Four ways digitizing processes can improve your plant’s efficiency

Oct 27th 2020

Picture the following scenario. Your car speedometer only shows your speed every ten minutes, your fuel meter only updates twice a week, and you can only see out of your windshield 50% of the time.

Yes, you would still be able to drive your car, but you would also unknowingly go over the speed limit, run out of gas often, and probably end up in an accident. We take for granted having access to this critical information always available to safely operate our vehicles. 

Now how about your plant? Do you have access to the critical information always available to safely operate it?

You don’t drive without having an array of real-time data available to you. why isn’t it the same for your plant?

In the 21st century, it’s not just our cars that provide real-time data access. Today, you can see exactly what stage your fast-food pizza is via a pizza tracker app. You can know where your latest online order is with a carrier’s package tracker, and you can see exactly where your rideshare driver is on their way to pick you up.

Why can you have so much visibility into all the aspects of your daily life, yet not know the status of a workorder for a critical pump until it is done. When did the status of a cheese pizza become more important than the status of your critical pumps?

In the manufacturing and heavy industry sector the Industrial 3.0 Era—with SAP, Enterprise asset management systems, the DCS—has brought greater visibility and operational efficiencies to plants. But we haven’t yet reached utopia. 

Industrial 4.0’s promise is that we will have even greater visibility. Not just into the mechanical assets, but the even more important assets – humans. The only way to do that is to capture data at the workface (the point of work) in the field. While systems today can capture the technical aspects of a work order, there is still a large gap between the time a work order is opened and when it is closed. What happened during the hours-long timespan? 

Did the team complete a thorough JSA? Were the permits issued timely and completely? Were the correct procedures followed for startup and shutdown of the equipment? Was the lockout tag out program correctly implemented? Were there inefficiencies? 

Enterprise systems provide a great summary, but they don’t provide the detail. Average work order duration doesn’t tell you the work was performed unsafe. It doesn’t tell you inefficiencies. Even if you saw the work was inefficient because the ‘actual’ was more than the ‘planned’; it is too late. The work history and the issues cannot be addressed until next time. 

This is what we refer to as ‘the gap’ – the gap between the business process and the actual work. The gap between the report of the field activity and the actual field activity. Industry 4.0 promises to close this gap. 

The only way to close the gap is with information systems that are collecting the data at the workface. With the gap closed you can see the status of the work WHILE it is happening, not AFTER it is happening. You don’t need to know the car pulled out in front of you after the accident, you need to know WHILE you are driving to AVOID the accident. 

The Tools of Industry 4.0

Digitizing your plant’s legacy processes can increase productivity, employee engagement and safety awareness.

1. Digital Job Safety Analysis (JSA)

Imagine if you could quantify the risk of all work being performed in the plant that morning, before the works starts. Digital Job Safety Analysis (JSA) makes this a reality, giving you visibility of the risk before the work happens. The safety team can intervene and check on the higher risk work before, or while, it is taking place. Without real-time JSA’s, the safety team could be auditing a job that has a low risk while a high-risk job is happening right around the corner!

2. Digital procedures

Digital procedures available in the field with real-time execution capability can ensure teams are following the procedures your facility has meticulously put together. Paper procedures are rarely brought into the field and have no accountability that all the steps were taken. With digital procedures, you can enforce the team member to take a picture of the step they just completed bringing an efficient level of accountability that could only be matched by doubling up staff. 

3. Digital work permits

Digital work permits ensure that control of work procedures is followed, and nothing falls through the cracks. Common paper-based work permit systems problems are poor handwriting, gap between procedures and practice, poor control over authorizations, no visibility of work-in-progress on-site, and conflict of work activities and permit delays. Electronic work permit system addresses these concerns by providing visibility into all work permit related activities in a central place. A digital work permit system improves workplace safety and ensures permit compliance is maintained across all aspects of your organization.

4. Digital Forms

Digital forms can ensure actions are taken when exceptions are found. If an operator sees a leaking pump, he can take a picture to send to maintenance. Procedures can be pulled up when safe operating conditions are exceeded. History of process performance can be seen on the spot so actions can be taken. 

Everything mentioned above, and more, is possible today—it’s not a far-fetched dream. MobilOps® provides a full suite of digital solutions and services and has been helping clients operate safer at lower costs for the last decade. If you are interested in talking, contact

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