Is your facility weighing its “remote work” options? Our Team knows that making these kinds of changes in the Chemicals industry can raise safety concerns. Even still, there are many benefits to consider – including safety benefits. For example, “remote” work for chemical operations could simply equate to a safer onsite location.
When considering the idea of going remote, also consider that the requirements and benefits for remote operations may be different than remote engineering. While remote engineering may be simpler, remote operations is also possible – and in some cases, may provide better operational benefits.
The primary safety benefit is moving staff out of blast zones – whether to their homes, or to more remote onsite locations. The secondary benefit is removing equipment out of the blast zones, which protects plant assets. Some facilities also opt to move their servers to remote locations, thereby mitigating the risk of losing data and/or connectivity. In addition, changing this location could change coding and requirements, potentially lowering the cost of the build.
When operations are centralized, there is more flexibility in staffing. For example, one teammate could monitor and control output from multiple locations if the data is not tied to the location. This allows the facility to operate with fewer trained staff, which helps alleviate a number of costs and hiring concerns.
Similarly, a remote option can help with availability of specialized expertise. When troubleshooting, a solution is easier to access when the pool of experts is not bound by geography. This also improves problem solving speed and reduces cost, as travel is not required. By simply providing VPN access and other credentials, your plant could interface with an expert and find a solution within minutes or hours. This logic also applies to engineers and employees, allowing your team to be on-call for operations assistance without having to be physically present.
While cybersecurity is a legitimate concern, best practices implemented by trained experts can secure your facility to an acceptable level of risk. Many facilities already have a strong Cybersecurity backbone. Building from this, relevant procedures can be implemented to secure remote access.
Reliability of Infrastructure
A risk which can be dependent on the facility is the reliability of infrastructure. If your plant is not outfitted with reliable communications such as fiber or internet connections, or cell service, the use of unreliable networks creates risk. While these issues can be fixed and upgraded, it is important to think through necessary steps, requirements, and improvements before moving down a path for which the facility is unprepared.
In conclusion, any major change deserves adequate consideration, and should be weighed against the current state of your facility. In many cases, our Team finds that the rewards for Chemicals companies outweigh the risks of moving to a remote option, especially in a post-COVID world.Back to News