Archive for June, 2013

DangerTags Hydrocracker Case Study

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Case Study: Automation of LOTO Saves Time, Money and Streamlines Processes for Turnarounds and Maintenance – February, 2013

A major oil company was faced with a turnaround in their light oils complex. The project was a Herculean task not only because it required changing every gasket, nut and bolt but also because of the massive size of the facility. Because of the sheer size of the project, the refinery leadership team knew there were opportunities to reduce costs that were more significant than usual.

They identified the manual handwritten processes surrounding Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) as an opportunity to save time and money by introducing efficiency through automation. Their LOTO processes were good and effective but just too costly and time consuming, especially when faced with the prospect of over 10,000 handwritten tags.

By their approximation the fastest time a tag could be handwritten was fifteen seconds; essentially equating to 80 man hours to write the required tags, in the least. Given the distractions that the two “tag writers” would face, they estimated that handwriting tags would require two men for two weeks, resulting in a labor cost over $5000.  An ancillary issue was the legibility of the handwritten tags, which could result in, as best case scenario, poor field communications or, worst case scenario, a safety issue.

After soliciting input from their facilities worldwide and perusing the market for all methods of LOTO automation, the company arrived at the conclusion that DangerTags represented the best the industry had to offer. DangerTags is an automated LOTO system that not only reduces labor but uses advanced materials to solve every facet of the problem the oil company faced. The final question was: could they implement DangerTags quickly enough to benefit the turnaround?

The implementation of DangerTags consisted of three tasks.  First, the database had to be populated with all of the unit’s isolation points, i.e., breakers, valves, etc.  Second, the oil company’s EIL format had to be built into DangerTags.  Finally, the users had to be trained on how to use the application.  The company’s implementation team worked with the technical staff at the Application Factory to decide on the best way to accomplish these tasks.

To populate the database, it was decided that the team would leverage their existing lockout lists in combination with the spreadsheet import wizard in DangerTags.  Spreadsheet macros were custom developed to convert the company’s Microsoft Excel-based lockout lists into the DangerTags’ import template format. Once the lists were converted to the DangerTags format, the import wizard in DangerTags allowed the oil company’s operators to quickly and easily populate the database of isolation points.

Very early in the project, it became obvious that it was easier for the programmers at Application Factory to make DangerTags output the company’s EIL format than it would be to get one of the largest corporations in the world to change their corporate safety documentation.  So, the company opted to have Application Factory add their EIL format to the system for more customized output.

Once the database was populated and verified, it was decided that training would occur in the refinery, on company equipment, using their freshly-imported live data.  After the half-day class, the oil company’s turnaround team was prepared to start printing tags and lockout lists.

Over 10,000 tags were printed in a matter of hours instead of weeks, on tagging materials far superior to the refinery’s previous standard. DangerTags’ tags are waterproof, U/V resistant, and completely legible, therefore reducing exposure to OSHA violations and improving field communication. As a bonus, they are barcoded for field scanning and verification.

The entire DangerTags implementation, from database population to tag printing, condensed down to less than two weeks. Essentially DangerTags was implemented, including training, in less time than it would have taken to hand write tags.

After the turnaround was successfully completed, the light oils complex had a system in place that continues to maintain and produce LOTO documentation in the same automated fashion. The long-term effect is a combination of increased safety and lowered expense.

DangerTags is a software system developed by Application Factory, Inc., a software development firm located in Beaumont, Texas, providing custom and packaged solutions to the petrochemical companies of the Fortune 500. DangerTags is distributed by Total Safety, the world’s premier outsourced provider of integrated safety and compliance solutions.

For more information go to,, or call Keith Davis, President, Application Factory, 800-839-1645