RFID tags used to improve safety, reliability at plant

An initiative to improve access control and mustering generated improvements using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags improved plant safety and efficiency for Chevron Oronite.
By Gregory Hale, ISSSource November 26, 2017

What started as a wireless safety project that now has Chevron Oronite seeing additional benefits for the organization.

"A reliable plant is a safe plant. Our facility has expanded over the years, becoming larger and more complex," said Tom Madilao, regional manager for special projects at Chevron Oronite in Singapore during a briefing Monday at the Emerson Global Users Exchange 2017 in Minneapolis, Minn. "As part of an overall Chevron effort, we wanted to improve safety, and we started by looking at access control."

As part of an improvement program for the organization that makes additive packages for engines, gears and hydraulic fluids in seven plants around the world, Madilao said they wanted to improve access control and mustering because: 

  • Manual paper-based sign-in/sign-out in control room is disruptive to operators; control room is not a public place
  • Physical fencing would hinder evacuation
  • People may stray outside assigned areas
  • Manual accounting for people during mustering is slow
  • Locating someone requires bigger search party
  • Hard to manage contractors during high risk activities such as start-up and shut-down.

"We worry about employees or contractors being in the wrong place at the wrong time during a shutdown," Madilao said. Plus, he said, "We don’t want everyone having to go to the control room to sign in and out. Even then, we weren’t certain about their location."

Image courtesy: Bob Vavra, CFE MediaThey worked with Emerson to create a real-time radio frequency identification (RFID) locating system. RFID tags can locate and muster workers.

"The results have been marvelous. We have been doing this for just about a year," Madilao said. "We just did a turnaround and with contractors using RFID tags, we knew where everyone was at all times."

Because of the success of the solution, Madilao said they moved forward with other opportunities that play into smart innovation and reliability. One was with steam-trap monitoring and energy analytics. Another innovation was using wireless vibration monitors on large rotating equipment and wireless corrosion monitoring. They also gave workers tablets to allow for a more mobile workforce. All the moves were a success with the safety program allowing for greater access control and mustering and they were also able to enhance emergency response capability.

With vibration and corrosion monitoring, they were able to better predict pump failures. They were also able to boost productivity with workers being more mobile by giving them tablets which increased their effectiveness in the field. With the steam trap monitoring, they were able to avoid steam loss and conduct surveillance to detect abnormal conditions, avoid steam loss, hammering and process upsets.

"Advances in technologies are coming and they are coming in a big way," Madilao said. "It is up to us to decided how it improves business performance. Technologies should improve business performance."

Gregory Hale is the editor and founder of Industrial Safety and Security Source (ISSSource.com), a news and information Website covering safety and security issues in the manufacturing automation sector. This content originally appeared on ISSSource.com. ISSSource is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

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