Like it or not, hydrocarbon fuels are not going away anytime soon. However, technological innovations in the Oil & Gas industry have the potential to impact each of us in a very positive way. If technology helps make oil and gas easier, safer, cleaner, and cheaper to extract and prepare for market, energy prices and our quality of life could greatly improve. That presents a huge opportunity for technology companies to make a difference. Major disruption in the way things are done is already here. Customized software is changing how things are done in many areas of the oil & gas industry.
We don’t hear a lot about technology’s impact on companies such as petroleum, natural gas, and mining companies. What we usually hear about is the disruption that software is creating in reinventing retail, entertainment, telecommunications, and healthcare, and how they are improving our quality of life. One oilfield construction company, however, has developed a custom software package that made oilfield construction much simpler, efficient, and cost-effective.
The Oilfield Challenge
An end-to-end software solution was needed by an oilfield construction operation to streamline the paper-intensive purchase order, fulfillment, and billing systems. From time and fleet management to purchase order and invoicing, this application needed to be a multi-tenant system that could be used by the dozens of users involved daily in a typical construction project. Project managers often spend a long day in the field, and then have to wrap up by processing paperwork to authorize payment for completed tasks, order supplies for upcoming activities, and schedule pick up and delivery of materials.
Project management is a very complicated process. The oil and gas industry comprises hundreds of professionals, consultants, contractors, vendors, suppliers, and others working on a site, all of whom have their work progress slowed by the paper-based process of authorizing and delivering written purchase orders, delivery tickets, and time sheets and then waiting for fulfillment. Projects tend to move at a day-at-a-time pace because of the daily paperwork flow requirements. The challenge was to speed up the flow, and reduce the number of hours project managers were required to spend in the office at the end of the work day.
A key pain point in the construction process involved the dispatchers, who field calls from project supervisors, managers, and vendors, and making arrangements to have needed supplies and materials delivered to the correct location at the correct time, and, in the correct amount. Finding and gathering information regarding multiple simultaneous jobs, and determining the scheduling and workload of construction equipment is a time-consuming and tedious process. These individuals are the nerve center for the construction activities, and tools to make them more efficient are a high priority need.
Considering the different needs of users in different contexts: including field operators using mobile devices, and desk-bound dispatchers at large high-resolution monitors; advanced techniques would be necessary to deliver the content and tools from the same web application in a usable, functional, and visually pleasing manner regardless of the client device or the user’s geographical location.
Our client perceived that the process could be drastically streamlined by converting the process to a rugged mobile app combined with a sophisticated dispatch web application. Purchase orders could be placed and payment authorizations posted from the digital oilfield, instead of having to wait until the end of the work day. CabForward℠ was engaged to develop the first Minimum Viable Product that demonstrated the efficiency of the solution, and then proceeded to enhance the application as it was being tested in the field and back-office. While it improved the process flow on the job, it also enabled faster response times for supply chain management and inventory, auditing, and instant access to status of each component of a project. Using a Ruby on Rails tablet-based client dashboard, project managers have real time field access to every facet of a project.
Streamlining of the supply chain management system made it much easier to order, track and fulfill needs from the field, gave professionals more productive time by enabling many functions to be performed digitally, and made overall work flow much more efficient. The system allows project managers to do estimating and auditing much more efficiently, reducing costs of delivering the project and reducing the time required to submit invoices to clients. The basic concept is a web-based visualization platform from which dispatchers and project managers can manage, measure, and track all of the data coming from all over the oilfield.
The digital oilfield represents a big opportunity for companies. And, as we continue to roll out new features for this digital oilfield construction application in future sprints, it will evolve in capabilities, and we believe, become a huge factor in disrupting how the oilfield is traditionally operated. That will benefit each of us.