Due to the current price of oil, upstream operators are looking for new ways to accomplish more with less – and automated workflows are an effective means to do it.
Automation helps oil and gas back office teams minimize errors and save time on important tasks in six important ways:
1: Documentation of Process
Most companies don't have written workflows. Instead, key process flows are kept in people's heads. As a result, it's difficult for new people to learn processes, you can't ensure consistency in following the processes, and it's hard for other departments to understand how to interact with your team. We've seen customers capture a significant value through the step of categorically defining a process, along with its exceptions, and solve the breakdowns and bottlenecks in the process proactively rather than retroactively.
2: Greater Visibility into Process
If a process involves more than one person – which is the case for most workflows – it's difficult for people to see if the process is progressing. For example, if an ownership change requires approval from land and accounting, how can you see if it has been approved, has not been started, or is still in process? By seeing the status of all ownership changes you speed up processes and eliminate those in limbo that never get finished.
3: Electronic Approvals
Many processes move forward by someone walking from desk to desk gathering signatures. With automated workflow this can be managed through remote electronic approvals. From invoice reviews to AFE budget approvals, workflow can manage all of these processes in a quick and efficient manner, making the defined process available whether people are at their desks, in the field, or in transit.
Oil and gas processing is all about control and audit, and workflow can make this an efficient and easy process. The approvals are saved as a system of record so everyone can see who approved and when, plus documents can be attached to the workflow and integrated to any content management system. One of our customers indicated they will save more than 200 hours every year that were previously needed to pull together information for an audit.
5: Automation of Manual Processes
Consider the example of a new well. Once it is set up in workflow, it's automatically mirrored in accounting, production, and land systems as well. There's no longer a need to transcribe from emails or printed documents. Another example is kicking off a process once the detail has been approved, such as running revenue approval reports from workflow, approving in workflow, and then automatically initiating the distribution process. This kind of set up truly changes how you interact with your software applications.
6: Document Management
There are literally thousands of documents created in upstream oil and gas operations, from lease agreements and partner contracts to run tickets, purchaser statements, and transaction reports. Oftentimes these are printed to be approved, only to be scanned and stored. For example, some companies print their revenue distribution so that it can be signed off by a supervisor, only to have the documents scanned into a content management system. This can be eliminated with a workflow tool as the documents can be attached to the workflow, approved, and stored on a file server or in a content management system.
While automation offers many potential benefits across the oil and gas value chain, these six seem the most immediate and transparent for the back office. Given our industry's substantial increases in upstream capital investment, optimizing efficiency wherever we can is essential.
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