Why We Do It

DCU Fire – Matt Wallis, Skagit Valley Herald – 11/25/1998

Why do we do it?

What makes us arrive at the office day after day at 6 am and often on weekends to create the computer solutions that manage the process information and secure the critical documents of our industrial clients? Is it our love of computer programming? Is it our strong relationships with our clients? Is it our small and agile team approach to solving problems?

While all of these reasons are true, we have an unstoppable passion for information; correct information, easy to access information, immediate information, information that can save you money and save your life. This is your information we’re working with.

It all started with an early winter storm, the bad kind that funnels up through Puget Sound with gusting winds and heavy rains. Shortly after midnight on a Tuesday, November 24th 1998, this storm caused a massive power outage at a local refinery causing the boilerhouse to lose power and all utilities. The refinery shut down until power was restored again at 2am. All that next morning the refinery slowly started to come back to life as utilities were restored and process units prepared for a refinery startup. But there was a problem. At the end of the line was a half-filled coke drum holding 1100 barrels of heavy sludge at 860 degrees Fahrenheit. Like the potato in an exhaust pipe, it was blocking the flow of oil through the refinery and had to be cooled down, opened and emptied. But nobody involved in the decision making process quite knew how. While it remained unopened for 35 hours, different approaches were tried to cool its contents. Finally, when the temperatures of its contents appeared to be safely low enough, it was agreed to open the vessel for a cleanout. At 1:15 in the afternoon six workers were killed when they unbolted the bottom head of the vessel. A cloud of superheated vapor escaped from the open flange, ignited and exploded.

This really happened, and it happened to real people. We knew these people; personally. We’d worked alongside each of them at the refinery. We’re convinced that they’d all still be working there today if they’d had immediate access to the right process information and the right documents at the right time to make the right decisions. This incident became the genesis of AIS Software. The company was started specifically to create software solutions for industrial process facilities to improve the flow and the integrity of critical information to all field workers whose livelihoods, and ultimately whose lives, depended on it.

Our #1 core belief has been and remains always: “We believe in giving every person working in industry complete and easy access to accurate, reliable, and timely information for making decisions that affect the safety of their lives and the lives of other people.”

And that’s why we come to work every day.