Covid-19 and automation is a much talked about topic so our latest blog, Special Piping Materials looks at the different factors at play and how automation is being embraced in the energy sector.
It is undeniable that the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the working world and the way in which energy sector operates forever. 18 months ago, ‘working from home’ used to be an unusual perk gifted to just a few people, automation systems were relatively new, travelling the globe for work was commonplace and ‘Zoom’ was a system known to a select few.
These days however, everyone is working from home, travelling the globe for work is rare, and Zoom is used on a daily basis. Automation systems are now also being increasingly talked about.
As human interaction has been the catalyst for the spread of Covid-19 it is perhaps understandable that companies have been looking for ways in which to reduce it and instead rely on computerised systems. Subsequently, the increase in remote working has dramatically magnified the requirement for work operations that can operate by themselves. Covid-19 and automation has never been such a hot topic.
What is the correlation between Covid-19 and automation?
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the energy sector has been felt across the industry. Understandably, it has therefore caused a change in approach to whole supply chains. This is not least because office workers have suddenly found themselves working on virtual platforms and the usual manual processes and practises having to be performed remotely.
There is also a correlation between Covid-19 and automation in the energy sector because workforce safety and welfare has become even more of a priority. As people’s health and wellbeing (both physical and mental) has become the centre of attention in recent months, it stands to reason that big industries like the energy sector would take this opportunity to look within themselves and find ways to improve. Leaders in the sector have become more concerned than ever before about how the wellbeing of their employees directly impacts their operational results.
This means that taking this time to work out how to streamline and simplify critical processes to avoid delays caused by disruptions in the workforce has been crucial. Productivity, efficiency and yield can all be improved by better supported workforces and ensuring that systems that can be automated are managed in enhanced ways.
Why is automation being embraced by the energy sector?
Covid-19 has resulted in a lower number of personnel working in the oil and gas industry. This is due to a number of factors:
- – Cost reductions
- – The acceleration of digital programmes
- – Strategic decision making around the management of assets
- – A desire to reduce operating costs
The offshore oil and gas industry is a sector that is particularly embracing automation since the Covid-19 pandemic first started. This is because it is very focused on reducing exposure to risk, creating safer working environments, and avoiding delays to operational processes. These three challenges can all be tackled through automation such as computer-managed facilities, centralised operations, and control rooms, rather than these aspects being managed in-person.
The other benefits of process automation in the offshore oil and gas industry are that it is predicted to be able to grow the scale of productivity, improve project development and make remote workforces both more efficient and more secure.
What challenges in the energy sector will Covid-19 and automation create?
When any industry-wide change occurs, there are always likely to be challenges and ‘speed bumps’ along the way.
While the global energy sector has always embraced innovation and technology, automation does expose some distinctive challenges across the main facets of the industry: Its people, scalability, and the tools it relies on.
- – People: As with any change, people do have fears and hesitations around automation. In the energy sector, this could include job stability, organisational culture and even gaps in abilities and product knowledge.
- – Scalability: The global energy sector relies on a well-oiled infrastructure that takes many different and diverse suppliers and regions into account. Some of these assets may experience connectivity issues when it comes to automation and a big challenge will be how to manage and overcome these complexities.
- – Tools: There is a range of machinery, hardware and software that have to be coordinated in order for the energy sector to run smoothly. Ensuring that automation does not disrupt these tools but instead enriches them is paramount to the success of the industry in the future.
What advancements in the energy sector will Covid-19 and automation create?
It is likely that by embracing automated systems, the energy sector will see the following instances increasing in popularity and usage across the globe:
- – On-site operations becoming centralised with many features being managed and controlled remotely by industry experts.
- – Improved safety and risk management across all streams of the energy supply chain.
- – Operating costs will likely be reduced due to fewer operators being required in facilities and fields
- – Many more activities and operations being centralised and managed virtually by remote teams.
It seems inevitable that the new wave of automation that has been seen across the energy sector since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to evolve, expand and advance in the coming months and years.
Looking to the future, what we definitely do know about Covid-19 and automation is that Special Piping Materials will be standing side-by-side with our clients helping them to adopt new processes and ensuring that their processes stay efficient and as high quality as ever.
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