26 Feb, 2019· read

Preventing knowledge loss in the oil & gas and manufacturing sectors


So far we’ve talked about the joint challenges of ageing workforces and skills shortage hitting industries such as law and finance, the resulting loss of knowledge and how intelligent automation is part of the solution. One view might be that these sectors are better equipped to take advantage of AI – with regulation dictating business logic, an abundance of data to process and gain insight from and a customer base willing to interact digitally but what about primary and secondary industries such as oil and gas and manufacturing which some might view as more ‘hands-on’?

Oil & Gas and Manufacturing

In terms of challenges, these industries don’t have it any easier. For some time now, the impending issue of high numbers of employees reaching the age of retirement has been flagged in the oil and gas sector. The risk was understood 10 years ago but then compounded when oil prices doubled and the final chance to grow was seized upon. Senior engineers were encouraged to delay retirement, and initiatives to consolidate knowledge and bring through new talent de-prioritised. Fast forward a few years, oil price dropped again, the workforce has continued to age and less new candidates are choosing to join the sector.

40% of the manufacturing workforce is over 50

Manufacturing faces similar challenges - for many companies as much as 40% of the manufacturing workforce is over 50. In the near future, these individuals need to be retained, new generations attracted and knowledge transferred. At the same time, digital manufacturing initiatives such as ‘Industry 4.0’ are presenting an opportunity to bring a new era of smarter, more data-driven manufacturing.

Rather than reducing the burden on knowledge, the increase in data actually strengthens the cause for knowledge retention. An increase in connected plant, process and people can deliver information overload in signals, alerts and dashboards. Organisations are now becoming reliant on the expertise to interpret this information and act appropriately.

Intelligent automation offers the opportunity to harness the opportunity presented by data, combined with the knowledge to respond with the best actions.

Learning from people and data

Our Digital Experts (really smart software robots) are doing this very thing and have already been put to work in the manufacturing sector working to improve the productivity of people and process.

We have placed three Digital Experts with a manufacturer of complex powder milling equipment:

  • The first uses machine learning to understand process operations, identify the reasons for variations in throughput and quality and the complex interactions affecting performance.
  • The second monitors live production process, and is able to predict the potential for equipment downtime, before guiding operators with diagnostics and troubleshooting advice.
  • The third consistently optimises production outcomes, using control models built from historic operating data and heuristic knowledge.
    As a result, our partner has realised an increase in productivity, maintenance efficiency and a reduction in waste

    Historically this activity would be performed solely by the human workforce – monitoring a machine or plant and taking action based on what they see or their experience. 

    In this way Digital Experts supplement the human workforce by making the best of human knowledge and insight from production data available to every operator and maintenance engineer.

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