integrity of chocolate cake

November 25, 2009 Leave a comment

In trying to get at the definition of integrity management, I started thinking outside the world of pipelines.  Ultimately, integrity management is the act of keeping a thing together.  How “together” we keep that thing is a matter of taste.

Measures of “togetherness” or “integrity” range from “good-enough” to “can-not-fail”.  A pickup truck which is used to shuttle employees around a junkyard merely needs gas and enough essential fluids that the engine doesn’t seize up.  A breathing system on the shuttle better have frequent inspections and safety checks so that it never goes down.  In the pipeline world, independent of what PHMSA says, we try to avoid negative press coverage.

In all of these cases integrity management means keeping your thing from degrading to the point where it no longer meets your measure of integrity.  The truck can fall apart around us.  We’re good as long as the engine keeps running.  We might be able to tolerate a little dirt on the outside of our breathing system.  Any degradation beyond that might be cause for taking some mitigating action.  In the pipeline world…  Well, you know…

An interesting question comes to mind, how would the PHMSA rules for integrity apply to any random integrity management problem? Would PHMSA’s general approach work for something that is near and dear to my heart?  Can I come up with an integrity plan to protect my chocolate cake?  If PHMSA did a good job with the integrity rule, it should be applicable to things other than pipelines.  Right?

For my current best audience, US Operators of gas transmission pipelines, PHMSA’s description of the rule would be the best place to start:  (Other IM rules are similar.  See for yourself: liquid IM, proposed distribution rule)

Briefly put, the Gas IM Rule specifies how pipeline operators must identify, prioritize, assess, evaluate, repair and validate – through comprehensive analyses – the integrity of gas transmission pipelines that, in the event of a leak or failure, could affect High Consequence Areas (HCAs) within the United States.

Considering how much time the folks at PHMSA probably spent honing this definition, we can examine it a bit closer.  Specifically, take a look at the actions I underlined, “identify, prioritize, assess, evaluate, repair, and validate”.

  1. Identify – identify threats to integrity
  2. Prioritize – rank by risk
  3. Assess – examine each asset for threat occurrences
  4. Evaluate – for each occurrence, determine severity
  5. Repair – repair or monitor each occurrence, based on severity
  6. Validate – vet the program, demonstrate improvement

Depending on where you go on PHMSA’s site, these steps may be worded differently but conceptually they remain consistent from gas to liquid to facilities to the new distribution rules.

Rewording in terms a cake-eater like me can understand we have:

  1. Figure out what could go wrong
  2. What’s the worst combination of events?
  3. Look for places where it is happening
  4. Where is it happening worst?
  5. Fix the really bad spots, watch the rest
  6. Learn from your mistakes

So, I maintain that if this list is a good generic process I should be able to protect my chocolate cake.  What follows is an outline of the integrity program for my cake.

Program Elements:

Affected Assets:

Asset ID: Chocolate cake, 42
Asset Type: Point
Positioning: Kitchen counter
Coating: Frosted chocolate w/ sprinkles
Seam type: Pudding
Last Inspection/type: 15 minutes ago/ visual inspection

1) Threat Identification

  • Third party:
    • Spousal encroachment
    • Theft by progeny
  • Environmental:
    • Water fight at nearby sink
    • Seismic door slam
  • Operational:
    • Transporting cake
    • Lighting candles

2) Risk Ranking (likelihood, consequence)

  1. Ops: Transporting cake (high, extreme)
  2. TP: Theft by progeny (high, high)
  3. Ops: Lighting candles (high, med)
  4. TP: Spousal encroachment (med, med)
  5. Ops: Lighting candles (high, low)
  6. Env: Water fight at nearby sink (low, med)

3) Assess for threats, by descending risk

Worst threat is transporting the cake.  For transporting the cake only we’ll perform a visual inspection of the transport path and identify real threats in the area. (We would have a similar set of assessments for each identified risk.  You can see how the complexity of the program balloons in scale as we get closer to the details…)

One question we might ask is does a visual inspection address any other threats?  If we look for spouse or progeny in the area, and confirm that there are none nearby, we can address all third party threats with the same inspection. (But for how long are we safe?)

Visual inspection: Chocolate cake, 42
Threats addressed: Ops: transport, TP: Progeny, TP: Spouse
Inspection results:

  1. Water on the floor
  2. Complex system of plates, trays, and wrapping
  3. Giggling kid just outside the door
  4. Tuna sandwich on table, cat on patrol

4) Evaluate threats and determine severity

  1. Water on floor – monitor
  2. Complex system of plates, trays, and wrapping – mitigate
  3. Giggling kid – mitigate immediately
  4. Tuna sandwich/cat situation – monitor

5) Repair per evaluation

  1. Assess the water situation again in 5 minutes
  2. Before transport, remove all but one plate
  3. Bribe giggling kid
  4. Assess the sandwich and cat during transport

6) Validate

  1. Slipped in water – should have cleaned it up
  2. Cardboard plate folded during transport
  3. Bribed kid with hotdog – not interested, went for discarded wrapping
  4. Startled cat jumped on counter, bumping transporter’s arm who slipped on water and dropped cake on kid

Program evaluation:

Cupcakes distribute the risk more evenly.  Next time, do cupcakes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

See ya next time!

– Craig


November 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Do a quick survey of companies claiming to support the IM rules for pipelines and invariably they are focused on the operations side of the business. In the operations world, compliance with the IM rule means running pigs and doing direct assessment.  In terms of time and effort, the hardest part is doing confirmatory digs.  The rulings have had minimal impact on the day-to-day life of a field services professional.

In contrast, the folks in engineering are feeling an enormous strain because of the ruling.  Typically engineering services will own compliance with the IM rule.  Whereas at one time a few engineers could run the integrity program of a major transmission company, the analytically rigorous and data intensive nature of the IM rulings have stretched these departments to the limit.

Follow along as I figure out how to make the world a better place for pipeline engineers.  I aspire to enable pipeliners to orchestrate their IM program to achieve visibility into the process, control over its behavior, and protection for the data behind it.

I am developing a concept called engineering process management (EPM).  It is an extension of business process management (BPM).  BPM has provided visibility, control, and protection to the banking, insurance, and a number of other regulated industries.  Along the way, the folks who have employed it have realized tremendous operational flexibility and control that has translated into reduced operating costs, fewer mistakes, and less harried workers.

I hope to bring the same benefits to the world of engineering where instead of banking transactions or insurance policies, we are concerned with the integrity of physical assets.  At this point EPM is only a concept.  Over the next few months I hope to begin building it. Right now I am looking for an operator who wants me to build it and is willing to pay me a little bit to do so.

Stay tuned!  I’ll share my progress, some of the things I learn, and some of my observations along the way. Here in these early days I’ll try to fill in some background as well.

Welcome! Glad you are here!

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