Data Challenges at Best Practices for Oil & Gas Conference

October 3, 2013

Image_Oil and Gas Data Challenges

For the third consecutive year, with a collaboration of SAP, ASUG and The Eventful Group, hundreds of oil and gas professionals will congregate at the Omni Dallas Hotel in Dallas, Texas for Best Practices for Oil & Gas, a 3-day content exchange of new technologies, fresh ideas and best practices for the successful use of SAP oil and gas solutions.

One main topic to consider over the course of this event and after is the big challenge of closing out large capital projects and turning them over to operations. There are huge issues in making sure the new equipment is meeting functional business requirements – that it has been properly engineered, properly constructed or installed, properly tested and properly integrated into the existing plant environment with an appropriate cutover / start up process.

For most companies, large-scale capital projects require the acquisition of outside specialist resources; both to address any unique skill requirements and to reflect the reality that existing internal resource staffing (engineering, construction, maintenance) is designed to cover ongoing operational requirements, not the huge additional workload represented by a major project.

But in addition to the engineering and construction physical challenges that must be addressed to make significant capital projects operational, there are also large-scale data challenges.  As equipment is put into service, it must be detailed into the plant master data records that drive operations and maintenance.

  • New functional locations and functional location hierarchies (perhaps work centers and cost centers) must be created so that operations can correctly identify the right plant areas to be worked on when breakdowns occur and to support maintenance process analyses.
  • Critical equipment – based on plant operations needs and safety or environmental regulations – must be identified in the records.
  • To support any maintenance operation – scheduled or unplanned – the component parts for the major pieces of equipment need to be identified and created in the records.
  • Components for the new equipment must be analyzed vs. existing material records to determine if the parts already exist in the system or need to be created.
  • For every new component, a detailed and comprehensive material record needs to be created, including storage, procurement, and classification views to allow the material acquisition and storehouse processes to function properly.
  • New and existing component records need to be assembled into equipment and material BOMs to drive the information requirements for the maintenance processes – when a certain piece of equipment breaks down, the maintenance organization needs to know exactly which component parts may be needed in order to make the repair.
  • Finally, once the equipment and component records are created and associated properly, preventive maintenance plans need to be created.

If a large capital project involves dozens of new pieces of complex equipment and each piece of equipment is comprised of dozens or even hundreds of component parts, and each record requires dozens of fields and several associations with other data objects, there is a huge work effort to accurately handle the sheer volume of all the new records.  Much of the informationmay be available in some form (e.g. a vendor‘s list of component parts for its equipment, vendor recommended maintenance plans), but how is that information translated and entered into the SAP data system?

While most companies understand and plan for the physical challenges of constructing and installing new capital projects, many are often unprepared for the data challenges.

Companies typically have organizations and processes to handle the data for ongoing EAM – a maintenance planner to detail equipment relationships, and maintenance plans, a forms-based system by which a data entry organization enters new material info into SAP.  But these data processes are defined and staffed to handle only a small number of records at a time.  When large-scale projects are ready to go into service, normal processes and staff may become overwhelmed with the volumes of records that need to be processed.   When that happens, companies face truly difficult business choices.  Does the company delay the start-up of a multi-million dollar unit – with important business process benefits – to enable the data processes to be completed?  Does the company let the unit go into service before the data is completely detailed?  If a set of compromised, limited data is accepted to enable timely start up, what is the business risk to operations and maintenance and what is the plan to ensure the data is eventually brought up to standard?

Understanding the data challenges around starting up a large capital project are very different than the data challenges associated with ongoing EAM processes.  Just as a company routinely brings in additional and specialized resources to handle the construction, installation and turnover of the physical equipment, most companies will need to augment their base processes in order to handle the flood of complex new data that is associated with the project.  Additional support for the data process is necessary to keep the data off the project critical path and to ensure efficient and safe operations when the physical equipment is put into service.

In most cases, not to boast, companies would bring in industry experts like BackOffice Associates to use their solutions, methodology and expertise to address the exact data issues associated with large-scale capital projects. The process is built around the existence of a data staging area to allow the efficient collection, refinement and enhancement of data before it is transferred into SAP.

The service is typically a very small fraction of the project capital cost.  The solutions and methodology are simple enough that your personnel can participate if available.

Your data should never be on the critical path of your EAM capital project.  Inadequate or late data after start up should never put the efficient and safe operation of your equipment in jeopardy.  BackOffice can help you integrate the data and physical equipment processes and control these risks.

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