Automation, Business Intelligence Vital to O&G Innovation & Skills Gap Challenges

As jobless numbers decrease and companies within nearly every industry tout the ability to hire new talent, the oil and gas industry is still feeling the pains of not being able to fill vital industry positions.

Recent research by Goldman Sachs indicates the industry needs to hire tens of thousands of employees within the next few years in order to keep up with demand and industry growth.

As those performing vital roles become retiring age or leave the industry for new opportunities, irreplaceable expertise leaves with them. And most of the time, it is before critical institutional knowledge, coupled with unparalleled experience can be shared with the rising workforce.

HR departments are working diligently to put more steam behind strong college recruitment plans for graduates receiving STEM-related degrees, but oil and gas IT is also exploring its options, in an attempt to find technologies that can perform critical tasks with little to no human interactions.

Automation is making its mark across nearly every industry — sparking widespread panic in the workforce over job loss. But in instances where the needed expertise can’t seem to be found, technology is constantly being developed and perfected to perform these necessary tasks.

For instance, currently, O&G is producing way more data — more than five zettabytes on average — that needs to be stored and accessed. This astronomical amount of data is painstakingly sifted through in search of important operational information that has direct impact on business operations. But in these situations, when the data provided is en masse, it is easy to overlook critical issues buried deep in the data.

Advanced business intelligence, coupled with smart automation and analytics can process, parse and interpret this data in record time, with little to no errors. This data can then be passed on to necessary stakeholders for real-time business decisions, adding a level of efficiency that is somewhat lacking when the entire process is managed by employees lost in mounds and mounds of data.

Business intelligence, automation, and other digital advancements finally allow the industry to prioritize its hiring needs and close the skills and knowledge gap the retiring oil field workforce has generated. These automated operations that can now support and perform tasks critical through the entire process lifecycle and finally address the inevitable demographic shifts that occur when a new generation becomes employable.

Automated technology is also proving to have a profound effect within safety and regulatory compliance. Listed as one of the top three concerns on the minds of O&G CEOs, the industry has been plagued in years passed by regulations — only to comply and then have the regulation shift. This has cost the industry a significant amount of pain as fines literally threaten the overall operation and production abilities of specific oil and gas operations. Even though we are currently seeing regulatory relief, the industry can’t let down its guard when it comes to staying on top of compliance and safety practices.

Automated error systems, activated immediately when a potential problem presents itself are enabling organizations to get in front of safety situations and possible regulation violations that could otherwise trigger compounding fines and/ or dangerous work conditions. These error alerts offer pinpoint precision as to their location and cause and allow those tasked with safety and regulatory oversight to get ahead of it before damage ensues.

Chatbots and other forms of automated messaging tools, built on top of an organization’s internal or mobile communications systems (including email and messaging apps) are also making it easier to keep track of systems remotely —reducing the need to have 24/7 observation of certain operations. These implementations have little to no ramp-up time as their adoption is built into technologies already heavily utilized by organization employees – meaning, once implemented they are nearly already at 100 percent adoption.

The industry is also seeing a huge push in mobile application use. As within every other industry, mobile is changing the way businesses think about their processes and their internal communications. With smart dashboards, available at the swipe of a screen and vital data appearing on command, split-second, precise decisions, and adjustments can be made remotely or sent immediately to necessary personnel. Mobile is also playing a vital role in asset moves via the tracking of equipment and its installation as it pertains to the setup or removal of drilling sites or even office location moves.

But all of this costs money, right? Automation, advanced business intelligence, advanced alerting systems and mobile technology not only take an IT division that is forward thinking and willing to take a chance on new and developing technology, it requires a capital investment some organizations are prone to shy away from. For instance, in 2017, it was reported that a little over 2 percent of overall O&G industry profit was invested back into advanced technology. Of that 2 percent, 39 percent of CTOs in the industry reported they had increased their innovative technology budgets. Spends this small, coupled with low corporate buy-in do nothing to necessarily advance the much-needed updates the industry needs to spawn growth — it simply provides patchwork fixes to already outdated systems and processes.

As technology continues to play a larger role in operations and the necessity for advancement becomes more directly tied to profits and growth, it is logical the industry will begin to understand that the upfront investment in automation, business intelligence, and mobile technology may be costly, but will provide long-term gains that strategically position forward-thinking O&G companies to dominate globally.

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