New technologies are presenting creative and exciting ways for workers to make faster, better decisions.
Accenture has developed a 4-step framework, incorporating augmentation and automation technologies, for making digital work for oil and gas businesses.
Brian Richards, Senior Manager in Accenture’s Energy practice explains how one such augmentation technology—wearable computing—is driving the next generation of productivity growth in the oil and gas industry.
Brian Richards is the Innovation Lead for Accenture's Energy practice, with responsibility for bringing the latest technology and innovation from inside and outside Accenture to oil and gas leaders.
With a keen passion for all things technology, Brian holds a number of patents across cloud, wearable computing and robotics technologies—and has a track record of helping oil and gas companies successfully incorporate digital into their business strategies.
Brian, how did you develop your passion for technology?
Technology has always fascinated me—from playing Oregon Trail on an Apple IIe to picking up the phone and knocking my parents off AOL. I came to realize that this was the industrial revolution of my generation and would shape the world for decades to come. As a result, I pursued a degree in Electrical Engineering, but after an internship at Boeing I realized that I enjoyed applying new technology more than the actual engineering development.
Which emerging technologies excite you most?
First is wearable computing—using smart safety glasses to provide over-the-shoulder coaching could make workers safer, more productive, and really change the nature of field work. The second is drones—I truly believe the oil and gas industry will be a leader in this space in the same way it is a leader in subsea robotics. The final one is big data analytics—the industry has invested significantly in data over the past decade, but using big data analytics to create smarter operations (an Industrial Internet of Things) is going to be a big source of productivity.
What do you think are the biggest factors preventing oil and gas executives from investing in digital?
Digital requires a new mind-set as much as it requires new technology. You have to step back from your business and reimagine what is possible. This is very difficult to do when you are engrossed in the day-to-day challenges of running a major operation like an oil company. In many cases, companies don’t have the right talent or strategy to make this sort of transformation. In addition, investment continues to be an issue. When oil prices were high, the argument from executives was that it wasn’t necessary because the company was more than profitable. Now that prices are low, budgets are predictably being cut.
In 10-15 years, which technologies do you predict every oil and gas company will be investing in?
3D printing holds the potential to digitize aspects of the supply chain. Imagine printing off spare parts or tools in remote locations such as off-shore or the oil sands? Not only do you reduce downtime in terms of waiting for a part, but you also reduce working capital by having less spare parts in a warehouse. Cognitive computing also holds great promise with the power to help companies make sense of all the operational data that they are or will be consuming. I believe in 10-15 years computer systems will be able to help improve operations, production, logistics, trading, and more. The technology will be highly disruptive, but it isn’t there yet.
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