It’s late afternoon on Friday in the heat of summer.
A driver pulls out of a processing facility five hours northeast of Edmonton with a stack of paperwork in the cab of his truck. On the dash is a collection of handwritten timesheets, invoices, a newly signed contract, maintenance requests, and a to-do list for the month that follows.
The radio is on, and Pink Floyd blasts on K-97 as the driver hits highway speed with his windows down to stay cool.
Then it happens.
A gust of wind picks up the corner edge of the stack of papers and sucks the mission-critical paperwork out the window. The timesheets are gone. The invoices soak up dirt in roadside puddles. The new contract is torn up by nesting birds, and the to-do list is run over by a big rig following behind.
And it gets worse.
There are no digital records of anything, and the team’s memory is now all there is to go on for the things to do and maintenance requests.
This story is fictional, except it’s not. We’ve heard countless stories of energy workers out in the field who manage their workflow with a pen and paper.
“These days, you can’t scale a business, make strategic decisions, manage costs or drive profitability without access to digital records,” says Vince O’Gorman, CEO of Vog App Developers.
“That’s why digital record keeping is going to be a hallmark of companies that succeed in the future, particularly when high commodity prices and government subsidies aren’t around to hide inefficiencies and underwrite pointless rework.”
While it might seem daunting to outfit field workers with new technology to manage records and workflow, it’s a lot easier to manage than paperwork blowing out of a truck window.
All the reasons why you need to adopt digital record keeping
Here’s why you want to replace manual record keeping with digital apps or software:
- More data and better data: Digitization helps energy companies access large amounts of instant and accurate data that can be shared at the touch of a button. This leads to continuous process improvement and efficiency gains.
- Faster and deeper data analysis: Mobile apps or software help eliminate delayed (or non-existent) access to critical data by providing real-time access. They also help reduce data errors. The result? Field leaders — and executives — can make better decisions about their business, take corrective actions, and optimize equipment maintenance.
- Increased worker efficiency: Digital solutions help companies coordinate teams and improve communication and collaboration. Employees can use mobile apps to clock in and out and track their tasks and time, while supervisors can track the progress of staff with the apps. Ultimately, digitizing all this data collection automates processes and saves significant time for workers and managers alike.
- Improved safety: Energy companies rightly take employee safety quite seriously. Apps help verify who is on site, and who is gone for the day. And augmenting humans with technology creates a connected worker who can do more, and in a safe manner.
Some frontline workers may balk at the idea of doing things differently — as many field workers are not fans of change — but the risk of not digitizing is too high in today’s world.
“With the accelerating pace of energy transition, pressure from investors, and increasingly competitive energy markets, nostalgia for the way things have always been done is no longer a palatable business strategy,” says O’Gorman.
Get over adoption challenges and you’ll never want to return to the manual days of the past
One reason many in the energy industry haven’t realized the promise of digitized field operations is because some on-the-ground workers are reluctant to embrace new processes or tech. It’s a challenge head offices have faced for a long time.
It’s also a challenge Vog has successfully addressed for years.
For instance, we partnered with Arc Resources to develop a software system designed to streamline the accessibility of information, in order to support safety awareness.
We custom built a software system that included both a mobile interface and a web-based portal, enabling internal and external stakeholders to become more efficient in areas such as communications, accountability, training, risk management, operational standards, reporting, follow up, and document control.
The solution and outcome was simple: digitization drives efficiency.
And there will be no room for inefficient companies in the future.
“This is a great time for energy companies to invest in the technology that will help them scale and sustain regardless of commodity prices or government subsidies,” says O’Gorman.
Because after all, a digital record can’t simply blow out of a truck window.