A great number of companies rely on automation tools, such as robotic process automation (RPA), to take time-consuming tasks out of their employees’ hands, and the oil and gas industry is no different. With the current state of flux, it is no wonder that oil companies are now exploring software technologies as a means to support their employees. Most assets are having to operate at a reduced level due to redundancies and other cost-cutting initiatives, which often puts more pressure on employees to maintain safety and efficiency levels in the workplace.
While there are many tangible benefits to process automation for oil companies, this method can often lead to the emergence of silos. This happens when a team uses automation software to automate its own unique processes without thinking about how their solution could benefit the organisation’s other departments. Instead, high-quality software should be able to use automation to break down silos and encourage collaboration between departments, but this means automating more than just specific departmental processes. Automation should give businesses the ability to look at workflow interdependencies throughout the wider organisation. Thankfully, the pitfalls with automation can be conquered, but only if businesses know where to begin.
In order to make sure your chosen automation strategy is suitable for your company, we recommend following these steps:
1. Define scope and objectives
Before purchasing or developing an in-house solution, it is imperative that you define what you want your software to do. Instead of reviewing what software is on the market, implementing it and then trying to amend its shortcomings retrospectively, it’s a better idea for your organisation to take a step back, look at the bigger picture of what you want to achieve to align with your overall business objectives and then start to work towards a solution. This will allow you to select not only the right product but also a good technology partner that is willing to work with you towards achieving your goal.
2. Establish a core team
Your core team should consist of several members of staff that deal exclusively with automation-related topics. This could include internal employees or a third-party software company with previous experience in the field. Regardless of who is in your team, they will be responsible for monitoring compliance with the company’s unique standards and automation processes, initiating training courses, coordinating providers and introducing best practices.
The automation task force should exchange ideas with your business and IT management teams to find answers to the following questions:
– Which areas of the company are lacking in productivity and innovation?
– Are some sectors consistently delivering worse results than others due to information silos or inflexible applications?
– Which processes cannot be scaled effectively without hiring more staff?
3. Map processes and workflows
Map the processes and workflows for the defined scope with a view to achieving your business objectives. This can be done by internal teams with experience of your current systems and processes or by third-party experts who already have experience in this area.
The key to making automation work effectively is not just to implement software that replicates certain processes and calculations. There is software on the market that already does this, but this is only a small part of the picture when it comes to automating the full lifecycle.
The key to building an automated end-to-end software that can complete workflows in half the time is to make sure to map out the following:
– Integrity lifecycle management
When it comes to software automation, the integrity lifecycle process has to be looked at in its lowest level of detail to intimately understand the logic in the flow of data from one data field to the next. Also, the logic code must be understood to know what happens to the results of certain calculations and outputs when they are put through various parameters. This is usually interpreted through compliance with industry standards or by company-specific guidelines.
– Integrity workflow
Integrity workflow is triggered based on events such as calculation updates, database modifications and activity status updates. Mapping out your integrity workflow will ensure that not only the physical process is automated, but also the supporting workflow. This is what ensures you have an organisation integrated and working in harmony with the integrity department, removing silos as opposed to creating new ones. This will also give an organisation real-time insights into their operations, where it is much quicker to identify and rectify any operational deficiencies before it’s too late.
– Software interfaces
Another key factor to provide that extra level of automation is to identify points of interface with other external software (such as CMMS) and develop specific APIs to ensure that data is automatically transferred between the two pieces of software. This will remove many potential issues such as duplication, manual errors and wasted time from someone physically inputting data from systems A to B.
This is what is going to deliver operational efficiency and free employees’ time up from being caught up in mundane tasks so that they can focus more clearly on critical business tasks.
4. Build on cloud-based technology
Naturally, the next step in automating your integrity process is to select a software technology stack that is capable of facilitating the complex data flows and calculations. The best technology to allow this is cloud-based, which has many benefits besides being able to provide the overarching data platform that will make the automation possible whilst bringing the overall IT costs down. It is still possible to use existing integrity software which can be integrated into the cloud platform; however, automation capabilities may be reduced due to the complexities associated with transferring data from one system to the next.
5) Get employees on board using examples of success
No matter how good your software technology is, the integrity process will always need people. To make sure the process is upheld and achieves maximum value, it is imperative that the organisation’s employees embrace and continually improve the process. Software automation is supposed to support employees as a ‘digital colleague’, but this isn’t always the case. Employees may start to wonder if they’ll end up being replaced by the software and instinctively fear change.
These concerns can quickly be eradicated by showing your employees clear examples of how the software will benefit their day-to-day work tasks, such as educating them about how automation allows better data accuracy while cutting costs and reducing processing times. This will ultimately make their lives easier and free them up from any laborious tasks.