From left to right: Matthew Kleiman, Chiz Chikwendu, & Marc Marino
We recently sat down with Marc Marino, a Software Engineer at Cumulus, to hear about his recent trip to the Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex (PennChem). PennChem is an ethylene cracker plant located in Potter Township, Pennsylvania. The facility spans nearly 400 acres and is owned and operated by Royal Dutch Shell. Above-ground construction of the world-class manufacturing plant has been ongoing since 2016. In 2018, Shell selected Cumulus Digital Systems’ Smart Torque System to manage flanged piping connections during construction, with the project’s total scope exceeding 100,000 flanged joints.
Tell us about your work at Cumulus and why this trip to PennChem was significant for you.
I am a software engineer for Cumulus. I joined the company in April 2019, and my work mainly consists of software quality assurance and technical support for our Smart Torque System product. This trip was significant for me as it was my first trip into the field. After working on the product for years, it was incredible to witness firsthand its adoption and use by the teams at PennChem. In addition, I enjoyed meeting facility leadership after working closely with them on the software’s deployment and maintenance.
What were your initial thoughts on the facility itself?
My initial thoughts were centered around (1) the sheer size of the facility, and (2) their unwavering commitment to safety. I knew PennChem was very large from my work deploying and maintaining our software remotely. Nevertheless, I was still shocked initially by the size of the plant. Until you visit in person, it is hard to grasp how large it really is. Being onsite felt more like you were within a small city, not a manufacturing plant. For example, the plant had its own street signs, fire station and even crossing guards during shift changes. Regarding safety, it was apparent that it was PennChem’s top priority. It was clear that adherence to rules and regulation is a non-negotiable: from the leadership overseeing the project all the way down to the skilled labor on the ground.
What was your experience interacting with the teams onsite? Did it provide any insight into Smart Torque System and how it used?
Interacting with the teams onsite was an invaluable experience. We were able to hear direct feedback about our product through dialogue with those who use it daily. From our interactions we had a better understanding of what they valued most, what could be improved upon, and what features they hoped to see in the future. Although I respected these teams before, I have a much greater appreciation for their expertise and the skilled jobs they perform in often extreme weather conditions. Before my visit, I did not fully grasp that fitters are regularly required to walk up dozens of flights of stairs and through intricate scaffolding with their tools and tablets attached to them. It was also interesting to see how the elimination of paperwork provided the fitters with more time to complete work on the ground, which increased their daily productivity significantly. The teams were also interested to hear if our software might expand to offer additional capabilities and workflows.
What was the biggest takeaway from your visit?
My biggest takeaway from my visit to PennChem was that Cumulus technology is making a considerable, positive impact. “Digital transformation” is a phrase that is commonly thrown around; but, this visit was a true highlight of my career as it allowed me to see first-hand how the technology we are developing helps workers be safer and more productive every day.