How intelligent wearables are digitally transforming a petrochemical plant in Veracruz, Mexico

The plant adopted Honeywell's Expert on Call, Video Assist, and Paperless Rounds services to improve the safety and expediency of field workers.

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Braskem Idesa, a petrochemical plant in Veracruz, Mexico, has integrated intelligent wearables into its operations, Honeywell recently announced. The wearable comes in the form of a headset that straps onto a helmet, allowing for hands-free recording, video viewing, and voice communication. The connected solutions are intended to help improve productivity and safety for workers in the field. 

SEE: Special report: The rise of Industrial IoT (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Honeywell's intelligent wearable program includes hardware, software, and service components called Expert on Call, Video Assist, and Paperless Rounds, said Veronica Turner, connected people business development leader at Honeywell Process Solutions.

Before integrating these applications, many companies in the industry manually gathered data on a paper-based system, which led to more errors and missed checks. End-to-end visibility was much more limited during the inspection processes, as the locations and status of field technicians weren't able to be communicated, Turner said. This lack of communication and workflow optimization led to increased downtime and wasted time between tasks. 

The program 

Expert on Call 

"[Expert on Call] is a real time voice over IP conference call that allows the operator to match with an expert. It's actually the customer who decides who the expert is. Could be somebody in the same plant whether he's sitting in the control room, or could be somebody in their case in retail or in the corporate headquarters in the United States," Turner said. "That real time communication serves as a good platform to do coaching on the spot, and to alert and visualize multiple issues or procedures at the plant.

Video Assist 

Video Assist is true to its name, allowing the user to record procedures done in the plant. The value really comes from having experts record their procedures, saving the videos, and building a library of these complicated procedures that employees can reference and learn from for years, Turner said. 

"An additional benefit that this software has is it allows you to break down the video in rational steps," Turner added. "Instead of having to watch an entire length video, you have 10 micro steps that they're very easy to navigate. The idea here is that the person in the field has step by step help when doing a procedure."

Paperless Rounds

The last application gives step by step instructions for various tasks. "They're workflow procedures," Turner said. "Instead of having a paper operator around, [the user] will receive these in a digital form." 

"The operator's able to perform their jobs by just calling out that the work order," Turner added. After the operator calls out the work order, the user is given instructions for exactly what they need to do next.

The benefits 

The applications were integrated across three pillars: Safety, productiveness, and quality, said Roberto Velasco Gutiérrez, industrial director at Braskem Idesa.

"In the safety aspects, it's like all the field operators have an expert walking along with them," Velasco said. "Whenever they enter a sensitive area, whenever they don't really feel comfortable, but know they have a job they need to perform, they just click on, or talk to, the device; that provides confidence, improves our KPIs, and also provides invaluable guidance for new operators."

The services also boost productiveness, as well as competitiveness, through better expediency and communication. "We use that developed device to follow up on critical jumps on equipment for things that are complex," Velasco said. "[The workers] not only have the expert support, but their peers' support, with constant communication with the control room to provide for more operators, which allow them to respond on a real time basis to whichever situation they have."

"Quality is more on the record keeping area," Velasco noted. The Video Assist helps improve the quality of procedures, as the actions performed by experts can be recorded and used for analysis or training. 

All of the applications help "shorten up the learning curve of new operators that come to the plant," Turner added. 

"Once we have these tools available, it's not a matter of whether you're going to embrace them or not, but when you do it," Velasco said. "The longer it took some of the organizations to implement it, the longer they obtained the value coming from it." 

"So my advice is to pick one, implement the platform, and then build upon that—but do it as fast as is convenient for your industry," he said. "Because we know how fast this type of applications are evolving, we need to adjust the pace we're on to this new speed."

For more, check out 3 things you should know about Industrial IoT on TechRepublic. 

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Image: Honeywell