Oil has long ago become a synonym of wealth and excess profit. And it is not said in vain that 'Oil is ancient wealth in the ground.'
However, it would be a lie to say that it is only the ground that makes this resource as valuable. No doubt, it is human and technology that has made it sparkle much brighter.
In this article we will take a closer look at the oil and gas sector from a technology perspective, address the challenges it is facing, and show automated solutions helping overcome these challenges and provide you with illustrative examples of efficient automation in the sector.
Identifying the barriers: challenges of automation in oil and gas
In spite of the technological advances, especially when it comes to automated equipment and tools in the oil fields and oil refineries, the energy sector is still a little anxious about implementing the leading-edge solutions for digital automation. To be more precise, RPA.
What is RPA?
RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation. It is a software solution that imitates human repetitive, mundane tasks with the use of programmed bots.
According to Gartner's recent research, implementing Robotic Process Automation can reduce an enterprise's operational costs by a third.
Then why is RPA still out of sight for average oil and gas companies? Mostly it is due to some challenges of RPA that affect decision-making on implementation. The good news is that these challenges can and should be addressed.
We will show you how below.
Challenge 1: Legacy systems
Most oil and gas companies' operations are based on legacy systems and, for some reason, are mistakenly assured that RPA would hardly be compatible with their current infrustructure.
We are here to demystify this theory. Robotic Process Automation principal distinction from traditional automation is that it works on the surface of the existing systems and applications. It does not require any modifications in the architecture and can be deployed with almost no coding skills.
Challenge 2: Security concerns
One of the hot-debated topics with regards to RPA implementation is security concerns. Most of the top managers are afraid of security breaches in data processing, privacy, and vulnerabilities.
No panic. RPA technology is based on the principles of data security. It is achieved through such tools as multi-tenancy, privileged access, and credentials vault.
Challenge 3: Lack of expertise and resources
When it comes to implementing RPA for back-office functions in the oil and gas sector, it typically lacks technicians specializing in RPA or RPA-related fields for back-office functions' automation.
And here is when a common practice of having a broad network of associates and partners in oil and gas may come in handy. Just use your communication skills to pass the end-to-end automation process to an RPA vendor with expertise.
And to give more evidence that RPA is a good match for the energy sector here are just some bullet points outlining the benefits of the tool you cannot ignore:
- Enhanced accuracy: bots execute tasks with a minimum error rate
- Improved customer service: accelerated processes guarantee higher efficiency and satisfaction both for customers and employees
- Time consumption: bots reduce operation time from hours to minutes
- Cost-saving: reduced time gives more profit and opportunities for scaling
Areas of automation in oil and gas
So what can actually be automated with the use of RPA bots?
Here is a wide range of tasks in Oil and Gas where bots can literally become your best friends.
Automation of field operations
RPA assists in check and alerts management in the field operations. It allows stakeholders and top managers to eliminate repetitive field operations management and be involved only in processes requiring human decision making.
Logistics and shipment management
Bots can be involved in shipment processes, including communication with responsible forwarders and shipment data updates in the system. Optical Character Recognition tools used in RPA allows the bot to read standardized images and scanned documents and make special marks related to the shipment details.
Automation of compliance regulations:
The oil and gas sector is strictly regulated, and these regulations are rule-based. Bots can perfectly fit such processes as they can monitor all the aspects of gas pipelines related regulations, from operations compliance to exception alerts.
Accounting and Finance tasks in Joint Ventures
RPA bots automate repetitive manual tasks associated with joint ventures. Such tasks include a massive amount of data input and output, improving accuracy and impacting significantly cycle times.
Research, analytics, and reporting
Programmed bots help in multiple source-related data gathering and compilations for analytics and planning purposes. It is also a great communication tool within setting up partnerships with other oil and gas companies within production and exploration projects.
Apart from the Oil and Gas specific areas, many general back-office repetitive tasks within various departments should not be neglected as well, i.e.:
Finance and Accounting Department
- Invoice reconciliation
- Field invoicing
- Payroll management
- Employees onboarding
- Well production analysis
- Operational reporting
Oil and Gas industry automation: use cases
Use Case 1: Joint Ventures production accounting
The accounting department spends several hours daily on joint venture production accounting. The areas of accounting include tax computations, gas balancing, revenue distribution, bookings, and receivables.
Programmed bots automate the processing of accounting tasks taking the burden of highly repetitive activities.
- Enhanced employee morale due to the reduced amount of mundane and stressful data processing tasks
- Up to 4 FTE hours saved for more value-added tasks
Use Case 2: Automated well construction check and reporting
The team working at a well construction project spends hours daily to receive and manually process various reports from supervisors, drilling specialists, and well operators. The routine also includes processing data from external geology sources to make proper project forecasting, calculations, and planning.
The programmed bots automate data processing, analysis, and reporting. They gather data from multiple sources and create reports, including the project's defined stages, KPIs, and time calculations.
Enhanced accuracy of data processing and planning
Multiple hours saved for the team
Use Case 3: Back-office tasks: Employee onboarding
An HR team member spends hours weekly on an employee onboarding, handling with his/her details processing - from data validation to its input and output comprising multiple systems.
A programmed bot takes the burden of the data processing routine on all stages, beginning with at the initial stage of CV reviews and sorting and ending with all the employee data processing steps described above.
- HR specialist time is freed up for better decision making
- The more accurate onboarding process
Bots in action: transforming the future of oil and gas
We have considered the key challenges and opportunities of RPA for oil and gas companies.
To summarise, Robotic Process Automation has much to offer to the energy sector due to its flexibility and scalability. In today's digital world, when being adaptive to the changing realities is becoming the main competitive advantage, embracing RPA seems one of the most attractive opportunities in order to be on the cutting edge of technology. It is especially relevant for oil and gas enterprises.
Want more proof? Book a demo and start your automation journey with ElectroNeek, the top 10 RPA vendor, and the easiest-to-use platform!