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Treading the path of digitalisation

by Indrajit Sen on Dec 7, 2016




It is disheartening to hear from most industry stalwarts that the oil and gas industry, particularly in the region, has a long way to catch up to global standards of industrial digitalisation. As stated in my cover interview this issue, Lisa Davis of Siemens categorically told me that her experience is that the oil and gas industry in general lags behind in digitalising operations in comparison to sectors such as automotive or even (a much smaller industry as) food & beverage.

Yes it is discouraging to live with the fact that our very own industry lags behind other sectors when digital records are compared. But the brighter side of the fact is that the energy sector has a huge scope to develop, as well as offers myriad opportunities to digital service providers to explore the vast market. Global IT/ICT majors are already gushing into the regional upstream sector like a swarm of bees, having been attracted by the lucrative opportunities the market has to offer. Many more will come in, I’m sure.

It is also interesting to note that there is another unfounded concern in that digitalisation will lead to even more job losses in the industry, for the simple reason that automated operations will render a lot of the manpower useless. Industry experts I have met, especially recently at ADIPEC, quash this fear as baseless.

They say, if anything at all, digitalisation will help the oil and gas industry reduce expenditure to a great extent and will hence save companies financial resources which they can otherwise spend on expanding their workforce. Moreover, digitising operations itself will create the need for people specialised in such skills and will thus lead to the opening up of new employment avenues.

So why has digitalisation grown in importance over time? The simple answer to that is it helps the upstream sector achieve its goals of operational excellence. The regional industry is in possession of valuable assets, managing and controlling which is a capital-intensive affair. As the region tries to ‘do more with less’, digitalisation serves as a credible alternative for companies to be able to optimise their functions and thus ‘go beyond the last drop’.

My interaction with a senior business leader – Gert Thoonen, business leader of Network Security Services at Rockwell Automation – at ADIPEC this year, summarises the merits of digital asset management: “Even though, assets used to refer to things that you can touch, the most important asset today is big data, which becomes the asset and the wisdom of our system. This is not just done by capturing data, because what will you do with it. Data alone is not enough because you need to maintain and secure it, etc. The key here is to optimise the data, connecting it with the field assets.”

There are numerous examples of upstream operators in the region digitalising operations and witnessing the merits of it (we have mentioned details of some of those in this Special Report).

A number of industry leaders told me that the concept of Digital Asset Management is gaining momentum, and the day is not far off when the region too will boast of an upstream industry where digital standards are at par with other global sectors.


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