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Control Room Management: Audit Preparation Starts with These Small Steps

The key to audit preparation for pipeline operators is taking action when you’re not facing an audit. If you wait until notification of an impending audit, then it’s too late to plan for the audit, rather you only have time to respond.

The battle is really human nature. It’s within our nature to do everything possible in the moment to “pass the test,” then move on to something else more pressing, only to repeat the process all over again when the next test comes.

Instead of trying to gear up the entire operation in one small period of time to pass the audit, a more reliable and proven method is taking the time to prepare for the next audit during slow periods or in-between audits.

Preparation does not have to be achieved all in one motion, though. There are basic, important steps to follow that will ultimately help your operation achieve complete preparation over time. Consider the most important steps you can take now to build to full preparation.

Step 1: Embrace a Mindset of Change Management

To change the culture and behaviors in pipeline operations, there must be a mentality shift. The driver of this is incremental change management.

Change management in a control room doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a gradual process of slowly reinforcing new ways of thinking through incremental changes to procedure and tools in order to change behaviors and attitudes.

It could be safety issues, lapses in documentation, not following shift handover procedures, or other basic functions in the pipeline control room. Gaps in these areas could negatively impact your audit result.

  • Action: identify the gaps, gather feedback about why the gaps exist, and strategize a plan to enact change.

The plan should not feel like a one-time event. A one-time event could lead to a “flavor of the month” reaction from control room personnel where they take it seriously for a period of time, then lapse back into their old attitudes, behaviors, and habits.

Rather, it’s better to identify several actions within the plan to give yourself time to track progress, measure results, and build an effective feedback loop. Slow, steady growth resulting in actual change will yield better long-term results than trying to force immediate wholesale changes.

Step 2: Focus on the “Lessons Learned” Reviews

As Ross Adams pointed out in our recent One Big Thing blog, a big takeaway from this year’s conference tradeshow season is the importance of utilizing “lessons learned” reviews.

This is an opportunity for supervisors to make controllers part of the audit support process because they’re on the frontlines performing important tasks; they can provide firsthand knowledge of operational effectiveness and safety.

Ask questions with the intent of gathering valuable information: What are you seeing? … What’s impairing your ability to achieve and retain situational awareness? … What complicates or slows response to abnormal operating conditions? … Where are the weaknesses in documentation, recordkeeping, and procedures?

Then, gather the information and match it up against your internal control room policies and procedures to determine what steps need to be taken to close gaps.

  • Action: Schedule a regular meeting (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly depending on need) to review the lessons learned, share what steps you’re taking to address concerns, and continue the dialogue.

It is important to keep control room personnel engaged in the process. It’s also important to build accountability — both for yourself in a supervisor role and for personnel that report to you. Holding each other accountability will keep advancing the plan to support safe, compliant operations.

Step 3: Evaluate Tools for Control Room Management

The tools that are used to support critical functions in the control room should also be reviewed during the audit preparation stage.

Most operators have advanced from pen and paper recordkeeping to software tools. However, many of these tools are outdated, have limited capabilities, or do not speak the same language as other software tools in pipeline operations.

The idea of staying with the same tools because “this is what works for us” or “this is what we’re comfortable with” ties back to the first step of embracing change management.

Optimizing the tools used in the control room — whether creating alarm logs, monitoring workload, hours of service scheduling, or generating reports — is critical to ensure safe, effective operations and to prepare your operation for the audit.

Small gaps in the control room tools could lead to safety risks and ultimately dings on the audit.

  • Action: Review the functionality of the tools used in the control room. Rate the effectiveness of each tool from 1-5 or a similar scale. Find the gaps, identify areas of need, and talk to controllers or other control room personnel about their issues with the software tools.

Remember, perform this evaluation when you are not facing an audit. You need to gather information and make some evaluations when you are not simultaneously faced with the pressure of an audit. Be clear-minded about the performance of your control room tools.

Talk to EnerSys About Audit Preparation Steps

Our team works with small to medium-sized pipeline operators to help enact change and support compliance.

Although we are known as a software company that provides tools for the control room, we know that software tools are only effective when supported by a process to manage the change.

We are committed to incremental success with each step of implementing our POEMS Control Room Management (CRM Suite) software solution. We accomplish this objective through our systematic approach.

We capture your unique pipeline operation, understand your unique challenges operating safely and effectively, and assist with continually improving operations.

Our standard process includes these critical elements: Assess, Implement, Operate, and Refine. Throughout the process, we Manage the Change.

We are proud of our track record helping operators pass their audits with our combination of software, consulting, and compliance capabilities. We would appreciate the opportunity to share our success with your operation.

Contact us today to inquire about discussing the unique needs and challenges of your operation. We can walk step-by-step with you through the process of audit preparation so that you are ready for your next audit.

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