Around 62 per cent of Generation Z shows very little interest in the energy sector, according to the 12th edition of Deloitte’s Gen Z and Millennial Survey. Those who are interested want to get hands-on with the newest technology and work in major cities rather than rural campuses. In addition, 50 per cent of existing workers will retire within the next decade, and many see digital solutions as a threat to jobs. However, digital technologies can help address these challenges – provided they are applied effectively.
Trustworthy remote collaboration solutions and intuitive, gamified experiences can improve operations and supply chain consistency. Remote collaboration improves supply chain and operations consistency and situational awareness, providing insight into current and future situations and constraints.
As AVEVA CEO Caspar Herzberg says: “We’re in the industrial software world, so the processes that we run are very serious and we can’t afford a version of something that doesn’t work, or that only works nine out of 10 times. It has to be perfect from day one.”
Consistency boosts safety, throughput and sustainability. Energy majors have used this strategy for decades, but frontier solutions now emphasise reliability and supply chain automation. Advanced digital technologies now provide predictive and prescriptive insights, along with explanations of sometimes counterintuitive approaches – whether these are for complex reactors, energy conversion equipment, or real-time risk estimations.
Remote collaboration requires trusted data to be available across software applications and accessible wherever it is needed. Automation significantly helps manage information quality and translation of names and context, including documents, time-based information, schedules and logs, diagrams and 3D representations. Digital technologies can also alert users to issues and log when technology addresses them.
When this standardised information is available across software applications, users can compare performance across time and facilities. Digital collaboration also brings the facility to remote specialists, speeding up plant diagnostics and enabling teams to adapt operations in response to market dynamics. The upshot for energy and chemicals companies is the ability to harmonise team responses, blending older workers’ experience with creative problem-solving from Generation Z.
For example, Suncor, an energy company operating in Canada and the USA, uses PI Asset Framework and AVEVA Process Optimization in combination with the artificial intelligence-driven anomaly detection capability of AVEVA Predictive Analytics (jointly referred to as Predictive Asset Optimisation). This helped Suncor to detect a performance anomaly in heat recovery pipes at a cogeneration unit five months in advance, enabling it to save significant costs and losses.
Gamification is also helping energy businesses to achieve specific goals by using techniques such as interactive scenarios and multiple roles. For instance, leading energy enterprises are using gamification when they deploy tools such as anonymised scatter plots to help users factor in multiple, often conflicting, targets into their working schedules. Such targets may include short-term versus long-term goals, or throughput versus optimisation. Gamifying these situations enables employees to better understand and navigate complex processes, enhancing decisions, performance and efficiency.
How do autonomous operations integrate all these elements? The term refers to a digital function that automates tasks connected to observation, predictions and decisions within energy facilities and supply chains. Complexity, risks and digital maturity are taken into account.
Digital technologies automatically answer questions such as what has happened or what is currently happening? When and where did it happen/is it happening? What scenarios could occur next? What outcomes do we desire?
Displaying responses in a visually appealing, trustworthy and actionable way can be effective in improving the employee experience, which helps to attract and retain new talent. The digital technologies that deliver the best results here are a combination of digital twins, visualisation and workflow automation. They are designed to work well with smartphones, tablets, laptops, virtual reality headsets and video walls.
The current cumbersome approach requires remotely accessing dozens of software applications separately when assessing equipment or facilities. The process is further hindered by formats that cannot be used across a diverse range of devices.
Another challenge lies in balancing the pace of culture change, work improvement and technology deployment, all of which need to occur at speed and at scale.
Digital technologies have contributed greatly to company performance and market valuation, while helping industrial companies to become the most attractive workplaces, particularly in the race to attract new talent. Here, it’s worth recognising that applying these methods requires considerable time and effort, often even years, to achieve their full impact.
With many experienced workers set to retire within a few years, the industry must urgently address employee turnover and attract young talent by creating appealing work locations and environments. Hence, energy companies must adapt their strategies and use digital technologies in innovative ways to stay ahead of the competition, retain valuable employees, and attract the next generation of talent.
AVEVA can help with its comprehensive portfolio of industrial solutions that leverage proven technologies at scale. An increasing number of these solutions are delivered on the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform, ensuring advanced capabilities and scalability.
Learn more about AVEVA's solutions for the oil and gas industry.
Stan DeVries is the oil and gas industry principal at AVEVA
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2023 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription