COVID-19 outbreak has adversely impacted every sector of the global economy. Energy sector in particular has been hit very hard. The International Energy Agency (IEA) said it expects global oil demand to drop by 7.9 million barrels per day (mbpd) compared with the previous year due to less travel, lockdown and slowdown in the industries.. In addition, the industry is facing difficulties in running the operation due to workforce shortages and health and safety guidelines. While businesses have moved to reorganize around the crisis, the companies need to use this as an opportunity for extensive digital adoption to minimize future disruption and ensure safety of the workforce. Automation in key areas will help companies manage operations and run critical functions.
Industry 4.0: Ushering in the era of the connected workforce
With the adoption of Industry 4.0 concepts of automation and data exchange across the energy & resources industry, enterprises are aiming to develop solutions that connect people, machines, and data to increase productivity and operational efficiency. Thus far, the focus has been on connecting assets, making sense of machine data, and executing analytics to predict asset reliability and increase production efficiency. The energy and resources industry is now realizing that connecting their most important asset, the field workforce with rest of the ecosystem is the key to maximizing their digital investments and business transformation initiatives. A connected ecosystem can equip industrial field workers with real-time, context-specific and actionable information to make better informed decisions while performing their job safely and efficiently.
A connected personnel would be able to seamlessly get in touch with enterprise systems that offer a suite of foundational services. The capabilities required to lay the foundation for a connected worker include:
- Enterprise system integration to enable a connected ecosystem for information exchange.
- Robust communication network to provide on-ground connectivity for optimal coverage in a cost-effective and sustainable manner.
- Smart devices to map appropriate hand-held or head-mounted devices depending on the use-case requirements and expertise in developing custom applications on the chosen device using pre-built device specific libraries.
- Cloud and IoT infrastructure to utilize the device data while providing economies of scale.
- Analytics and Insights to harness the power of data to identify trends and proactively recommend actionable insights.
COVID-19 and Energy Sector: Way forward
An efficiently connected personnel would be key to ensuring a safer environment for the entire field workforce, while simultaneously enhancing operational efficiencies. This would also ensure proactive monitoring of field operations using the system and notifying the staff in case of a problem, as opposed to reactive management and break-fixing.
The key business benefits are further amplified in the challenging circumstances confronting businesses in the post-pandemic era.
Enhanced worker health and safety: Offers near real time and contextual information about the working environment of industrial workers, while remotely monitoring them and taking pre-emptive steps to avoid any safety issues. This is especially important in a health emergency situation such as the COVID-19 pandemic. As the workers in essential support services of energy production firms work tirelessly to keep operations going, it is critical to keep track of their health and associated safety parameters through continuous monitoring.
Integrated field operations: Extends the connected enterprise ecosystem by enabling seamless transfer of information and data for contextual, on-time and accurate decision making. This reduces the time and complexities for the staff in field operations, enables remote collaboration with teammates, and fast-tracks and simplifies reporting. All of these elements are fundamental to adopting and implementing strategic initiatives that enable efficient business operations in a crisis situation.
- Improved compliance: By maintaining an audit trail of all the data collected as part of digitized field operations, a connected personnel ensures process compliance and supports regulatory reporting.
- Superior productivity: It eliminates paper-based processes by automating tasks such as maintenance and inspection to improve consistency, reduce risk of errors, and enhance productivity.
- Insight-driven operations: Leverages advanced analytical models to harness data-driven trends and insights to enable proactive measures in field operations.
- Increased operational efficiency: Developed using principles of design thinking and wearable devices helps simplify operations while offering on-field guidance and real-time information for better user experience.
Succeeding in the altered business environment
As energy and resources firms strive to keep their assets on-line and ensure safe, reliable supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling remote monitoring capabilities has emerged as a critical imperative. A well connected workforce is a step in that direction as it can help protect people and the business at the same time. Its two-fold advantage works by a) safeguarding the field workforce through movement tracking, end-to-end visibility, and pre-emptive safety precautions, and b) reducing staff time on the field through automation and remote collaboration. This is not only the need of the hour but would also be a major driver of success in the post-pandemic world.