Indoor GIS for Enhanced Safety & Alarm Response White Paper

Discover how the integration of PlantQuest's Asset & Alarm location technology drastically reduces critical response times by up to 72%, transforming emergency response and safeguarding both lives and assets in complex industrial facilities. Experience the advantage of PlantQuest's system in transforming EHS workflows.
Crebhan Hughes
12 min read
Alarm Response
Business Continuity
Indoor GIS for Enhanced Safety & Alarm Response White Paper

In the demanding industries of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, semiconductors, and chemical manufacturing, the rapidity and precision of emergency response are not just operational needs—they are imperatives, that safeguard human life, material assets, and production. This white paper casts a spotlight on the critical role advanced Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and asset location technology play in elevating the efficiency and effectiveness of emergency/alarm responses and EHS workflows in these high-stakes environments.

The piece examines the challenges industrial facilities face, such as the complexity of large facilities, the intricacies of Emergency Response Teams' (ERT) alarm management, and the multifaceted roles of EHS teams in maintaining facility-wide safety. With detailed case studies and pragmatic solutions, this white paper advocates for an approach that blends swift action through the latest technology to enhance safety and ensure operational continuity.

PlantQuest emerges as a pioneering solution in this realm. Its EHS solution revolutionizes asset management and emergency response through a suite of tools that offer real-time data overlay, advanced alarm location, and navigational excellence. The case studies featured validate the significant enhancements in response times, operational efficiency, and overall safety, culminating in intangible ROI within months of implementation.

1. Introduction

In the high-stakes realm of high-end manufacturing, such as the pharmaceutical, medical device, chemical and similar industries, the intricate weave of safety, precision, and swift action forms the lifeblood of industry operations. The complexity of these vast facilities is matched only by the myriad risks—from a constant flow of people and materials to the ever-present threat of an emergency, each potential hazard demands an immediate and effective response. This white paper focuses on the pivotal role of rapid emergency response mechanisms within such complex environments whilst ensuring that the facility workforce is presented with the correct information to make safer and more intelligent decisions. It highlights the transformative impact of Geographic Information Systems (GIS)and facility mapping technologies that empower quicker alarm response, and are a strategic tool for resource allocation and work execution.

The advancement of alarm and emergency management technology, transforms GIS from a reactive tool to a proactive ally. By providing detailed mapping and risk assessment capabilities, these systems empower facilities with the foresight to plan, prepare, and execute emergency procedures with unmatched efficiency. It's a shift that emphasizes the power of data and spatial intelligence to save lives, safeguard assets, and secure the business continuity of some of the most critical production facilities in the world.

As we explore the multifaceted challenges and solutions that define modern industrial safety, this white paper outlines the importance of innovation in pursuing a safer, more resilient industrial future with GIS and facility mapping at the forefront, we look at the complexities of emergency response to reveal a pathway to enhanced safety and efficiency—a testament to the evolving landscape of industrial safety solutions

2. The Problem Space

In today's complex industrial environments, navigating the myriad of safety and operational challenges requires more than just traditional methods. Drawing on upon insights and perspectives from Neil Challands and Matt Wrack, and the issues our customers have faced, we look at into the unique challenges faced by industrial facilities when it comes to Emergency Response and EHS workflows such as alarm response, safety equipment checks, permit visualization, worker on-boarding, and decision making.

2.1 Complexity of Large Facilities

Contemporary industrial manufacturing facilities, often extensive and complex, consist of multifaceted rooms equipped with a wide array of sensors, devices, and other data points. These complexities, both physical and operational, result in challenges like pinpointing the location of assets or alarms, ensuring efficient navigation, managing staff turnover while safeguarding key tacit knowledge, and improving network coverage in older brownfield sites. The detailed nature of these settings requires swift and knowledgeable responses to maintain safety and operational efficiency.

2.2 Challenges in Alarm Response

Complexity of Large Industrial Facilities

Emergency Response in industrial settings faces many challenges, primarily centered around efficient location. The complex facility layouts and the shear quantity of assets/alarms obscure quick identification and access to alarm information, hindered further by a lack of real-time information. This aligns with insights emphasizing the importance of swift response in preventing the escalation of emergencies and minimizing damage and injury. The absence of detailed contextual information about alarm locations and information, complicates response strategies, reinforcing the need for GIS and visual solutions in emergency response.

2.3 Challenges for EHS

EHS teams face a multitude of challenges in ensuring facility-wide safety and workforce protection. These include effective worker on-boarding, accurate permit management, and efficient location and checks of all safety equipment. The lack of a centralized system for locating safety equipment, can lead to unchecked and serviced equipment, a significant concern in preventing large-scale emergencies. Ensuring permits are accurately placed, and visible to all other workers is crucial when it comes to making safe effective decisions throughout the facility.

Navigating to an alarm in pharma site

2.4 Common Questions Asked by ERT & EHS Team Members

  1. Where is this Detector L56/893
  2. How do I get to A2-B12-SD-183
  3. Is this alarm in the ceiling void?
  4. Is this alarm on a VESDA system?
  5. s this alarm in an ATEX area?
  6. Where does this gas line run?
  7. Where is the closest extinguisher to this alarm?
  8. Is that Permit opened in the correct area?
  9. Is this alarm in an open permit area?
  10. How do I view the location of all our Defibrillators, Extinguishers, or PSV’s?
  11. Where is that lone worker alarm?
  12. What direction was the person moving?
  13. Where are all the facility's plant rooms, noisy areas, and ATEX areas?

2.5 Cost Implications: The Financial Toll of Operational Inefficiencies

The resources wasted spent locating and responding to alarms can be very costly. In the pharmaceutical and life science industries, often with hundreds or thousands of workers on site, working with hazardous chemicals and complex products, the potential for accidents is high, and the consequences (financial and human) of a delay in responding can be catastrophic. Direct costs can include significant impacts on people, products, production, and facilities, whilst indirect costs are often reputation, insurance claims, and legal fees. Research indicates that the typical cost of production downtime in the pharmaceutical industry, which can occur due to worker evacuations and false alarms, is between $100,000 and $500,000 per hour. Whilst Kruglyak 2021 states that downtime can cost up to $20,000 a minute.

"With pharmaceutical manufacturing units running at greater capacity than ever, downtime can cost up to $20,000 a minute"

Addressing these challenges in modern industrial facilities requires a comprehensive approach that combines rapid response, integration with existing safety systems, and adaptability to diverse emergencies. Recognizing these challenges and working towards innovative solutions is essential for maintaining safety and operational efficiency in the demanding landscape of industrial facilities.PlantQuest digitizes large process-intensive facilities, allowing customers to transform their site operations with intelligent asset mapping. PlantQuest’s ability to combine and layer multiple data sources allows workers to make data-driven decisions, locate and navigate to all assets(fixed & mobile), reduce alarm response times, and lock in critical site knowledge. With the ability to integrate with existing facility systems, the PlantQuest platform has been designed to be deployed within all sites. From the oldest legacy and brownfield facilities to the most cutting-edge greenfield sites.

ERT locating an alarm

Given the size and complexity of pharmaceutical and other industrial manufacturing facilities, locating and navigating to an incident's exact location and wasting zero time can be difficult. With there being a direct correlation between response times and the "average loss per incident", "percentage of incidents which are 'large'", and the "probability of death per incident", as shown in the graphs below, it has never been more critical to ensure you have a way of instantly locating all alarms.

Imagine about how much time you would waste locating and navigatingto a new location in your personal life without Google maps!
Average Loss per Fire v Response Time

Graph 1: Average Loss per Fire v Response Time

"Large"  Fire v Response Time

Graph 2: "Large"  Fire v Response Time

Probability of Depth per Fire v Response Time

Graph 3: Probability of Depth per Fire v Response Time

3. PlantQuest

PlantQuest's solution is designed to enhance the safety and efficiency of large industrial facilities. Providing a unified view of safety systems and facility operations, the facility mapping and asset location platform streamlines alarm response procedures, indoor navigation, task execution, and enhanced decision-making support. It offers an interactive and intuitive interface for real-time asset and alarm location, integrates data for improved operational insights, and is specifically optimized for complex environments. Emergency procedures are refined through accessible information on critical locations, with real-time data overlays that boost situational awareness. Navigation is facilitated by rules-based routing with signal-free guidance - crucial for areas with poor network coverage.

3.1 Facility and Asset Mapping

Interactive Facility Insight: PlantQuest offers a dynamic window into your facility, providing an intuitive, user-friendly interface similar to Google Maps, ensuring you receive the context you require to respond quickly.

Instant Alarm Location: Locate any alarm and asset within your facility, enhancing response capabilities and task execution.

Data Integration and Visualization: Seamlessly integrate and visualize data from existing systems and drawings, providing a rich visual context to daily operations, improving decision-making and understanding.

Optimized for Complex Environments: Specifically tailored for large brownfield sites, ensuring adaptability in diverse operational landscapes.

3.2 Streamlining Emergency Procedures

Enhanced EHS/ERT Operations: Facilitate clear and accessible information on alarm locations, facility navigation, EHS equipment, escape routes, and hazardous areas, among others, significantly reducing risk and downtime.

Real-Time Data Overlay: View and overlay multiple data points such as a range of alarms (BMS, Fire, Lone Worker, etc), fixed mobile assets, open permits, and IoT data, enhancing situational awareness in real-time.

Tag-Based Location and Area Search: Quickly locate assets or alarms by tags or search by room/area for comprehensive asset information, streamlining planning and response.

3.3 Proactive Alarm Response

Advanced Alarm Notification System: Deploy notifications across various platforms, including desktop or tablet, pinpointing the exact location of alarms to all concerned.

EHS Equipment Visualization: Ensure emergency responders are aware of the location of the nearest safety equipment before reaching the incident scene.

location within Preemptive Area Notifications:
Provide preemptive safety-related information, aiding in a safer, more informed facility and enhanced worker inductions.

Emergency Exit Awareness: Ensure all workers know the nearest emergency exits from any location within the facility.

 Proactive Alarm Response System

3.4  Navigation & Efficient Routing

Navigation Engine: Tailored navigation rules for specific facility areas, such as hazardous areas, clean rooms, access requirements, and restricted sections, ensuring safe and efficient movement.

Signal-Free Navigation:
Navigate facilities withoutreliance on signal availability, which is vital in signal-compromised areas such as a plant room or old complex facilities.

Turn-by-Turn Guidance:
Receive clear directions for each journey, ensuring time-efficient responses to emergencies or routine tasks.

3.5 Decision-Making and Safety Impact

Unified Safety System View: Integrate and visualize all safety systems, including Fire, Lone Worker, and PTW, offering a comprehensive view of facility operations and their safety impacts.

EHS Equipment Coverage Analysis:
Evaluate the adequacy of EHS equipment coverage in specific facility areas, ensuring preparedness for any situation.

4. Success Stories

PlantQuest customers report a reduction in alarm response times of up to 75%, making the PlantQuest solution an essential tool in their alarm response and EHS operations. A commitment to helping global pharma, Medical Device, and industrial facilities run safer, more productive facilities underpins every PlantQuest deployment. PlantQuest saves workers thousands of hours per year locating assets, navigating their site, reducing alarm response times, or ensuring workers have all the information they need to make safe, efficient decisions.

“We have not had an unnecessary evacuation-sense adopting PlantQuest over three years ago” ERT Lead

4.1 Tier-One Pharmaceutical Organisation Begins Global Rollout of PlantQuest

Facility Location: Ireland
Size & Scope: Built in 1991, the 110,000 sq meter facility is located on a 60-acre campus encompassing 12 buildings, six levels, and 1,700 rooms.
EHS Assets: Equipped with 6,500 fire input devices(BGU, SD, HD etc), and 2,000 Fire Extinguishers.
Workforce: Home to over 1,200 workers

Before Adopting PlantQuest
  1. All ERT members are alerted of an alarm and report to the site's central ERT station.
  2. The ERT lead manually reads the detector number from the fire panel, whilst other response members manually scroll through over 200 drawings, searching for the detector's tag.
  3. After some time and discussion, the ERT identifies the location of the alarm and heads out into the field.
  4. Due to a complex site layout, no directions, and no clear visual indication of the location of the alarm, the ERT has wasted valuable time responding to the alarm.
  5. As the ERT took over 15 minutes to respond to the alarm, a double knock event was initiated and the respective building/area was evacuated. This occurred 2 to 3 times per month.
  6. The average response time is 25 minutes.
After Adopting PlantQuest
  1. All ERT members are alerted of a fire alarm and report to the ERT station.
  2. The ERT lead manually reads the detector number from the fire system and types it into the PlantQuest tablet application. (When integrated, this will be done automatically)
  3. They are instantly shown the alarm's precise location and the most optimal route to get there from the ERT station.
  4. While routing to the alarm, they access valuable information such as access requirements, the assets metadata, photos of the asset and room, and the closest EHS equipment to the alarm(Extinguishers, Defibs, Safety showers, etc.)
  5. Average response time is 7 minutes, preventing unnecessary downtime and evacuations.
  6. There has been no unnecessary evacuation since the deployment of PlantQuest in 2021,with no response taking longer than 14 minutes)
Value Gained
  1. Reduced Response Time: Reduction in average response time by 72%, minimising operational disruptions.
  2. Operational Efficiency: A reduction of 2/3 evacuations per month, allowing for an increase in worker efficiency and production output.
  3. Improved Safety: Enhanced awareness of emergency equipment locations.
  4. Worker Empowerment: Empowering employees with critical information, improving their confidence and efficiency in emergencies.

4.2 Medical Device Manufacturing Facility Transform Alarm Response

Facility Location: Ireland
Size & Scope:
Originally built in 1980, the 75,000 sq meter facility is on 41-acre campuses ten buildings, two levels, and 800 rooms.
EHS Assets:
Equipped with 2,400 fire input devices and 673 Fire Extinguishers.
Home to over 1,500 workers

Before Adopting PlantQuest
  1. All ERT members are alerted of a fire alarm and report to one of two ERT stations.
  2. The ERT lead manually reads the detector number from the fire system. It gains a small visual indication of where the alarm is from the fire systems interface. However, the map only shows a small section of the facility at any time providing little to no actionable context.
  3. Another team member manually scrolls through 27 drawings, searching for the detector's tag and location in relation to the ERT station.
  4. After some time and discussion, the ERT identifies the location of the alarm and heads out into the field. Due to a complex site layout, no directions, no clear visual indication of the location of the alarm, and the additional context such as alarm type, room, access requirements, etc., the ERT has wasted valuable time responding to the alarm.
  5. The average response time is 19 minutes
After Adopting PlantQuest
  1. All ERT members are alerted of a fire alarm and report to one of two ERT stations.
  2. The ERT lead manually reads the detector number from the fire system and types it into the PlantQuest tablet application.
  3. They are instantly shown the alarm's precise location and the most optimal route from the ERT station.
  4. En-route to the alarm, they access valuable information such as access requirements, the assets metadata, photos of the asset and room, and the closest EHS equipment to the alarm(Extinguishers, Defibs, Safety showers, etc.)
  5. Average response time is 8 minutes, preventing unnecessary downtime and evacuations.
Value Gained
  1. Reduced Response Time: Reduction in average response time by 58%, minimizing operational disruptions.
  2. Operational Efficiency: Significantly faster and more efficient emergency responses resulting in reduced production downtime and worker evacuations.
  3. Improved Safety: Enhanced awareness of emergency equipment locations.
  4. Worker Empowerment: Empowering employees with critical information, improving their confidence and efficiency in emergencies.
"PlantQuest provides insights into your facility's operations that you need to make safer, quicker, and more efficient decisions" EHS Manager

These case studies exemplify how PlantQuest's innovative solution can transform emergency response, site safety, operational efficiency, and other EHS workflows within large, complex Pharmaceutical and Medical Device facilities.

5. ROI Analysis

5.1 Investment Costs

PlantQuest is offered on an annually recurring license alongside a one-time implementation cost. The recurring license is dependent on the number of users, modules, and integrations required, whilst the implementation cost is dependent on facility size and number of assets. Learn more about this here. The costs mentioned are the average investment costs our customers experience when PlantQuest is predominantly used for emergency response.

5.2 Solution Delivered

A Business Continuity Tool

  1. Prevents the vast majority of site evacuations
  2. Digital platform to onboard and train ERT / EHS members
  3. Informs decision making, allowing for safer and more productive operations

5.3 Cost Savings Analysis

  1. As per above case study, 2 confirmed alarms per month resulting in evacuations
  2. Downtime cost ranges between $100,000 & $500,000 per hour. (€92,000 & €460,000)
  3. Each evacuation is equivalent 1 hour of downtime
  1. Downtime saving: 2 evacuations per month
  2. Savings per incident: €92,000 (lower end)
  3. Monthly savings: €184,000
Annual Savings of €2.2 Million
Additional Considerations

There is no cost to safety: By reducing response times, PlantQuest helps prevent incidents which, even if they turn out to be false alarms, can lead to significant operational disruptions and financial losses. Avoiding just one EHS incident can recoup the implementation costs or save millions, underscoring the value beyond the immediate ROI.

This calculation is conservative and only takes the lower end of downtime into account. Furthermore, it doesn’t include the savings made from general asset location, the improved facility safety in terms of all workers having access to critical safety information regarding permits, EHS equipment not being missed, enhanced ERT training, and safer, more informed decision-making.

In summary, implementing PlantQuest in a pharmaceutical facility can provide substantial financial returns within 6.4 months due to the significant reduction in emergency response times and improved operational efficiency, with it being even shorter. Beyond the direct financial impact, enhancing safety protocols and preventing potential incidents is invaluable, reinforcing the notion that there is no cost to safety.

Please contact the PlantQuest team to create your own ROI tailored to your facility and process.

6. Implementation Plan

PlantQuest is optimized for both green and brownfield deployments, with a typical brownfield deployment lasting 10 weeks. Typically comprised of 5 steps, PlantQuest manages the entire deployment process, requiring very little input from the client.

Step 1 - Project Scope

  1. Identify target workflows for optimization:
    1. Maintenance Scheduling & Execution
    2. Facility & Asset Management
    3. Mobile Asset Tracking
    4. Worker On-boarding & Training
    5. EHS/ERT
    6. IoT/Energy
    7. PTW Visualisation
  1. Product Customization
  1. Facility layout details such as:
    1. Overall site layout
    2. Fire safety drawings
    3. BIM (if available)
    4. Existing maps

Step 2 - Map Development

  1. PlantQuest generates user-friendly, interactive facility maps.
    1. Each room/area is clickable and labeled.
  2. Classifications are assigned to rooms/areas, such as:
    1. PTW Required, ATEX Area, Clean Room, Confined Space, Noisy Areas, etc.
  3. Indoor navigation is enabled with optimized routing options. Facility can define:
    1. Priority, one-way, emergency routes etc.

Step 3 - System Integrations

  1. PlantQuest adds visual context to existing facility systems, revealing crucial data and insights.
  2. No impact on current qualified systems ensured.
  3. Asset metadata updates in the existing system seamlessly integrate with PlantQuest.
  4. locations using centralised management of all asset locations using PlantQuest.

Step 4 - Locations Logging

  1. Use existing Fire & Site Layout Drawings
    1. PlantQuest map assets before deployment, using a suite of internal tools
  2. Employ PlantQuest Field Survey Tool
    1. Log the location of assets in the field. This can be executed by PlantQuest or by the client
  3. Bulk Data Import
    1. Leverage existing your tabular data or BIM model.
  4. Utilise the PlantQuest Management Portal for post-deployment adjustments.
    1. Take control of the system post-deployment allowing you to manage and maintain asset locations.

Step 5 - Deployment

  1. PlantQuest spends 2 days on-site commissioning the system and providing end-user training.
  2. Comprehensive system turnover packs and dossiers are provided.
  3. commissioning the Clients assume control post-deployment, with PlantQuest providing on-site and remote support.

8. Conclusion

As this white paper shows, in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, chemicals, and related high-stakes industries, the deployment of comprehensive, data-driven, and rapid response systems isn't a luxury—it's an imperative. The complex and dynamic nature of these industrial facilities presents unique challenges that require robust, innovative solutions. PlantQuest's EHS solution has proven to be more than just a tool—it's a paradigm shift in managing safety and emergencies.

The detailed case studies within this paper are a testament to the transformative effects of integrating PlantQuest's advanced mapping and alarm response technologies. Facilities report drastic reductions in response times and enhanced operational efficiency, translating into substantial cost savings and a significant return on investment—often within just months of implementation.

Furthermore, the positive ripple effects extend to enhancing overall site safety, empowering workers with critical information, and ensuring a safer work environment. The case studies underscore how PlantQuest’s system doesn't merely speed up responses—it changes a facility’s approach to emergency preparedness and asset management.

Looking beyond the numbers, it’s clear that the real value of PlantQuest lies in its capacity to safeguard human life, protect assets, and maintain the integrity of critical industrial operations. The conclusion is clear: in the pursuit of industrial excellence, safety, and efficiency, PlantQuest emerges not just as a solution, but as an essential partner in operational success.

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