Automating geoscience processes enables E&P companies to improve their operations and reduce their costs and allows geoscientists to focus on value-adding projects rather than spending time on repetitive tasks.
A Short Introduction to Process Automation
Process automation is an overarching technology term, referring to the automation of processes through the use of computers and computer software. In other words, it is the use of digital technology to execute a task, a workflow, or a function to automate parts of or entire business processes.
Process automation can take on various forms, depending on what processes are automated and what technology is used to automate the processes. Each of these forms has its designated buzzword and acronym, such as Business Process Automation (BPA), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and Intelligent Automation (IA).
Business Process Automation (BPA) is often used to describe the use of digital technology to automate processes and functions as an umbrella term for the use of technology to automate business processes. As such, BPA can be described as the technology-enabled automation of one or more business processes within an organization. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent Automation (IA) are often described as two specific types of BPA, with separate functions.
RPA is an emerging field within BPA that relies on so-called “digital employees” or robots that perform tedious, repetitive, and rules-based tasks. RPA is suitable for pre-defined processes where process instructions are clearly laid out.
While RPA is a form of simple automation, IA takes a more advanced approach to automation. As such, IA is often referred to as smart automation. IA incorporates Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) capabilities to automate complex processes with more non-routine tasks. IA, then, requires thoughtful consideration.
Business Process Automation (BPA) Increases Geoscience Efficiency
The technology-enabled automation of business processes, or BPA, is increasingly gaining a foothold within the oil and gas industry due to its cost reduction and efficiency opportunities. A report from the global quality assurance and risk management company DNV GL, for instance, suggests that automation will be one of the key drivers of oil and gas technology development in the coming years. Furthermore, Rystad Energy estimates that as much as $100 billion can be eliminated from E&P upstream budgets through automation and digitalization initiatives in the 2020s.
BPA promises to make oil and gas organizations more agile and more efficient. E&P companies, specifically, can leverage BPA to improve their operations, reduce their costs, and increase their overall service quality as more and more processes will become standardized. Geoscientists, in particular, will benefit from the ability to eliminate tedious, repetitive, and, perhaps, “boring” tasks.
A Short Guide to Implementing Business Process Automation (BPA)
Several processes within the E&P industry can be automated. The resource extraction industries can apply technologies to as much as automate 63 percent of their processes. To create a repository of processes to be automated and to get started with technology-enabled automation of business processes, the following steps can be helpful:
- Create a list of all the processes you deem suitable for automation. Appropriate processes are typically characterized by routine-based tasks, clear business rules, variations in workloads over time, and a particular risk for human error. However, other characteristics may also apply.
- BPA initiatives should be integrated with some process improvement methodology, such as Six Sigma, Lean, or Kaizen. Attempting to automate a suboptimal process will yield little to no results. The process should be standardized and improved before it is automated.
- Start with a simple process. RPA initiatives often fail because they aim too high and set out to automate large and complex processes spanning several different departments and systems. To gain momentum, it is often more sensible to start with a simpler process that can quickly provide results.
- When you have decided on a process to automate, create a step-by-step workflow with all tasks in sequence or parallel. This workflow should include both smaller tasks, such as filling out a table in a G&G application, or more extensive tasks, such as moving data and projects or performing interpretation tasks.
- Ensure that the process automation includes return value, error handling capabilities, and reports on what has been done.
- Find the right tools to ensure successful implementation, progress, and tracking. A project steering group should be established to support the implementation.
BPA is a major topic, but with the correct strategy, techniques, and tools, organizations can increase their service quality while simultaneously removing tedious and repetitive tasks for high-value employees, such as geoscientists. If you need some expert help with your BPA initiative, don’t be afraid to ask.