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Pipeliners Podcast: How to Support the Full Pipeline SMS Life Cycle

P.I. Confluence sponsored the Second Quarter 2021 episodes of the Pipeliners Podcast, a leading industry resource for pipeline education through conversation. As part of our sponsorship, we had the opportunity to discuss several key topics around Pipeline SMS (PSMS) on the weekly podcast.

– Gary White, our company’s founder and subject matter expert in process management, discussed the nuts and bolts of Pipeline SMS from introduction to application to implementation.

– Sheila Howard, our VP & Software Solutions Manager, discussed how process management is applied to Pipeline SMS and the importance of optimizing stakeholder engagement through a thorough evaluation of an operation’s quality culture in terms of the Plan, Do, Check, Act methodology required as part of the API 1173 Recommended Practice.

We believe that there is exceptional value in listening to these episodes covering the full PSMS life cycle. Gaining additional insight will support your operation’s implementation and advancement of PSMS as part of a commitment to the continuous improvement of safe pipeline operations. You can also access the full episode transcript and show notes for each episode to read through pertinent material that supports your operation’s PSMS journey.

Process Management Applied to Pipeline SMS

  • Episode 170: Process Management Applied to Pipeline Safety with Sheila Howard
  • Episode 175: Introduction to Process Management and Pipeline SMS with Gary White

The Pipeline SMS life cycle requires an understanding of how to create processes that support your operation’s safety objectives. Processes are defined objectives that capture the bigger picture of what steps are required to realize positive outcomes.

These processes support your operation’s ability to support the full Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle that is embedded in the framework of Pipeline SMS. When processes are outlined and understood, then an operator can begin lining up how the pieces fit together and who should be responsible for which tasks to execute the full PDCA cycle. Then, your operation can refer back to the processes to understand whether each process was followed. There should be:

  • Clear definitions around the objectives of each process (what needs to be done?)
  • Clear ownership of each process (who is responsible for what?)
  • Clear responsibility for following up on each process to check that they were followed (who is responsible for holding each person accountable?)

This is the foundation for Pipeline SMS. When this foundation is set, then PSMS can come to life in a way that integrates an operation’s systems and processes into one framework to enable the operator to work in a unified way that naturally supports safety.

This also enables operators to perform more thorough checks. Many operators focus on the Do aspect of the PDCA cycle and less time on Check. But, the Check is critical to control the workflow, review why certain processes were not followed, and take corrective action in a proactive manner. In other words, to have a proper PSMS system, you have to have communications, workflow, handoffs, and feedback throughout the entire life cycle of pipeline operations.

Pipeline SMS Application and Implementation

  • Episode 178: Application of Pipeline SMS with Gary White
  • Episode 181: Implementing Pipeline SMS to Include Stakeholder Feedback with Gary White

Once the foundation of Pipeline SMS is built, the actual work has to be performed to achieve safety results. This requires an understanding of the 10 core elements of Pipeline SMS and then an assessment of your operation’s commitment to each of these elements.

In other words, what are we already good at, and where do we really need to improve? A good step is to perform a cultural quality assessment to see what level of commitment there is to the full PDCA cycle and then identify any gaps that need to be addressed.

For example, your operation could spend a tremendous amount of time around Planning and Doing to support PSMS element #3, Risk Management. However, if your operation doesn’t support Checking, then you’re not capturing and measuring the results to drive meaningful change. When you support the Check, you can investigate activity, ask questions, document responses, gather feedback, generate records, and use the input to achieve safety improvements.

That’s why gathering stakeholder feedback is so important to support the process of the Check. You need input from employees across the operation, contractors, and the public to ensure that you are implementing changes and then continuing the PDCA cycle by measuring the effects of those changes. This is how you achieve continuous improvement to ensure that you are constantly moving the needle in pipeline safety.

Pipeline SMS Stakeholder Engagement

  • Episode 185: Pipeline SMS Cultural Survey & Stakeholder Engagement with Sheila Howard

Ultimately, Pipeline SMS breaks down if there is a lack of communication. Process management is critical to create a plan, document the plan, capture the plan, and monitor the follow-through. However, there must be communication and the exchange of information to support the full Pipeline SMS life cycle.

This objective can be achieved through a Pipeline SMS Cultural Survey and stakeholder engagement. But, you don’t just want to ask questions or send out surveys without following through. Operators need to advance from simple notifications to communication (information exchange) where you actually track, measure, and manage the responses received to then feed back into your operation.

The key to effective information exchange is creating a structured method to gather data. You need to put some structure behind the questions you’re asking, the input you are gathering, and the feedback that you are placing back into your operations. You can also structure how you’re sharing lessons learned with stakeholders to ensure that the message is delivered, received, and leads to improvements.

Following a structured approach creates efficiencies and sets your operation on the right path to pursue safety improvements using critical stakeholder feedback.

Consider Our Tools to Support Pipeline SMS

We have built a robust suite of tools that enable pipeline operators to optimize their Pipeline SMS program in accordance with the API 1173 framework. Our POEMS ProgramMgr software tools enable operators to implement their Plan-Do-Check-Act processes and to optimize stakeholder engagement to determine if you are seeing desired safety and operational impacts.

We invite you to find out more about how to support the complete Pipeline SMS life cycle in your operation through the utilization of our tools. Then, let’s start a conversation with our team about how to utilize these tools.

P.I. Confluence leaders appeared on the Pipeliners Podcast to discuss the full Pipeline SMS life cycle to support safety improvements for pipeline operators