As engineers, we are trained to succeed—the right process design, the right application strategy, and the right diagnostic test. Of necessity, Process Safety broadly focuses on failure—what happens when things don’t go as expected, and what should be done to prevent or mitigate possible negative outcomes. As such, there is a natural tension between Process Safety and other aspects of Process Engineering.
There is one area where these two seemingly mutually-exclusive concepts align—the innovation and development process. Researchers are trying to innovate and find new products, new pathways to existing products, or simply better ways of making products. However, when exiting the laboratory to either the pilot plant or a production unit, rarely is the question asked, “What happens if we succeed?” What are the consequences, from raw materials procurement, through the production process, and waste disposal issues, will we be facing if our innovations succeed as we had first envisioned them?
This paper explores the concept of a “Success Modes and Effects Analysis” to be used to identify and address the consequences of success in the innovation process, and how application of such a tool can both direct and accelerate the introduction of new and different processes into the marketplace.