Most sectors within the process industries have their rugged aspects, where the demands on the workforce and innovative technology may be the most onerous.
The oil and gas sector might claim to be in a class of its own however. To some degree this is less a reflection on its downstream manifestation, more the result of the physical realities of its upstream stages.
Harvesting fossil fuel inevitably means getting to grips with the natural world and a level of risk and danger that makes it appear anything but inanimate.
While O&G labours still under an ‘old time industrial’ stereotype that makes recruitment a challenge, it has often been an enthusiastic investor in new, less human-based approaches to working.
Which is just as well, now that its workforce has been hit by the same combination of social distancing and illness that has decimated so many industries during the pandemic era.
That hasn’t necessarily meant a rush to purchase new cutting edge equipment, even though plenty of investment is being made. Straitened business circumstances have acted in many cases as a brake on spending.
In fact, coupled with the increasingly demanding regulatory environment and the challenge of renewables, emphasis has increased upon the need to extract nore value from existing systems and equipment.
As our feature on page 10 outlines, the overrriding goal remains efficiencies and and increase in uptime by whatever means available. The likes of ABB have focused on building resilience and adaptability into clients’ systems. Others have sought to focus on crossing the downstream/upstream divide and extending products’ applications to other sectors in order to grow revenue streams.
And not surprisingly, a constant has been the strategic value of better predictive maintenance. Yet better does not come down to a matter of more effective technology alone.
The product must ensure the best return on investment and for this a key factor will be the provision of more intuitive technology that does not require the immediate user to have the most sophisticated understanding. And where training is required, firms such as Norwell EDGE have broken new ground in adapting learning to better motivate learners.