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Intelligent automation drives process optimisation for downstream oil and gas operations

Published by , Senior Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Downstream oil and gas companies need to embrace dramatic business transformation that is being driven by the adoption of technical, cultural, and organisational change to deliver safe, reliable, and sustainable energy products and services. To meet these goals requires a change in the way they operate.

Routine tasks must be shifted from humans to systems that are enabled by machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). This will free up the capacity to define and pursue transformative business models. For downstream operations, the digital core will become the platform for managing and optimising systems and processes, suppliers and networks, the workforce, the customer experience, and all the data an enterprise collects using sensors and other Internet of Things (IoT) assets.

Companies are pushing the boundaries of automation and AI in operational activities to improve safety and productivity and seamlessly share data with all ecosystem partners to work together to ensure production, profitability, and safety targets are met. Applying integrated digital platforms enhances collaboration among ecosystem participants, helping to fast-track innovation, reduce costs, and provide operational transparency.

Automation for the intelligent enterprise

The goals for downstream businesses are centred on running their operations at their best. This entails controlling revenue streams – both inbound and outbound – running the operations efficiently, making confident decisions, and innovating.

To achieve these aims, departmental silos must be broken down and their processes integrated to optimise operations. A core set of tools to achieving this are the SAP solutions for intelligent enterprises.

Intelligent enterprises run agile, integrated business processes and use advanced technologies such as AI, machine learning, and the IoT. They apply leading-edge industry best practices and work together to build flexible value chains. They evaluate and act on customer, partner, and employee sentiment, and they understand and manage their environmental impact.

Becoming an intelligent enterprise helps the business become more resilient, able to adapt, innovate, and overcome challenges.

Challenges with SAP

While SAP software is great for joining all the dots together and sharing information across many different functions, it comes with its own challenges. Most businesses that run SAP solutions have been using it for a long time, and it has traditionally been burdensome to manage. That said, it continues to be the heart and soul of many downstream operations; it is not just an IT system, it is a whole supply chain with a myriad of business stakeholders.

Traditionally it has been accepted that to make changes to the system takes months, rather than days. In the early days of SAP, that was not considered a problem, but now companies are under a lot more pressure to rapidly transition their operations amidst the digital transformation. At the same time, there is no longer an appetite amongst management for major multi-year transformation IT projects.

The answer to this dilemma is an intelligent automation solution to monitor and support the SAP functions. This automates the daily checks and routine tasks that stop teams focusing on the future. Whether that is preparing the journey to the cloud, digital transformation, or IT innovation. Aventra’s deep insight engine integrates with built-in notifications and connections to external ITOM management platforms to provide insights to the right people at the right time.

Improved business insights for process optimisation

One company that has optimised its process automation is Paz Oil, an Israeli-based billion-dollar company that supplies one-third of Israel’s fuel products. With a network of hundreds of retail filling stations, store chains, Yellow app and eCommerce site, Paz Oil relies on SAP products to ensure that its multiple operations run seamlessly.

Like most downstream oil and gas organisations, system failures for Paz Oil could affect gas distribution, manufacturing, physical stations, and eCommerce operations. As a key global player, repercussions like these must be averted. To avoid this, an SAP management solution that could be relied on was the optimum solution.

Paz Oil had been using the SAP Solution Manager and another third-party software company to monitor its SAP environment. This ad-hoc approach was over complicated and involved a lot of unnecessary manual work. Costly trial and error, false positives and tedious re-configurations left system security vulnerabilities.

After evaluating the available solutions, Paz Oil opted to deploy the best of breed AIOps platform. Introducing yet another solution to an already complex SAP landscape is not always appealing. There is a chance it might cause yet another complication and disrupt business. But with AIOps, the transition is seamless owing to the modern AI and Machine Learning techniques.

One of the primary benefits was an improved response time. In the event of an SAP system error, Paz experienced a highly problematic compliance-impacting failure. Every minute of downtime results in serious disruptions to supply chains. Fortunately, when this mission-critical file went missing, the team could rely on the AIOps platform to create and run a quick custom check, alert the right people, and get things sorted, fast.

It also allowed the SAP teams at Paz Oil to transition from a reactive to a predictive strategy. Predictive analysis of Paz’s past resource utilisation offers accurate forecasting, letting Paz know what it needs, before it needs it.

"The same effort took us months with the other systems. Within that week, we had no false positives, it was all very stable. It just worked beautifully," reports Yohai Rosenbaum, infrastructure and information security division manager at Paz Oil.

Written by Heiko Mannherz, Chief Innovation Officer at Avantra.

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