Energy companies must be experts at efficiency. Every aspect of their operations should run smoothly to meet budgets, timelines, safety requirements, and consumption demands. Though this industry is mature, it is also dynamic and constantly changing. Heavy regulatory influence also impacts operational efficiency. Further, the vertical has a top priority to optimize capital to invest in how they bring their product to market.
How can energy companies maximize efficiency? Technology is the best solution and can support everything from construction to billing.
Operational Efficiencies and Technology in the Energy Sector
The definition of operational efficiency differs in each industry. For the energy field, it means optimally using time, people, equipment, dollars, technology, and inventory to best serve the organization.
Because the energy industry is so volatile and so many factors impact costs, margins, production, transmission, and more, operational efficiency is somewhat of a moving target. As a result, energy companies must be flexible and adaptable in pursuing and achieving operational efficiency.
One component of operational efficiency that delivers stability is the adoption of technology. Operational technologies are key to the sector’s ability to survive and thrive. Adopting this technology allows you to be more agile and realize higher levels of digital transformation, improving production efforts while reducing costs and helping redeploy capital to the buckets of production capabilities.
What Energy Companies Gain with Operational Efficiency
Operational efficiency offers benefits across the enterprise. The most direct route to obtain these benefits is to lean into digital transformation and adopting technology that allows for automation. That includes simple robotic process automation (RPA) and advanced hyperautomation, combining RPA and artificial intelligence (AI).
By leveraging multiple automation initiatives, you can:
- Eliminate repetitive, mundane tasks from employee workflows and let automation take over, reducing errors and enabling employees to be more strategic versus transactional.
- Reduce costs (the industry expects to save $237-$813 billion by adopting intelligent automation).
- Improve customer satisfaction and revenue (50 percent of energy and utility executives said automation resulted in higher customer satisfaction).
- Receive insights from data faster, which can impact decision-making.
- Gain a competitive advantage by being more efficient and removing waste from operations.
- Complete processes faster.
- Collect, aggregate, and analyze data quicker and more effectively.
- Decrease field response time for outages and other emergencies, as you’ll know about these sooner with automation triggers.
How Specific Segments of the Energy Industry Can Leverage Technology to Improve Operational Efficiency
The energy industry is connected but broad. Here are some specifics on how three different segments can use automation to improve operational efficiency.
Traditional Power Companies
The challenges power companies face around operational efficiency include:
- Regulatory adherence
- Document-heavy processes ripe with inefficiency and error risks
- Consumer relations and communications
- Billing accuracy
- Legacy systems, which can’t be decommissioned but have interoperability issues with modern platforms
- Many assets in the field
- Increasing demands for energy from consumers
There are several use cases for automation to solve these issues. First, process automation is possible for tasks such as meter reading validation, billing and invoice generation, consumer adjustment claims resolution, risk assessment, and order management. These processes don’t require human intervention and can be fully automated.
The next level is hyperautomation, which can enable interoperability between legacy systems and new solutions. It can also improve outage response times and reduce maintenance costs and downtime by proactively monitoring grids. Hyperautomation can also support data collection from multiple sources and analysis of it to enhance decision-making. Additionally, it is helpful for load reduction forecasting to prevent outages.
Oil and Gas
Oil and gas companies face operational efficiency difficulties because of complex accounting processes, compliance measures, safety requirements, unpredictable pricing, and large volumes of contracts. This category of the sector also has a targeted priority to optimize capital expenditures, so they can spend more on finding, producing, transporting, and refining oil and gas. Operational efficiencies support these objectives.
With RPA, you can automate purchase order generation relating to joint venture production accounting and closing the process through automatic checks and alerts. RPA is also useful in consolidating data on the trading floor so analysts can take action according to the data rather than wasting time doing this manually. Contract management by bots can also send alerts when renewals are up.
In the hyperautomation realm, oil and gas has many opportunities. Hyperautomation can work as a monitoring system for leak detection. It is also possible to automate rig and well drilling, which would not only require less labor but also be faster and safer.
Those in the renewable energy segment have challenges, as well. Projects are large and complex. Many assets reside in the field, requiring monitoring. Safety, customer communication, and serving are also in the operational efficiency bucket.
By deploying RPA, these businesses can:
- Manage documents
- Gather data for projects
- Automate customer-specific activities (e.g., billing, queries)
Hyperautomation benefits renewables because they can understand asset performance and monitor assets for maintenance needs or outages. They can also use the tactic to forecast production by combining data from many sources, such as weather and the assets themselves.
Achieving Operational Efficiency for the Energy Industry Depends on Automation
Operational efficiency has never been more important for all segments of the energy industry. It’s essential to production, safety, cost control, and compliance. Many have adopted technology to drive toward this high level of efficiency, but there are still opportunities available when leveraging automation.
Learn more about how automation supports this by reading Leveraging Intelligent Automation to Increase Operational Efficiency.