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This is one of a series of live blog posts directly from the site of the 2013 IFS World Conference in Barcelona. Business journalist Adam Tinworth is a veteran of Reed Business Information and a lecturer on digital journalism at City University in London. His first-hand impressions are accompanied by illustrations of Matthew Buck, cartoonist for Drawnalism.

WoCo2013_Odjfell_Systems_integrationOdfjell have been in offshore drilling for 40 years. In fact, as CIO Tor Tjeldnes explains, they’re just coming off weeks of parties to celebrate the anniversaries. Over those four decades they’ve build up a client base of all the big oil companies. They’re still regarded as a Norweigian company, working in the North Sea, but they’re actually  $1.1bn turnover company in 22 countries – with 50 nationalities working for them.

They have four business areas:

  1. Mobile units – oil rigs and drill ships. Most of the rigs are fairly new. They are owned so they have assets management to deal with. On a  rig there will be up to 20 companies working.
  2. Platform drilling – They’re the largest player in the North Sea. They’re doubling their business in the UK in the next few years
  3. Well services – the most widely spread business, renting equipment
  4. Drilling technology – they have an engineering company of 400 engineers, making them a full-service company

They drill at up to 3000 meter depths, and work in close to polar environments. It’s an extreme business. And it’s a growing one – they expect to double their employees in the next three to four years. How does their IT deal with this level of growth – while decrease relative per head IT cost?

First of all, they have to asses their existing systems – are they fit for purpose. About 18 months ago they decided the answer was no. They needed to find a global solution, and one that allowed them to collaborate with other companies – and which would support Satellite communications, because that’s the only way of getting data connections to rigs. That also meant that the system would have to be capable of operating autonomously for periods of time if communication was broken. It’s half a million a day to run a rig – and that’s a big cost if it’s idle.

As far as possible, they wanted to move employees off rigs onto the short. IT help desk has been moved to Manilla, for example.

Integrated Operations

Every bed used for an office worker on a rig uses up one that could be used for a maintenance worker. If you can avoid using a floatel – a floating hotel – you save costs. Also, why do these tasks on a rig if they can be done on land? Our job is to provide the tools to do that – broadband, video conference facilities (over 100 of them) with excellent video and sound quality on big screens. They have realtime data operation screens in their operation rooms – one room per rig. They use Microsoft Lync, too.

They are looking into how to integrate operations planning with maintenance planning. Every piece of maintenance they can do while in production save them time and money – having rigs idle is expensive. And they needed tools that could handle working across multiple companies on the rigs.

There are all tough demands on an ERP. An their existing system couldn’t cope with them, and an attempt to make it work that way didn’t succeed.  They needed a technology change. They need to look seriously at their existing processes – and they were aware that they had heavily customised solutions, which would need reimplementing. So other solutions seemed a better option.

They wanted an ERP system with a  client base as close to their industry as possible. They started loping at supply chain and maintenance system, and a beauty contest saw IFS chosen as the front-runner. They presented the vendors with a set of scenarios – and invited them to pitch, with a demo that had to be at least two thirds a demo with supplied data. One killer function IFS had was a replication mechanism that could cope with periods of disconnection.

Project Strategy

The Project Strategy was built on the classic people/process/systems model. They started with too many people involved, but moved rapidly from big committees to small core teams, made up from key personnel in the relevant business units, empowered to make decisions.

The key issue was understanding their process at all levels – something they’re still going through right now. They have a good understanding of their top and bottom level process, but are working on clarifying the middle level processes.

The library system containing their processes is the most important system they have. Inspectors can shut down the rig if they find an outdated process in there. Everything on a rig is process driven. They also worked with IFS to create an offshore workbench – an simplified user interface for use on the rigs.

Future Steps

What next? Well, creating mobile solution for use on-board is one priority. Their staff are keen to switch to portable devices, but it was thought too complex to do in the first wave. He’s most excited in using if for equipment inspections, stores control and assessing returning rental stock.

They do not want customisations. In fact, they’ve even been prepared to work with competitors who are IFS users to ensure that the systems can support their industry’s needs out of the bios without going down the customisation route. They don’t want to paint themselves into a technological corner.

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