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Software enables operational excellence

Operational excellence can mean many things to different employees, departments and industries. Though software can certainly aid in the documentation and enforcement of a process, it cannot replace the human element in non-automated processes. Workers are frequently challenged by doing more with less and need technology for assistance, rather than an impediment.

An operational excellence enabling tool is one that encourages the workers, at all levels of an organization, to document their changes, actions, findings and verifications into a software tool. A good software tool will enable the defining of a company’s workflow, nomenclature and role-based security. It should be user-friendly and give clear visibility and reminders to the users of their assigned tasks, due dates and important information about changes occurring in the facility. The workers should view the tool as an enabler and reminder to be diligent and focus on excellence. If workers see the tool as simply a management reporting tool, then the tool is either not the right tool or not implemented in such a way as to gain improvement in operational excellence.

Operational excellence does not just apply to process safety-related tasks but also to the whole business and the surrounding ecosystem. Any process within the business can enable or inhibit a company’s ability to achieve operational excellence, whether through supply chain management, change management, policy changes or incident management. The organization as a whole needs to have a vested interest in improving the quality of the products and processes so that operational excellence becomes standard for all.

Insight into the risks and activities being conducted at a facility will help measure, monitor and document the journey to operational excellence. This insight could come in the form of raw data, spreadsheets, charts, graphs or reports. Organizations that are focused on operational excellence will also define key performance indicators that are published for the staff and discussed regularly. Conversely, if producing charts and reports becomes more important than having a tool that is regularly used and therefore collects larger amounts of data, then the measurements are not accurate and therefore not improving the company on its journey. Charts and reports are only as good as the data from which they pull.

Choosing the right tool is an important step in improving on the operational excellence journey. The key to success in finding the best tool is to be internally honest about where the organization is on that journey. Inquire and document which processes are already measured and visible, versus those that lag behind in that maturity. The tool you choose needs to improve the lagging processes while still furthering the improvement of the leading processes. It is also important to have a selection team that includes diverse functions such as HS&E, quality, IT, sustainability, operations, management, supervision, etc., so that all stakeholders in the journey can assure it fits their needs.

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