Mastering modern work through the lens of an energy field engineer

Critical machines are part of our daily lives. Some are under our noses nearly every minute of the day, such as laptops or mobile phones, and…

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Phil Schwarz

July 11, 20235 minute read

A field engineer working on site at a utilities plant.

Critical machines are part of our daily lives. Some are under our noses nearly every minute of the day, such as laptops or mobile phones, and some are taken for granted, such as gasoline pumps or freezers in grocery stores. Others still go unseen in our daily lives, such as critical rotating machinery in a power generation facility, valves that control the flow of chemicals that we use every day, or a wind turbine.

Mark Barrenechea, OpenText CEO and CTO, states in his new book Versant: “Machines now generate one million times more information in one day than all humans on this planet do in an entire year.” This statement resonates with me as a former field engineer and field service manager in the energy sector and having worked with critical industrial machines throughout my career.

Field Engineers exist in all industries—not just the energy sector. Their sole purpose is to safely ensure that these critical machines never go down. Information is key to success in these jobs, but it is often unorganized and unstructured. According to the CIO of Equinor, “80% of employee time in the industry is spent looking through unstructured data in order to inform decisions to get work done.” When I saw this statement, it very much resonated with me; as a field engineer, I spent an incredible amount of time searching for information to ensure a successful and safe operation. 

Although this 80% metric describes the oil and gas industry, utilities, chemicals, metals and mining and other industries suffer the same challenge. What I often hear is that regardless of how much time is spent searching unstructured data, it’s too much time and creates too much risk. Here are three information management best practices that help the industrial process sector master modern work and keep critical machines and equipment running while spending less time searching.

Asset information management for capital projects and operations

Some of the most common forms of unstructured information across asset-intensive companies are engineering drawings, P&IDs, operations manuals and other controlled content. These are tremendously important documents that are used throughout the lifecycle of an asset to troubleshoot and operate critical equipment. 

Many companies use outdated repositories to store these documents. One of many reasons why field engineers and other roles spend so much time searching for information is that the repositories they use were designed for exactly that—storing documents. Today, innovative technologies that understand how people work don’t just store this type of content. They are designed around business workspaces so that not only is there a single source of truth, but information flows across the enterprise for the right task for the right role at the right time.

According to Project, nearly 50% of all projects from 2012 to 2020 were delayed. Two out of the top five reasons for those delays were related to flaws in engineering drawings and associated work processes. Asset Information Management for Capital Projects and Operations is an industry solution that modernizes how engineering information securely flows across and outside an enterprise, reducing time spent searching through unstructured information. With asset information management best practices, engineering information flows easily so that new assets and machines are deployed on-time and are kept running optimally throughout the asset lifecycle. 

Are you working in the Energy sector?
Explore the Asset Information Management for Energy solution.

Remote access for field workers

An aspect of work that often gets overlooked in the industrial process sector is that field engineers, field technicians, plant operators and other workers are inherently mobile. They don’t work behind a desk. They are mobilizing to offshore platforms, scaling wind turbines, inspecting corrosion of pipelines and more. But they need access to information as seamlessly as if these roles were behind a desk.

Nearly 50% of the workforce in oil and gas and chemicals are tenured, with most retiring in the next 5 to7 years, and with them will go experience and insight. Compounding this challenge is the fact that the total number of university graduates for technical courses such as engineering has dropped by 15 to 21% from 2015 to 2019. With knowledge set to move out of the industry and fewer workers coming in, companies need to ensure they equip their employees with modern technologies to move information more efficiently and master modern work.

Remote Access for Field Workers from OpenText enables workers in a connected or disconnected environment to access the information they need to safely execute work. 

Mastering modern work inside the office

The performance of workers who turn wrenches and keep critical equipment running is directly and indirectly supported by several different business functions. Mastering modern work means not only enabling field and plant workers to access critical information, but also all departments that support and work with them.

There are several success stories across utilities, oil and gas, chemicals, metals and mining, and EPC where companies are employing information management best practices to greatly lessen the time spent searching through unstructured information. Examples include archiving key financial datastreamlining content governanceaccounts payable automationenhancing HR experiences for employees, and more.

"We have to manage the lifecycle of tens of thousands of controlled documents, including for safety-critical manufacturing processes and maintenance procedures. Having documentation centrally managed by OpenText gives us one single, reliable source of the truth as well as review and approval workflows through the entire lifecycle." - Rachael Sandel, Head of Integrated Planning and Architecture, Orica

Modernizing how information flows across the entire asset lifecycle, as well as supporting business functions, will empower humanity to deploy more critical infrastructure on-time and keep it running.

Learn more about how OpenText can help your organization master modern work.

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Phil Schwarz

Phil Schwarz is the Industry Strategist for Energy at OpenText. With two decades of energy industry experience, Phil has become a trusted SME, having supported operators, EPCs, service providers, and OEMs across the entire value chain. Phil is an engineer by education and has a MBA, M.S. in Economics, and a Graduate Certificate in Smart Oilfield Technologies. He resides in the Anchorage, Alaska area and loves to hike and enjoy the outdoors.

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