PETROCHEMICAL: Chevron Runs High On Technology
Recent Western Cape Business News
AN interesting feature of the Chevron Refinery operation is the relatively small number of people that it employs. Currently the number is around 300, substantially down from the 500 people that was on its pay-roll in the mid-90s.
Much of this has to do in how the organisational chart has been re-drawn. It’s a much flatter organisation, with only two reporting levels between a new-hire and top management, whereas there previously were four layers.
The permanent staff numbers have decreased for two reasons:
Firstly, the refinery, being part of a global corporation, is able to leverage technical expertise and best practices so it has fewer local technical staff.
Secondly, it also has trained those people who are closest to the operation to be highly skilled and empowered them to be accountable, and have thus reduced redundant middle management positions.
More and better technology too have played their roles.
A good example of this is the Yokogawa computerised distributed control system on all basic operations that the refinery installed in the mid-90s.
Not only does this system enable increased accuracy of control over the refining process, but more importantly the efficiency of yield improvement on high value products is dramatically increased.
The control room at the refinery, from where most functions are coordinated, has 3 500 km of signalling cable to make the Yokogawa system possible and so effective is it that, at a stretch, the plant can be run by 35 people only.
So sophisticated is the system that the operations can be monitored – in real time – from anywhere in the world. Experts back at head office in the USA can, if needed, assist with diagnostics and trouble shooting.
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