What Does the IIoT Mean to the World of Process Safety? Does it Open up a World of Opportunity?

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In today’s “Connected” world more and more “Industrial Things” are being connected through the “Internet” – the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

But when it comes to the world of process safety, high hazard industries have traditionally done everything to keep the safety systems (often the last line of defence) as separate, independent, unconnected and certainly as far away from the internet as possible.

So what does the IIoT mean to the world of process safety? Can the IIoT open up a world of opportunity?

Well, for one, I am not advocating for a moment that you connect your safety instrumented systems to the Internet.

But I do see a world where the use of IIoT can be applied to improving process safety productivity, process safety performance and ultimately deriving additional profitability from process safety.

The way to achieve this lies in the digitization and simplification of two key areas – risk management and operations management – and the everyday integration of the two.

The use of IIoT tools and techniques represents tremendous potential to do things smarter and faster. Getting your organisation on the path to profitable safety where everyone can make better, more informed operational decisions is an area of opportunity.

Harness digitization to drive profitable safety throughout your organisation.

  • Digitize the front end safety design data and assumptions (PHA, HAZOP, LOPA, SIL/SIF Calculations, SRS etc.) into a digital database that makes safety critical design information consistent, quick to find and easily usable.

Connect digital “as-designed” data to actual “as-operating” data and know the impact on risk from potential system degradation – in real time

  • Connect to existing systems, minimize the need for manual data collection data handling and complement existing reports with real-time information

Use analytics and expertise to create meaningful and actionable insight from disparate data and systems.

  • Compare actual “as-operating” conditions e.g. demand rates, test intervals, time in bypass against “as-designed” assumptions to identify potential gaps in Instrument Protection Layers (IPLs) and see what the real-world impact is to your operational safety integrity.
  • Address the interdependencies between different systems, safety critical elements and the cumulative effect of multiple deviations or degraded conditions
  • Compare historical conditions, performance, patterns and trends for unconsidered scenarios, or to spot similar developing conditions that could escalate to an unsafe condition if not properly managed

Provide contextual visual clues that make it quick and simple to understand the current situation and identify potential issues before they arise:

  • Know where you stand in terms of operating risk levels (i.e. are you operating In a state of higher risk than intended) and provide advanced warning of potential deviating conditions
  • Provide more meaningful context than historical analysis of safety KPIs – i.e. see what’s coming, rather than analysing incidents after the fact
  • Understand potential consequence, elevated risk levels and cumulative risk before making a change or impairing an IPL

Consider the cloud as a central rallying point and means to reduce the infrastructure and deployment cost of safety tools, applications and data (but only where and when it makes sense).

  • Bring the data and context to the experts anywhere in the world to understand what’s going on with your IPLs and improve consistency in decision making
  • Drive transparency throughout the organisation and remove the traditional barriers and silos within departments, management structures, assets and or fleets of assets.
  • Use the cloud as the one go to place to host the digital safety design, analysis and validation tools make it easily accessible to everyone, anywhere and at anytime

Consider the use of a digital twin (a virtual model of the physical asset) to define, create, test, maintain and support the safety systems in a virtual environment. This pairing of the virtual and physical worlds allows analysis of data and monitoring of systems to head off problems before they even occur, prevent downtime, develop new opportunities and even plan for the future by using simulations.

  • Validate the safety system design before physically manufacturing
  • Use the digital twin in an ‘offline’ mode to run what if scenarios, determine potential elevated risk levels etc.
  • Use the digital twin in an ‘online’ mode to provide a dynamic model of the operating asset to head off problems before they occur or fault find the root cause of issues

IIoT has the potential to be transformative when applied correctly to process safety and there are instances where IIoT tools and techniques can deliver profitable safety.

While many organisations run their operations looking through the rear view mirror (they have lots of data that tells them about the past) IIoT has the potential to dramatically help with understanding past, present and future operational risk levels and performance.

Key to success is to focus on simplicity – ensure that IIoT supports everyday operations to support timely decision making, improve decision making consistency and to drive profitable, safe operations.

You may also be interested to read this related white paper:  “Five Steps for Enhancing Industrial Process Safety through IIoT and Digitization”:  IIoT opens the door to forward-looking perspectives on safety that accurately predict when safety risk factors will exceed accepted thresholds. This paper provides guidance for leveraging IIoT tools and techniques to deliver industrial safety in a profitable manner.

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  • Amazing post on IIoT. I must say I have read quite a few posts on Industrial Revolution 4.0 but this is the best one I have come across so far. I work for an IoT app development company and currently we are exploring into developing apps for IIoT and this post was surely of a big help for me. Thanks a lot.

    • Steve Elliott

      6 years ago

      Hi James, Thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog and glad you found it helpful for your IIoT app development.

  • Very well written article. Practical and informative.

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