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How can your organisation make the most of digitizing operator rounds? Case Studies

Safety and performance are essential elements when running regular inspections of areas and equipment across hazardous industrial plants or terminals. Many companies still require their operators to record data using paper checklists and clipboards, which could lead to process information errors and negative safety repercussions. 

As an organisation and as an employer, your main priorities are to ensure the safety and performance of the terminal and your workers so they can correctly perform the inspections required by regulatory guidelines and by the governmental institutions. 

Running an accurate process analysis to extract operational insights can be highly time-consuming when all workflows are still paper-documented. Inspections require a lot of effort when terminals come with hundreds of precautionary maintenance and safety checklists. The paper-work doesn't stop here but is transferred to other departments like IT, where data is collected and introduced in the correct system. 

Building a seamless integration between the office and the field operators becomes a difficult task when you still run paper task management. While still conducting manual tracking and scheduling activity, your organisation will continuously be susceptible to missed checks and human error. For an inspection to be accurate and correct, it needs to be performed as simply as possible. 

Nowadays, companies in oil and gas have understood the importance of using the internet and mobile technology to transform their paper-based operator rounds into seamless digital workflows. Smartflow makes the technology transition even more comfortable due to user interface compliance, which makes adding process data and asset health information an easy task.

What are the benefits of digitizing for operators? 

Companies that embrace technology connecting their field operations to a mobile solution will start seeing the benefits immediately. 

The operator team has instant access to the checks that have been carried out and when, whether this is on schedule or what important matters had emerged from those checks. 

With a quick click search using smart filters, you excused yourself from a long stack of paper browsing, which could have taken you hours. 

Communication among operators is also enhanced by making it clear who performed each task. By adding photos, you can support information with objective data making the entire process more efficient and accurate. 

An agile workflow makes it easier for the operator to add or collect extra information or modify an existing process resulting in guaranteed flexibility. 

For instance, reducing operational risks should be a top priority to organisations in the oil and gas industry. By using a solution like Smartflow to digitize your work processes, you can assure that critical inspections are automatically shared with the right people within the company, so the data is always transmitted to the people in charge. For example, some organisations use a phrasebook so that they can report defects based on codes. In short, processes are fully thought through, and there is no doubt about the correct follow-up. 

At any time in the process, you can combine data from the operator rounds with data from other sources. Either is BI (Business Intelligence) data or data that is shared with relevant systems across the enterprise, a visual inspection can be justified by data on running hours or a reported defect can lead to the creation of a work order. You can compare discoveries about an asset with the maintenance history of that particular asset or comparable ones. Reporting can be delivered in the formats demanded from the organisation (internal or external) pdf, excel, xml, json etc. 

A defect can lead to a work order, while discoveries can be converted into audit reports to prove that the right actions have been taken all along the process. 

Digital operator rounds help you store all the information correctly to meet the demands of both the organisation and the government. You're not only registering information you are securing the processes that come next. From the operator to the maintenance manager, operations, and beyond, users are facilitated in every step of the process. 

Digitizing your operator rounds will secure:

  • Greater Data transparency 
  • Real-time receive and respond to inspection data 
  • More operational efficiency 
  • Higher productivity and safety for workers
  • Enhanced compliance 
  • Reduced costs and higher profitability
  • Better worker satisfaction and retention
  • Easy to deploy and scale 

These benefits will impact the life-span of your entire business. To further dive into the impact of digitization, let's take a look at some common cases that will calibrate your expectations. 

Daily inspection rounds

Inspections in the oil and gas industry are carried out daily. A jetty, a tank, or another part of the terminal needs to be inspected. When deciding to digitize your work inspections, one of the first things you'd like to implement is predefined lists where OK/ NOKs are often filled in with process data such as meter readings about operating hours, pressure, or others. If you haven't already gone digital, you have the current format of this data on paper, excel, or other systems.

Once you digitize your processes, you will meet all the benefits above and more like real-time control over the progress of the daily checklists, viewing the data from the previous inspections in the field, access to extra information on an asset, all while you ensure the NOKs items are reported to whoever has to determine whether a follow-up action should be taken. If a reading does not meet a specific range, the user can easily identify a possible issue. This way, the maintenance manager will have an easier time prioritizing his work based on the information supplied to him earlier. 

From a long-term perspective, you will understand that all the collected data will help you improve processes or have a more substantial influence on choices. You can secure the knowledge and experience of senior technicians in the process and in the questions making it accessible to junior technicians, for example, and minimizing the probability of errors or mistakes in the field. 

Truck handling 

Operators can also be involved in the process of loading and unloading trucks. Digitizing this process can help operators to do their work more efficiently and with fewer errors. During the load or discharge of a truck an operator can scan a license plate using OCR-technology (Optical Character Recognition) to retrieve the correct work order. The same can be applied while taking a picture of a safety plate to ensure the operator takes and verifies the prescribed safety measures.

With NFC's help (Near Field Communication), the operator can determine whether the right hose is connected to the truck. For example, if in the work order the operator is given the task to identify the hose that needs to be connected, using NFC, the operator can pursue verifications based on the provided data ensuring the process is correct. If the operator records these steps in their Smartflow app, they secure and prevent incorrect choices. You know best what the consequences of an erroneous action in terms of money, risk, and time are. Simultaneously you will get real-time insights into the truck handling and the status of all work orders.

The newest terminals/factories may already be mostly digital, but that does not always apply to the existing assets that have a long life cycle. Digitizing the right piece can sometimes yield a lot. For example, adding a digital meter on a truck to read how much it was refueled and immediately transferring the information to the work order via Bluetooth connection can offer great insights you are not initially aware of. A new truck costs around 1 million euros. How exactly do you measure the losses, and how fast can you track them? 

Supervising Safety Requirements 

Let's dive into the work of contractors at a terminal. They need permits that are meticulously prepared and implemented. Accuracy and sharpness are of high importance in this case. A digital solution can make all the difference. 

The operator can request information about the work permit and check the requirements based on the type of work permit. If the conditions are not met, he can stop the work permit or continue with corrective action. All the collected data can be visualized in a dashboard so proper assessment can be executed over a more extended period. This way, any error made by the contractor can be easily spotted and accessed. 

This can be input for new work permits, but can also lead to discussions between the asset owner and the contractor regarding the expectations that the work must fulfill. Naturally, this information can be used to conduct audits. As an asset owner, you demonstrate that you are committed to the work performed and adjusted based on the data you collect. 

The Business Value of Digitizing the Working Field 

By using a solution like Smartflow, businesses gain rapid ROI due to operational efficiencies and cost savings, leading to further automation and initiatives. 

Clear and dynamic work instructions that guide operators step-by-step through complex procedural actions enable their efficiency and productivity. 

An inspector's ability to accurately document findings and immediately communicate problems is essential to your business success. 

Understanding in real-time what's driving quality-set benchmarks, and increased uptime will lead to higher revenue, ensuring your license to operate is always compliant and safe, and clear overview of the hands-on tool time. 

Businesses from oil & gas, shipbuilding, construction, infrastructure, manufacturing, mechanical engineering, and installation services have trusted us to transform and create efficient mobile workflows and inspections since 2011. 

Smartflow helps businesses accelerate the execution and the compliance of inspections, permits, and work orders, maintaining the highest security and quality while reducing operational risks, meeting compliance, and collecting real-time insight from the generated data.  

With our solution, we enable engineers, operators, and inspectors to leap into their digital transformation. By generating flows in the app, we created a seamless flow of information and an easy way to collect the requested data while assuring compliance with the demanded guidelines.

Want to start digitizing your work processes right away? Contact us. 

Want to know more about the benefits of digitizing with Smartflow? Request a demo.

Do you want to study more about the value Smartflow can bring to your business? Read our case studies.

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