When refineries and large facilities are shut down for maintenance, several thousand external service technicians are often on site to do their work. Every instance of process optimization helps reduce the duration and costs of downtime. With mobile apps, cloud solutions and well-thought-out system integration, a refinery in Karlsruhe has succeeded in digitally transforming its processes of communication and coordination with its service partners in some areas, which saves time and money.
At process industry locations production plants are closely linked to each other. Therefore, an inspection of the entire plant, during which production is completely shut down, is required by law at regular intervals for safety checks. Plant operators use these shutdowns or downtimes for maintenance and implementation of investment measures.
At MiRO Mineraloelraffinerie Oberrhein GmbH & Co. KG in Karlsruhe, the largest refinery in Germany, about 3,300 external service technicians work on site during shutdowns in addition to the 1,000 or so employees. As every day of downtime produces high costs, the company is always looking for ways to reduce the amount of time needed. For a scheduled shutdown in the spring of 2018, MiRO used a web-based shutdown portal that uses mobile apps for the first time. The developer of the technology is the COSMO CONSULT Group, one of the world's leading Microsoft Dynamics partners and end-to-end solution providers. The portal made it possible to successfully optimize interactions with the external partners in important areas of the project.
Decisive for the success of the project was digitally exchanging important project data between the shutdown planning staff and the external service managers. For example, technicians receive project information and assembly orders on their smartphones or tablets and report completed jobs to shutdown planning staff. The transfer of data is coordinated by two data hubs; These receive information from software or mobile apps and transfer it to other networked applications. One of these data hubs is installed directly in the MiRO data center and controls the exchange of data with the systems of the project planning staff. The second data hub networks with the mobile devices of the service technicians. The two data hubs are also linked to each other. This ensures that the mobile devices are not directly connected to the data center, which is necessary for security reasons.
The data hub runs on the Microsoft Azure Cloud and is supported by cc|vendor & contractor portal. The shutdown portal provides service technicians with mobile apps for smartphones and tablets. These include cc|mobilefeedback, which allows for notification of completed project tasks and the cc|mobile info tool, which provides technicians with up-to-date information on projects and installation tasks. Feedback is transferred directly into the planning software via the two networked data hubs. That way the current project status is updated automatically . With cc|z-tool, another mobile app, service technicians record unplanned additional measures that come up during maintenance or installation work. With a photo and a brief description, an approval process is initiated, allowing the shutdown management staff to approve and schedule unexpected tasks with just a few clicks.
During the 2018 shutdown, 130 users in 11 different subprojects used the mobile COSMO CONSULT apps. Around 24,000 user activities were recorded and tracked. With the mobile data exchange, the MiRO Mineraloelraffinerie was able to make important information available faster. This meant that subsequent crews of tradesmen were able to start their work earlier and it was possible to avoid unproductive waiting times and manual double entries. "On construction sites, up to 40 percent of working hours are often unproductive because service providers have to go through necessary but bureaucratic procedures. Employees currently also spend a lot of time searching for work sections, parts, or machinery or waiting for approvals. You can avoid this with digital technologies such as the data hub and our mobile apps," says Udo Ramin, managing director of COSMO CONSULT TIC GmbH, the brain trust for “Industry 4.0” concepts and IoT technologies of the COSMO CONSULT Group. Whereas it used to be mandatory to have extensive project plans hung up like wallpaper, this time the shutdown management of the refinery worked completely with digital technologies in the areas in which mobile apps were used. In an internal acceptance poll, cc|mobile feedback was given 4 out of 5 stars.