A behind-the-scenes look at Electronic Services
When a driver pulls in to one of Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s (MPC’s) nearly 80 light products and asphalt terminals, they take for granted that loading equipment such as driver interfaces, load rack controllers and additive injection systems are going to function properly, and that they will be able to efficiently receive the proper paperwork to get on their way.
MPC’s Electronic Services group (ES), headed by Manager Brian Kelly, is charged with making all that happen – providing the expertise to maintain, upgrade, repair and replace many electronic and electrical systems utilized by any terminal across MPC’s operational footprint. “This includes all of the critical operating and safety systems,” explains Kelly. “And since our equipment provides information that is utilized by our internal business partners, we are constantly collaborating to implement continuous improvement ideas in order to enhance safety, reliability, product quality, efficiency, and security.”
A good example of this includes the Light Products bill-of-lading process. For background, a bill of lading is a document issued when a transport receives a load from the terminal; it provides details on the shipment and gives title to a specified party. Until 2014, all records-retention requirements for bills of lading were met manually using physical copies. Today, as a result of a joint effort between ES and MPC’s information technology organization, the process of storing and retrieving these documents is electronic, and that’s significant – across the 61 light products terminals alone, MPC generates over 2.5 million bills of lading every year. Other examples of continuous improvement include installation of hardware enabling automated ethanol offloading, supporting terminal lane upgrades/product offerings, and installing equipment to strengthen cyber security capabilities.
On a daily basis, ES provides both hands-on and help desk support for terminal operations, as well as maintains critical inventory for supported equipment. More than 30 ES employees are either located at MPC’s headquarters or in the field. That includes more than 20 electronic and instrumentation technicians (each of whom is responsible for supporting four to five terminals), several maintenance specialists, as well as supervisory and administrative staff. Through their efforts, combined with expertise provided by other support groups, MPC’s terminals and transportation organization surpassed its reliability target for 2015 by achieving a 99.41 percent mechanical availability result that year.
“ES resources support everything from proximity card readers to automatic tank gauge systems, transport overfill protection systems, programmable logic controllers, remote I/O, touch screens, alarm annunciation systems, and much more,” notes Kelly. “As terminals become more and more automated, of course that list only grows.”
Last year, ES relocated to new a new office as part of MPC’s headquarters expansion project in Findlay, Ohio. “The new space gave us the room to improve our test lab, a kind of ‘mini terminal’ that replicates all of the equipment you would find there,” says Kelly, “in addition to giving us sufficient warehouse space for spare inventory of the equipment we support.”
ES inventories nearly 600 different part numbers to support field operations. Meanwhile, the lab provides a real-world production environment simulating terminal operations – everything from the use of a driver card granting access to the terminal or printing a bill of lading, to the more complex functions of the terminal automation system, including software applications that control, track and provide information on local terminal processes such as sales and inventory.
Kelly says the lab supports many reliability and operations-centered themes by providing the ability to reproduce and troubleshoot field issues, as well as pilot new equipment and processes in a safe and trusted test environment rather than an active production environment. It also provides a training ground for new hires. “The ES group installed the majority of the functional shop models within our new space, so we essentially used the move as a training opportunity.”
As technology and security requirements continue to evolve at a rapid pace for MPC’s terminals, the ES shop will continue to be a critical asset for MPC.