Workflow Efficiency and System Knowledge

22 May

From lrd via the oil drum comments

...The concept of workflows is that understanding detailed sequences of work, together with the resources required for each step, allows efficiency to be improved by doing everything according to a standardized workflow. In a repetitive process, such as manufacturing or distribution, this can improve efficiency, reliability and safety, because nothing unexpected happens, and what’s more costs are lower because each person in the operation only has to know one part of the workflow. Knowing how to implement the workflow becomes much more important than knowing why each step is carried out.

The problem when such concepts are applied to drilling is that every well is different. The standard workflow may be neither the cheapest method nor the safest method in a particular well. The risks are heightened by having fewer people around who really understand what is happening when something starts to go wrong.

I think the guy nailed part of the underlying human factors…few understand the system as a whole, so when SOP’s replace knowledge, and the system goes beyond the SOP’s things go south really fast.

The reduction of system knowledge is also an interesting way to bypass engineering ethics… Ie, if you segregate things enough, there wont be enough of a knowledge base for an isolated engineering team to know how their judgment calls impact public health, safety, and welfare. Case in point, tell engineers they are designing water flow controls, rather than also for phosgene gas, and simply pass the design off for another team to copy… the cost will be much lower, but no engineer in their right mind would sign off on it.



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