Why Engineering Content Management is the lifeblood of an Intelligent Operations Framework

November 14, 2019

By David Drerup.

In our previous articles, we’ve shared why Operational Risk Management (ORM) can be the Achilles heel in your organization, and why Enterprise Loss Prevention (ELP) and Management of Change (MOC) are foundational elements in the Intelligent Operations framework. If MOC is the skeletal system of our organism and ELP is the connective tissue (muscles and tendons), then think of Engineering Content Management (ECM) as the circulatory system. ECM is similar to Process Safety Information (PSI) but is more focused on the Design and Construction phase. In contrast, PSI is more focused on the operational phase of the facility and can be easily identified using the definition of OSHA PSM .

ECM and PSI are often centered on compliance activities (i.e. OSHA 1910.119, EPA Title V Permit constraints, etc.). In fact, if you combine ECM/PSI with regulatory compliance requirements, you have the potential for enhanced compliance assurance.

Both ECM and PSI start with a focus on Document Management and Redlining. This can include anything from PSV design calcs to information shown or otherwise documented on P&IDs. A great example of a potential risk scenario is delinquent P&ID updates (either insufficient or incorrect information is all that’s immediately available) that negatively impact troubleshooting during a process problem – and a preventable incident occurs. When critical engineering information (ECM and PSI) is managed appropriately – including timely updates – accurate documents can be developed, maintained, sustained, and viewed by all affected parties. An “always on” approach to necessary information is an integral part of an effective Intelligent Operations framework, where a shared data set feeds needed information through PSSR and MOC work processes to mitigate pre- and post-startup risk.

PSI consists of standards, policies, procedures, and engineering data. All of this must be maintained with an effective MOC process to ensure accurate information is accessible to serve as a sound basis for plant decisions. It is implicitly understood that any one element that isn’t managed properly can present risks to the organization. The bottom line is, ECM/PSI is complex and interacts with, informs, and affects a lot of processes – much like the circulatory system in an organism.

Some of the business benefits of the Intelligent Operations approach to ECM include:


What are the maturity phases for managing ECM/PSI?

Graphic listing the 4 phases for managing ECM/PSI

Where should we focus?

Start with creating a standard framework for managing your ECM/PSI. Have rules on who can create, edit, and view information along with where that information should be stored. In one OS assessment of a petroleum refinery, there were 57 systems of record for PSI. There was no standard naming convention, and as people moved around the organization, it wasn’t clear where things were being saved.

After establishing some basics, focus on frequent flyers like procedures and P&IDs. The typical refinery or chemical plant may have 1000 or more Operations and Maintenance procedures. These need to be reviewed and updated at a reasonable frequency (i.e. 1 year for Operations and 3 years for Maintenance procedures). All of this needs to be managed to avoid self-inflicted conflicts with what is specified in the governing management systems.

Some simple wins are things like scrapping the red pencil and scanner approach and moving to electronic redlines. Electronic redlines streamline the process to enable a team of different departments to collaborate seamlessly. It also eliminates the risk of redline paper loss, damage, or the use of incorrect revisions. In addition, having standardized procedure templates (i.e. normal, emergency, shutdown) can greatly simplify document maintenance over time.


ECM/PSI is important and touches nearly all aspects of a facility. Proper management of ECM/PSI helps reduce the risk of managing hazards and improves operational efficiency. The ECM/PSI management system must provide for information accuracy, timely updates, and timely notifications. That kind of accuracy and timeliness is best accomplished through an electronic system that can invigorate and enable individual company workflows. When the ECM/PSI system is properly designed it serves a critical supporting element for Intelligent Operations and enables real-time decision support in the field.

Start with an assessment of your current practices and information management to identify gaps so you can come up with priorities to close gaps.

This article concludes our discussion of foundational elements for Intelligent Operations. Companies who go down this path will see improved profitability, reduced risk, and enhanced operational efficiency.