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Yokogawa addresses loss of skills

“Australia’s workforce is ageing and many companies face the prospect of losing irreplaceable expertise when key operational staff retire,” according to Max Barry, Divisional Director — Simulation at Yokogawa Australia.

Loss of knowledge and skills can also be caused by the high staff turnover in certain industries or areas of the country, due to the current technical labour shortages, leading to an increase in competition for available human resources.

In the past, many companies had a stable group of Baby Boomers moving through the workforce to retain and

deliver the knowledge required to run the business. The workforce of modern organisations is very different, with Gen X and now Gen Y rapidly replacing the Baby Boomers. Companies have to implement innovative strategies to ensure that hard-earned knowledge is identified and retained, given these three diverse and

differently-motivated groups.

While there are a number of possible approaches to addressing the problem, Max concentrated on the use of

Yokogawa’s Exapilot to capture the expertise of existing operators, standardise operational procedures across all work groups and shifts, assist operators in times of emergencies to secure the plant, and allow new and less-skilled operators to use the knowledge captured from experienced people.

Exapilot is an operational efficiency improvement package aimed at automating user tasks that are manually performed by operators. It is a self-building operational procedure system that can be advisory only or can be completely interactive with a control system.

Most importantly, Exapilot can be configured by operators or production supervisors without the need for any

specialised engineering resources being present. The procedures built by the operators are saved and re-used when necessary. They can be easily modified to cater for plant modifications or changes in the current operating procedures, which allows Exapilot to keep pace and grow with the plant and process to which it is aligned.

The procedure created by the operator is itself an operation efficiency improvement support system and the system can be soon moved on to debugging and operation. Standard operation procedures can be provided simply by printing out the created procedures. This all means that the user can build a system designed to improve operational efficiency in a shorter time and with less expense than is possible with more-conventional

system development approaches.

The Unit Procedures become the Standard Operating Instructions. When validated, all operators can be certain

they are following the correct procedures and management can ensure that the procedures are consistently reviewed and adapted to reduce risk to the plant and to operational efficiency.

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