Taking On The Information Challenge

Optimizing operational efficiencies by making critical asset information instantly searchable whenever and wherever from multiple devices, and secure.

One of the many challenges faced by the offshore industry globally is effectively managing all of the information regarding its critical assets. To optimize operational efficiencies, critical asset information must be instantly searchable whenever and wherever needed, accessible from multiple devices, including mobile devices, and secure from unauthorized access.

But before we look more closely at how information management challenges can be addressed, let’s back up and look at some of the obstacles that affect offshore asset operation. Preventing very public disasters, such as the BP/Deepwater Horizon event, are a very obvious priority, but there are a number of others facing offshore operations:

Inefficient or ineffective maintenance. By far the most frequent challenge expressed is how the lack of access to accurate information impacts operators’ ability to efficiently maintain their offshore assets. Efficient maintenance operations are affected by a number of factors, including:

  • Dependence upon the individual knowledge of experienced workers.
  • Reliance upon paper-based information or processes.
  • Inability to quickly find information spread across disparate, siloed systems.
  • Trust in potentially out-of-date, inaccurate, or incomplete information.

As experienced workers retire or are enticed to move to competitors, companies are often left with inaccurate, incomplete, or inaccessible documentation. And for operations that rely upon published standard operating procedures (SOP) and specifications, maintenance operations managers struggle to evolve from traditional, paper-based information or documents located on file shares to deliver quality, up-to-date information to maintenance engineers. A critical success factor in managing offshore assets effectively is ensuring that the most accurate and current SOPs and asbuilt specifications are used during a maintenance process..

Increased risk of unplanned downtime. While effective maintenance operations are a daily priority, the risk of unplanned downtime or, worse yet, a catastrophic event is a constant concern. Lack of immediate and secure access to current and accurate asset-related documentation can lead to improper operations or maintenance procedures. This can increase the possibility of a catastrophic event, increase the severity of such an event, and impede the ability to recover from an event. When this essential information is not readily accessible, individuals are not able to quickly respond to problems, perform operational or maintenance tasks, or respond to a regulatory inquiries, increasing the risk of – and extending – plant shut-downs.

Risk of regulatory non-compliance. Risk avoidance is increasingly more than just making sure that the offshore assets operate effectively and stay online. Today’s regulatory environment puts an increased burden on organizations to effectively manage its key information. Mandated by Congress and the Department of the Interior (DOI), the regulatory oversight and enforcement of government bodies, like the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), become a significant factor when implementing an asset information management solution. To stress the importance of environmentally responsible energy development, consider that President Obama’s FY 2014 Budget includes $169 million funding to BOEM programs.

The challenges of meeting the variety of regulatory requirements are realized in a number of different ways, including:

  • Incomplete missing or inaccurate asset-related information prevents adherence to proper procedures.
  • Lack of managed maintenance reports and audit trails prevents adequate reporting to prove
  • Lack of security around critical asset information leaves critical information open to unauthorized access.

Whether ensuring compliance as part of internal procedures or responding to regulatory oversight, the ability to rapidly and accurately ensure compliance with environmental, health and safety (EHS) regulators - including OSHA, EPA, BSEE and others – depends heavily upon effectively managing critical business documents and operations records, Figure 1.


While these obstacles are not easily overcome, forward-thinking operations are implementing information management solutions that provide a number of key capabilities that address the challenges above.

Enterprise content management capabilities. To manage the variety of content that are required to operate offshore assets, many organizations have looked to enterprise content management (ECM) systems. And the reasons are fairly evident, as ECM provides many key capabilities, including:

  • Ability to manage a variety of information types, including SOPs, as-built specifications, guidelines, inspection reports, engineering drawings, and geo-context data.
  • Revision management, including the ability to manage as-built documents.
  • Operations and maintenance-related workflows.
  • Automated processes for transmittals and document sharing.
  • Status tracking and reporting at multiple levels.
  • Large-scale document scanning solutions for legacy paper documents and engineering drawings.
  • Secure, mobile access to asset-related information.

Purpose-built solutions. While ECM systems offer the promise of addressing a wealth of challenges, many organizations find that implementing these systems presents significant obstacles. Beyond the issues of migrating from existing procedures and systems to a new system, most ECM platforms must be fully customized to address each organization’s specific requirements.Unfortunately, this customization process introduces both risk and cost to the implementation process, reducing the likelihood of success.

This is the reason why many customers insist upon more focused solutions that are designed specifically to address offshore asset operations. These point solutions include:

  • Configurable tools and templates based on industry best practices.
  • Seamless integration with industry standard plant maintenance, GIS, and ERP systems.
  • As-built document management with predefined dictionaries, taxonomies, and user roles.
  • Operational workflows for incident reports and field queries.
  • Management for SOPs, standards and guidelines. 
  • Integration with enterprise scanning solutions.

While highly targeted solutions offer the promise of faster deployments and reduced time to value for customers, they are very difficult to expand beyond the specific challenge that they address.

Flexible capabilities. While solutions are great for quickly implementing new systems, they rarely meet all of an organization’s requirements. And even when they meet today’s requirements completely, they offer no assurance that they will be able to grow to meet future needs. While offshore assets are very similar, each organization has unique characteristics that may not be addressed by point solutions.

To meet the wide variety of unique requirements, the ideal solution must provide an open architecture that enables organizations to configure their solution to manage content-based on organizational requirements, follow unique business processes, and integrate with many different engineering and business systems.

Most solution providers promise “the art of the possible” with respect to customizing their solutions, but the most effective solutions accomplish this without extensive customizations and the increased costs and implementation delays that follow.

Finding payback

In addition to the obvious – and very public accidents, such as Shell Kulluk, the challenges outlined above call for a renewed focus on how asset information is managed and shared. While many organizations settle for asset management solutions that are able to satisfy the need for one or two of the above requirements, customers are increasingly insisting upon solutions that deliver complete and flexible ECM requirements within a much more packaged solution based on industry best practices.

Organizations that implement solutions that deliver across each of these dimensions are able to reap very compelling benefits:

Reduced IT capital and operating expenses. An enterprise-wide integration platform reduces IT capital and operating expenses by enabling the decommissioning of home-grown or departmental applications.

Significantly diminished risk of unplanned downtime, cost overruns, and catastrophic events. When all appropriate individuals have quick access to the most up-to-date content, the potential for miscommunication, poor decisions, or delayed response is significantly reduced.

Increased productivity through fast, mobile and secure access to content. An enterprisewide solution provides a single point of physical asset information to reduce the time and expertise required to find, share and transmit the most complete and up-to-date asset-related content. Improved EHS regulatory compliance.

Quick and secure access to all appropriate content improves regulatory compliance and increases responsiveness to regulatory requests.

To ensure cost-effective, risk-averse, and compliant operations, the variety of interested parties involved in all aspects of offshore operations and maintenance of these facilities must be provided with asset information that is relevant, easily found and up to date.

By leveraging the many benefits of asset information management solutions, effective organizations are able to improve all aspects of operations and maintenance processes while reducing both operational and compliance risks. OE Review

Gonzalo Merchan is EMC Corp.’s Information Intelligence Group Global Director, Global Energy Sector, based in Californiad, USA. He brings over 30 years experience in the Software Enterprise solutions area, including 11 years with EMC, five years with BEA Systems, and over 15 years at senior positions at IBM and Fluor.

Click here to register for OE's Expert Access webinar with Gonzalo Merchan on managing offshore assets.

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