At some point in your career as a control room manager or supervisor, you may have walked into a control room and found it difficult to create, maintain, and locate compliance records. And, of course, the audit did not go very smoothly.
Either there was too much reliance on pen and paper recordkeeping, the manager before you did not keep accurate or detailed records, the systems in place were difficult to use, or controllers were not properly instructed on how to follow policies and procedures in the control room. Perhaps it was a combination of two, three, or even all four of these prominent control room issues.
When compliance recordkeeping is difficult, it becomes a drain on resources, but when compliance records are accurate, easily managed, and easily analyzed, they become a valuable asset.
When you’re in a position to act as an agent of change for the pipeline control room, the goal is operations excellence. The method is creating an environment where compliance happens naturally as controllers go about doing their routine work. Additionally, the system used should automatically create the records so that you can pass the audit without a ding.
The Goal: Pipeline Operations Excellence in the Control Room
When you first inherited the compliance records challenge, the goal of achieving operational excellence was a distant thought. Rather, the process was to “do the work,” and “prepare for the control room audit” when it comes.
When the audit note came, you needed to figure out how records were being created, who was responsible for which tasks, and where the records were stored in order to prepare for the PHMSA inspector’s audit questions.
Now it is time to pass that stage on the journey to operational excellence and formulate a plan for how to drive toward natural compliance producing the desired results.
The Method: Culture, Compliance, and System
Before anything else, you need to re-establish — or establish for the first time — the proper culture in the control room. This culture should be the driving force of achieving natural compliance in the control room.
1. What are the Critical Elements of Creating the Culture?
- Approach: Culture is not forced. You cannot force controllers to start adhering to the policies and procedures. You need to gather feedback, ask questions, understand how each controller works, and build feedback loops to gather information.
- Review: Once you have a good idea of the challenges in the control room, you can start to dialog with controllers about how to address these issues.
- Follow-up: Reinforce the importance of the review by regularly following up. Make it habitual. Drive toward improving attitudes and behaviors toward responsibilities in the control room.
- Achievement: Once you can tangibly measure a positive change in the control room, then continue to the next stage of a plan to achieve natural compliance.
Ensuring that controllers and other personnel in the control room follow policies and procedures requires a structured approach. It requires diligence on your end and discipline on their end.
2. How Can You Ensure that Policies & Procedures Are Followed?
- Approach: Explain the “why.” Convey that policies and procedures are not a necessary evil of performing tasks in the control room. It’s about safety, compliance, and ultimately operational excellence.
- Review: Discuss the issues surrounding adherence to policies and procedures. Is the documentation too difficult or cumbersome to process? Is the information inaccessible during each operating condition?
- Follow-up: Use the information gathered from your discussions to consider whether policies and procedures need to be updated or presented in a more accessible format, such as advancing from paper to electronic versions.
- Achievement: Once you achieve understanding of the importance of policies and procedures and can measure universal buy-in from the control room, then advance to the next phase of natural compliance.
After creating the culture and establishing the importance of policies and procedures, you need to think about the challenges surrounding recordkeeping in the control room.
3. How Do You Find the Required System for Compliance Recordkeeping in the Control Room?
- Approach: Find the gaps. What is causing challenges for the controllers to accomplish the recordkeeping tasks? How can the daily work flow be built around tools that generate required records as tasks are performed?
- Review: Once you identify the gaps in recordkeeping, ask questions. Find out what is causing issues with recordkeeping. What are the system requirements?
- Follow-up: Continue to review the gaps, the causes of the gaps, and the feedback from controllers and other personnel. Then, follow up with your team to find solutions to close the gap. Keep the dialog going!
- Achievement: Once you implement a set of software tools that streamline the controllers’ work, integrates with other systems used in the control room (e.g. SCADA, email, etc.), and produces accurate and reliable records, you are now perpetually ready for the audit.
What can be tricky at this stage is taking the right approach to recordkeeping as it relates to the audit.
Focus on creating the ideal process for your operation, implementing software tools that support the process, and generating the documentation, then allow that to naturally lead into compliance. Don’t try to work backwards of what the auditor wants and then try to create systems that produce those records. That is the antithesis of natural compliance.
Focus on your culture, achieve buy-in for policies and procedures, and advance your capabilities for recordkeeping. This will drive you toward the ultimate goal of operational excellence, which will produce the results you are looking for to pass the audit.
Consider Upgrading Your Software for Recordkeeping
Control room managers that have experience with poor records in the control room know the importance of accurate and reliable recordkeeping.
Within our POEMS Control Room Management (CRM) software suite is the CRMgr module. This control room management tool helps managers generate appropriate documentation, achieve proper recordkeeping, and simplify the audit process.
Additionally, the CRMgr module is integrated with the other modules in our CRM Suite to gather critical data, documentation, and records from other areas of the control room. This allows control room managers to easily generate the necessary records for an audit at the push of a button.
First, though, we recommend starting with a review of your culture and internal alignment with policies and procedures. Universal buy-in and complete understanding is critical in the control room before software can deliver true value.
Once you establish the ideal culture, achieve buy-in, and ensure proper recordkeeping that reflects natural compliance, you can achieve operational excellence.
Our software tool is an instrument to help complete the journey. Advancing to the position of using the tool is most important. That’s why we’re available to support you throughout the journey.
We offer industry-leading compliance and consulting support for control room managers. Then, we are capable of implementing our software solution to support recordkeeping for the audit and to help control room managers continue to achieve excellence.
Contact us today to inquire about utilizing our compliance and consulting capabilities and our software to support the journey. To schedule a consultation, contact us directly on our website, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 281-598-7100.