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  • Oil & Gas   |  Barcoding   |  Digital Transformation   |  Inventory Management
  • How Mobile Technology is Reshaping the Future of Oil and Gas

    Written by Robert Brice
    Thu, Feb 20, 2020

    Overview

    • Oil and gas supply chain is facing stressors from political and economic uncertainties, tightening regulations and price volatility.
    • Many oil and gas companies are turning to technologies like mobile barcoding and data collection to offset pressures.
    • Off-network mobility solutions supply ERP system data and data collection capabilities to remote and off-network locations.

    Mobile inventory for the oil and gas industry can provide crucial oversight for plant maintenance.
    Mobile inventory for the oil and gas industry can provide crucial oversight for plant maintenance.

    The global landscape for the oil and gas industry has altered dramatically over the past few years. With a worldwide shift away from fossil fuels to more sustainable options, the industry’s market value has plummeted by 60% in just over a decade.

    Political uncertainties, tightening regulations and price volatility have further stressed the supply chain.

    As people’s energy habits continue to change worldwide, oil and gas companies are looking for ways to offset market pressures and eliminate unnecessary expenses. Many industry leaders are finding success in mobile technology.

    According to recent surveys, 57% of oil and gas companies are now making mobility a top priority.

    Inefficient Manual Inventory Processes in Oil and Gas

    Traditionally, the industry is slow to adapt to the changing times. Technology is no exception. Many oil and gas companies continue to rely on outdated manual inventory processes.

    Either this is the way they’ve always done it, they don’t have budget to adopt new technologies, or they simply don’t realize how inefficient and costly their manual processes are.

    This historic dependence, however, costs the industry an average of $100-billion in lost revenue, $38-million in unplanned downtime and $100,000 in lost and under-utilized assets each year.

    Maintaining inventory accurately and with real-time visibility is challenging. You may have many types of inventory spread across oil rigs, in the field and in vast, outdoor warehouses.

    With manual processes, such as paper tickets and keyed data entry, you can expect numerous inefficiencies:

    • Lack of visibility into complex operations
    • Inaccurate or misinterpreted data
    • Outdated information (not timely)
    • Lost material hidden from oversight
    • Time-consuming to manage or fix
    • Negative maintenance impact
    • Inability to satisfy regulatory compliance

    Solving these challenges requires automation technology.

    Implementing modern inventory management software that includes enterprise mobility and barcoding data collection can help mitigate these losses, driving down operating costs while improving efficiency, productivity and output.

    Case in Point: Sucker Rod Distributor Gains Inventory Accuracy

    A global sucker rod distributer mobilized inventory for increased productivity.
    A global sucker rod distributor mobilized inventory for increased productivity.

    A distributor of sucker rods and sucker rod couplings for the oil and gas industry was having difficulty with accurate inventory counts. The inventory stock level in their ERP system did not match the actual inventory counts in their yard. The company never had a clear picture of their inventory, which resulted in lost or misplaced sucker rods.

    Their inability to accurately track bin location also caused them to order more parts than were needed, which eroded profit margins and stressed an already tight budget. The company’s yard warehouse was spread out and dirty which made it even harder to find inventory quickly and ship out to waiting customers.

    To solve these challenges, the company decided to implement a mobile data collection solution. Using ruggedized mobile devices suited for the yard environment, workers collect data and transact against the ERP in real time and at their point of work. Now, they capture every movement of their inventory through barcodes – in, out and through the yard. Their weekly cycle counts are completed with near perfect accuracy, reducing repetitive, time wasting counts and eliminating the previous overstock of parts.

    ERP-integrated mobile barcoding technology combines enterprise mobility for the supply chain and a barcoding system that automates manual processes using automated data collection. Barcodes can be generated and printed at an employee’s point-of-work using ruggedized mobile devices, such as tablets and handheld computers, and placed on inventory. When scanned, this automatically collects data and transacts against the ERP in real time with simple, validated steps.

    Enhancing MRO and Plant Maintenance in Oil and Gas

    Modern supply chain automation technology gives field workers the tools they need to maintain equipment in remote areas.
    Modern supply chain automation technology gives field workers the tools they need to maintain equipment in remote areas.

    Effective inventory management for MRO and plant maintenance remains problematic for many oil and gas companies as well.

    Maintenance technicians travel to remote sites, like an oil pipeline, only to find that the spare part they need to repair the equipment is misplaced or out of stock. This delays maintenance work, leading to costly downtime and risks human safety.

    To help minimize these issues, oil and gas companies have historically housed large spare parts warehouses. Without accurate visibility into spare part inventory, however, spare parts are often over ordered, under used or even lost in a disorganized warehouse. The longer the part sits, the more its value depreciates, driving up overhead costs.

    Mobile barcoding solutions enable companies to manage spare parts warehouses with the same level of control, oversight and granularity as a warehouse that distributes consumer inventory. Mobile barcoding software optimizes movements for inventory and equipment across multiple facility types and in the field, complementing enterprise asset management (EAM) and plant maintenance (PM) as well.

    See Also: Mobilizing Field Operations in the Oil and Gas Industry »

    Managing Materials in Remote and Unconnected Areas

    Oil and gas companies need to oversee operations in remote locations like on an offshore oil rig, in the field or during inventory transfers between locations. Workers still need to access centralized business systems like the ERP, but limited network access and dropped connections make this difficult to achieve. Often, operations also have areas in the warehouse, like the yard, where network connections just don’t have consistent or any signal.

    Off-network mobility solutions like offline inventory, high availability inventory and batch mode can integrate with mobile barcoding technology to empower offsite employees with ERP system data and data collection capabilities no matter their environment.

    Offline inventory replicates all transactions onto a mobile device so workers can continue to collect data during connection drops or in areas with a weak connection.

    High availability inventory enhances even the most remote locations by replicating all transactions onto an internal server. When a network connection is established or during timed updates, all transactions are relayed back to the offsite central server for accurate inventory counts and business data.

    Read More: Enhance Operational Effectiveness with Off-network Data Collection Technology »

    Modernizing Inventory Management

    While the oil and gas industry remain relevant, today’s market volatility and stressed supply chains mean companies must modernize their operations when and where they can.

    Continuing to rely on inefficient manual inventory systems and data entry will only magnify these outside challenges and hinder future operational growth.

    By investing in mobile barcoding and supply chain automation technology, companies can find the efficiency and productivity they need to not only survive the industry’s shifting landscape, but to remain competitive for years to come.

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