenOn’s goal was to be less than 10% reactive in its maintenance approach. The average industrial plant performs more than 55% reactive maintenance work.

Fully implemented proactive maintenance allows for: station personnel to be knowledgeable of roles; the personnel are fully trained in utilizing maintenance technologies; staff members incorporate this work into their daily activities; key leaders can articulate maintenance spending and failure-mode levels for station equipment; and activities are integrated with maintenance efficiently and utilize root-cause analysis programs to complete the maintenance within a work-flow process.

Trustworthy computing.

After the proactive maintenance session, I went to a suite at the top of the hotel and met with Craig Hodges from Microsoft. Mr. Hodges and I spoke about security issues and how they can impact plant safety and real-time collaboration. We also touched upon using technology as a solution to the industry’s aging workforce problem.

Mr. Hodges was keen to discuss Microsoft’s initiative known as trustworthy computing. The company seeks to make all the platforms it provides inherently safer. Microsoft works to develop more secure code and it holds its engineering teams accountable for the security of the code they deliver. The other main key to the trustworthy computing concept is the goal to reduce an organization’s exposure to attacks, through threat protection, detection and removal. Microsoft says it collects data using various feedback mechanisms combined with a global multi-vendor research effort to enable fast discovery of protection against new threats.

Once oil and gas plants have a bona fide security system in place to prevent mischief and worse, it opens the door for real-time collaboration to be used as a work-around to the aging workforce dilemma facing the industry.

“The number one thing companies need to do is capture and classify know-how. Many customers are using SharePoint [Microsoft’s business intelligence and content management collaboration software] as a way to capture knowledge and then classify and retain knowledge,” Mr. Hodges said. “To mitigate the culture change, business logic can go up in the cloud through a hosted service and retirees can have access to the data and contribute feedback to their replacements.”

Mr. Hodges also wanted to note the inroads Microsoft has made into downstream support. Companies like AspenTech, OSIsoft, Honeywell and Invensys all have offerings available that are built on Microsoft technology.

“We have a strong ecosystem of partners that is helping manage the refining and petrochemical process,” he said.

Looking to the future, Mr. Hodges said that business intelligence and better collaboration will continue to be a big push. All facets of intelligence and collaboration are constantly being examined and reexamined. The essence of all this is Microsoft’s quest to help its customers find, use and share data in the most efficient manner, he said.

Archie Manning.

Archie Manning’s lunchtime address was well-received. He touched on his time with the Saints, living in New Orleans, having two NFL quarterback sons and some motivational themes. For those of you reading not familiar with American football, consider Mr. Manning like the star striker on a bad EPL soccer team that is constantly getting relegated. Mr. Manning’s best anecdote concerned his former coach Bum Phillips, who was one of his favorites. HP


  Craig Hodges is a Microsoft
  executive who believes in
  trustworthy computing.  

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