Even in a wealthy context such as the oil and gas industry, organizations are continuously seeking ways in which costs can be saved. Both customers (oil and gas companies, EPC contractors, traders) and vendors (valve manufacturers and suppliers) must ensure that all operational processes are as effective and efficient as possible with the resources available.
This paper describes innovative methods to increase the efficiency of a class of processes, namely those related to inspection, which impact on a project performance far more than one tends to believe since they ultimately decide whether a product can be accepted and delivered to the customer. A higher level of control over the inspection processes that occur at a valve manufacturer can contribute to the development of more effective ways of doing business together in a compliance context.
We will show how inspection coordination, planning and control can be improved by using dedicated software solutions that allow task standardization, define clear workflows and enable a team to communicate and share information online in a more efficient way.
This helps organizations reduce their costs related to inspections and minimize the risk of issues that may cause delays, increase costs and potentially damage their reputation. In addition, customers are comforted by knowing that their vendors are reliable and efficient, and their projects are in safe hands.
Becoming more cost-effective while maintaining (or improving) safety, quality and production efficiency is a clear priority for any player in the oil and gas business.
Over the past few years, costs have been aggressively cut by lowering overall operating expenses, trimming staff headcount and delaying or dialing back major investments and capital projects.
These efforts were helpful to spare companies from the worst of the current low-price environment – however, what companies need to do now is reorient themselves from short-term cost-cutting to the ability to produce longer-term, sustainable results.
Digital transformation represents one of the most significant and current opportunities in the business environment to deliver growth and increase efficiency across the whole organization. Software solutions dedicated to improve collaboration and optimize work processes are an example of how digital transformation can add value to a business.
2. Focusing on the inspection processes
Collaboration throughout the supply chain has never been easy—but in recent years it has become much more complex. Moreover, the trends that make it more difficult seem likely to continue, as business becomes increasingly global, virtual, and project-driven.
When multiple organizations work together on a project, people from different organizations and different departments are involved and need to work together. They need to set standard processes that are accepted and understood by all parties in order to ensure consistent delivery in accordance with the quality requirements.
One of these of processes, namely the one related to inspection, impacts on a project performance far more than one tends to believe: inspections establish conformity to specified contractual requirements by measuring, examining or testing one or more characteristics of a product, and ultimately decide whether a product can be accepted and delivered to the customer.
Inspection activities affect the entire manufacturing cycle of a product, including project management, quality control and product certification, and may generate hidden costs that can only be identified and eliminated with difficulty.
A higher level of control over the inspection processes that occur at a valve manufacturer can therefore contribute to providing sustainable methods for doing business together in a compliance context.
3. Software solutions for inspection management
The processes related to inspection and certification depend on the work of many people from different companies and require an efficient collaboration among colleagues, customers, suppliers, agencies and inspectors.
Inspection management software solutions can help to connect staff all around the world, in or outside an organization, by enabling them to define roles and responsibilities, automate processes, make information accessible to all, and have a shared work plan.
They offer several benefits in terms of keeping everyone on the same page and making sure that every inspection or task is accounted for, such as:
- Automated issue and collection of inspection notifications
A simple task such as requesting a supplier to properly complete an inspection notification form, or a client to confirm an inspection date, can take much longer than expected. This, in turn, causes delays or the endless chasing of the people in charge.
Automating the processes prevents the management of the task from taking up more time than required. When using dedicated software solutions, inspection notifications can be generated and distributed through the system, automating repetitive tasks and streamlining the communication processes. Additionally, inspection notifications sent via email by suppliers all over the world can be captured and used to automatically give the green light for the inspections.
- Calendarization of the inspections
Inspection dates can be shown in shared calendars, making the information about any schedule change available to the people involved in real time – not a project plan merely sitting on the desk but a live inspection plan, constantly updated.
A calendar shared with the people involved, inside or outside an organization, can provide visibility and the assurance that fabrication will proceed as agreed, minimizing the risk of unexpected delays that could affect project deadlines.
This gives customers and suppliers a comprehensive review of the exact current status of their order and a reliable projection of the future planning and status, enabling the projects to proceed as scheduled and minimizing delays and costly product deficiency issues.
- Centralization of technical documents
A centralized repository that makes technical documents accessible to all parties involved in an inspection (manufacturers, customers, inspectors) helps ensure that only approved, current documentation is used.
Users can share and collaborate on files and documents with colleagues and business partners, regardless of their location, streamlining the way they handle information so project documents become easier to organize, locate, and retrieve for future use. Additionally, rigorous security policies and role-based access control are provided, where authorized users alone are allowed to view certain files or documents.
- Follow-up on issues and action items
When non-conformities or minor issues are encountered during an inspection at a valve manufacturer, some corrective actions are to be taken to avoid delays. Action item lists are a commonly used mechanism to record and track such details.
Managing the issues and action items through software ensures an effective follow-up even when the corrective plan spans over several weeks or months. Furthermore, the progress of the action plan can be accessed, viewed, and approved in real-time by everyone involved, inside or outside the organization. This helps expedite the correction plan ensuring all the project team members are on the same page.
- Automated certification
Software solutions help manufacturers progressively collect the test reports after each inspection is completed, and automatically build the quality dossiers of their products. This helps eliminate redundant data input and allow seamless information flow between departments. Not only does it save time and effort, it maintains data integrity and accuracy as well.
Electronic signature systems included in best inspection management software may also ensure that the documents are properly endorsed by the inspectors in attendance, increasing customer’s trust and reducing the costs associated with certification compliance review activities, both from the supplier’s and the customer’s perspectives.
Collaboration software helps organizations streamline their processes and apply custom workflows to specific teams and projects for better cross-team collaboration, empowering users with anytime-anywhere secure access to critical processes and information on their laptops and mobile devices and improving overall response rates and performance.
With a digital inspection management solution, valve manufacturers and oil and gas customers take advantage of standardized processes and have a higher degree of control over the acceptance and delivery of their products, defining clear workflows and enabling a team to communicate and share information online in a more efficient way.
This helps to increase the overall efficiency of their manufacturing processes and reduce the risk of mistakes that may cause delays, increase costs and potentially damage a company’s reputation.