“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

When it comes to running asset-intensive production and manufacturing operations, the above quote by Winston Churchill applies, but with a caveat. Smooth-running operations can be threatened by change that allows  unknown or poorly managed risks to creep in.

In daily operations, the only constant is change…changes to processes, equipment, material, procedures, people…you name it, and it is subject to change.  Of course these types of changes are necessary to improve operations and to develop innovative processes and products.   Continuous improvement and sustainable operations depend on change.

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But necessary change can introduce unnecessary risk, often with unintended consequences in terms of harm to people, the environment, and production.  An effective “management of change” (MoC) process is so important in ensuring worker and process safety and operational excellence that it in some cases it is required by regulation (e.g., the OSHA Process Safety Management Standard), and made a part of industry management system standards (e.g. Responsible Care in the Chemicals Industry).

How can a defective MoC process cause problems?  Take for example one of the highest profile industrial disasters in recent history, the Texas City refinery explosion in 2005.  Fifteen people were killed and over 170 injured, and the refinery was shut down for two years.  Talk about a costly accident!   The investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board showed that failure of the refinery’s established MoC procedures were a major root cause of the accident.

Refinery workers were allowed to change operating procedures on the fly without any review of the potential risk from doing so.   In this case, they intentionally ran a production unit outside of its operating limits.  The result was the unit overfilled with highly flammable hydrocarbons, overheated, and exploded.  The investigation showed that established MoC procedures were routinely ignored over many years.  There was a systemic failure to follow the refinery’s operational risk management system, condoned by the prevailing management and safety culture.

What’s the solution to prevent such events?   Most companies in the asset-intensive and high risk industries have implemented operational management systems that focus on proactively identifying risks, assessing them, and taking actions to control them.  These management systems usually feature Management of Change as a key component.

A good example of best practice in the Oil and Gas industry is ConocoPhillips’ Operations Excellence (OE) methodology, a systematic and collaborative approach to enabling safe, reliable and efficient operations.   It establishes a common language and approach that drives consistency in performance across the company.  The focus is on risk management and operational integrity processes that can prevent major incidents, improve production, and ensure operability.   Effective process safety including MoC underpins the entire OE methodology.

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You can gain more insight into how ConocoPhillips is enabling Operations Excellence and effective MoC by attending a free educationalwebinar on August 7th at 2:00 pm. EDT:

Webinar:  In Pursuit of Operational Integrity:  How ConocoPhillips Uses SAP Solutions to Navigate the Converging Operations Landscape

Date:  August 7, 2014

Time: 2:00 pm EDT

Speakers:  Kate Thomas, SAP Business Analyst, ConocoPhillips; Mark Pyatt, Sr. Director, Operational Integrity, Global Oil and Gas, SAP; and SAP Dailey Tipton, Sustainability Information Solutions, ERM,

Webinar Topics:

  • Overview of operational integrity in the oil & gas and petrochemical industries
  • A systematic approach to operational excellence
  • How the SAP Management of Change application is used to transform processes to meet the needs of the changing business environment
  • Discuss how ConocoPhillips implemented SAP Management of Change to achieve its operational integrity goals

Learn more about the webinar and how to register here.

=> Register for the webinar

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