How comfortable are you with your decision support metrics?
Let me ask a question to all pipeline operators and gas utilities. How would you grade your quantitative assessments, KPIs or metrics that you base strategic and operational decisions upon? An “A”, you can’t imagine them being much better; perhaps a “C”, fit for purpose? Not as good as you would like or don’t know how to interpret them, then a “D”? Let’s take a look behind the numbers and their impact upon software pipeline solutions.
The metrics may be the most on-point all-star measure of performance possible. However, your business will almost certainly be adversely impacted if you are lacking insight to the accuracy and level of uncertainty associated with your metrics. How meaningful is a change in the risk level or KPI metrics? Just how confident are you about the safety margin on a pipeline’s safe operating pressure? Is your information and business intelligence actionable? Does it tell you the “why” behind the information presented to you? Does it tell you what actions will likely be most effective?
No decision is an island
Figure 1: Many sources and forms of uncertainty
We should not be making operational and strategic decisions in isolation. Fundamentally, such decisions require input from assessments, results and reports from various groups or regions within the pipeline operator’s business. However, each of these inputs also come along with their uncertainties and inaccuracies. Consequently, when combined into performance measures that drive business decisions these uncertainties will be compounded . Seldom do we see these variations reflected in the KPIs or business metrics that we use day to day. The result is that decisions are being made based upon only a portion of the available information content.
The reality of not quantifying uncertainty is that many of the performance measures in use are not worth the effort expended to derive them. The impact of this can range from a relatively benign waste of time through to making decisions that are catastrophic for safety, environmental impact or business performance. Error and uncertainty comes in many forms, Figure 1.
Figure 2: Words of uncertainty
Try this as an exercise
Are you looking for a KPI to encapsulate how safe and effective your pipeline operations are? Can I suggest that you call in your data scientist colleagues to count the number of occurrences of the types of tell-tale phrases, like those in Figure 2, that have been circulating within your internal communications. Start by looking at email, Skype, Slack, Teams or whatever your preferred communication channels means are. The higher the occurrence of these the less accurate, more variable and subsequently less useful your safety assessments, performance metrics and KPIs may be. A high occurrence of such phrases indicates problems. Firstly, I conjecture that there is lack of clarity in your operational processes. Secondly, information management is not effective, which lowers the confidence you can have in the basic information used in decision making.
Improving safety and performance
The fix for this starts by breaking down the many operational and data silos that typically exist. This lays the foundations for open communication and ensuring that the best available information is used in all assessments and decision making. For many pipeline operators, this involves a shift in cultural, organizational structure and skill sets. One common need is to have an enterprise level platform which manages information and provides business centric workflows and analytical tools. The result is an effective solution to manage the safety, operations and the integrity of you pipeline or gas network.
In response to this need, DNV has started a journey towards bringing together our many industry leading pipeline software products. We are bringing our risk, integrity, engineering assessment, operational planning, design and control room software solutions into a single framework. The result is the delivery of predictive decision support platform which we refer to as our Pipeline product line. Brad Eichelberger, head of our pipeline ecosystem business, explains more in a whiteboard session.
The key elements driving improvements:
The pipeline ecosystem foundation that is at the heart of our solutions delivers:
- Consolidation of data and information: An engineering and operational digital twin of the pipeline system as a framework to capture all relevant knowledge about the asset. See our articles on the role of digital twins across the O&G, Energy and Maritime industries.
- Breaks down operational silos: The seamless spanning of business operations through a comprehensive set of focused business task centric applications. We deliver upon this need by combining our extensive pipeline expertise into configured solutions. Importantly, the digital twin tracks and shares results. See our webinars and posts on pipeline integrity, leak detection and operational trainer systems.
- Transparent organization wide awareness: Planning and activity status visibility and tracking for reporting and support of audit compliance demonstration.
- Actionable information: Information will become insightful and explicitly convey accuracy and variation. Our new generation of pipeline analytics embrace the best of engineering insight and data analysis. One example is the availability of DNV O&G’s probabilistic risk model, please see our webinar on this for examples of the power and confidence that this can bring to decision making.
Pipeline solutions and digital excellence
We are looking forward to a major milestone this fall when we launch the initial Pipeline product line platform, Synergi Pipeline, with our integrity and risk applications.
With this, digital excellence helps underpin operational excellence to deliver upon our mission to further the safety, operational performance and environmental sustainability of the global pipeline infrastructure.
Author: Tom Gilmour