Originally published in BC Business
In the oil and gas industry, market shifts are expected—but not always easy to navigate. Out of this unfortunate reality, opportunities arise. The telecommunications, media and technology industry can assist global and national businesses in a changing market. Nicholas Jeffery, CEO of Uniserve Communications Corporation, is particularly interested in finding the silver lining in the oil crash that impacted Alberta, as well as seeing where these strategies can benefit other verticals.
“Having recently acquired a business in Calgary, I can see in pure revenue terms what the loss of oil and gas clients has done to this business,” he says. “But the opportunity is not about tightening one’s belt; it’s about exploring big data analytics, remote process and the Internet of Things, which all help to reduce costs and improve processes.”
But what does that mean?
“We’ve determined that when the oil and gas companies started to shed staff, they were left with plants and production in remote locations, which still needed monitoring and maintenance. Fault-preventive analytics, remote-security monitoring, access control (face and vehicle), facilities management and inventory management all needed to be stepped up, but without the people on site, robust Internet connectivity replaced them,” he explains.
“Devices that can be connected via fixed line, wireless and even satellite and powered by the grid, solar or battery all started to be looked at in earnest. Even the use of remote aerial drones with high-position gantries for charging started to come into use.”
Jeffery watched as requests for network operations centres based in Calgary and Vancouver started to spring up. “These operation centres could be thousands of miles away from the petrochemical plant, but still allowed mechanics and FM teams to predict, diagnose and send out the right team with the right part at the appropriate time.”
In an unstable economy, businesses must look to improve performance and efficiency. Programs and tools can drive down costs by automatically addressing ongoing problems and inefficiencies, enabling teams to focus on innovation and strategic initiatives.
Technology and IOT are just tools, but they can stimulate a culture of improvement among all levels of a workforce. And, perhaps most importantly, help to focus employees on a common goal.
“Many companies in the energy sector grapple with how to remain low-cost, efficient and effective while pursuing growth,” says Jeffery. “What’s important to recognize is that there’s always performance improvement work to be done, and it must not be forgotten when gas and oil prices rise and there is less focus is on the bottom line. Technology is a big player in the performance strategy and an ever-increasing part of it.”
Uniserve is currently developing tools and services to help the oil and gas industry manage unprecedented changes.