“Use it or lose it” is a popular phrase people often use when referring to foreign languages and skills that require regular practice in order to keep them sharp. It could also be used to refer to oilfield inventory management, as equipment that requires change-outs for repairs and maintenance can often get lost in the shuffle between the field, the shop, and storage facilities.
Buying the same part twice, simply because it can’t be located, or being unsure about a part’s condition, are not scenarios anyone in the oil and gas business want to face. With tight budgets and even more stringent safety standards, having the right equipment in the right condition is critical.
While small companies have typically relied on electronic spreadsheets for inventory management, cloud-based options are now becoming standard for many software packages, giving energy companies of all sizes access to real-time data and easier inventory control across multiple locations.
Because many of the applications not only offer cloud storage, but also software-as-a-service (SaaS) licensing options, the price tag has dropped considerably as well. NetSuite cites in a case study that its SaaS licensing model saved one of its customers almost $70,000 a year over comparable server-based software and maintenance. Even SAP and Oracle’s JD Edwards, which have traditionally relied on large volume software sales and maintenance contract revenue, are focused on cloud offerings in order to attract a bigger base of small to medium-sized businesses.
One of the main attractions of mobile-integrated cloud solutions in the energy industry is the ability for data to be available in the field. Wireless connectivity to inventory control systems via cell phones and mobile devices enable field managers to input data on equipment as it is installed or when it needs replacing, while also submitting orders for new equipment. Barcoding equipment, a technique used by many oilfield inventory management companies, ensures greater accuracy as assets are tracked in the system.
With financial cutbacks in the energy industry putting a dent in oilfield operations, inventory management is one area where a small investment in new technology can have a significant positive aspect on both effectiveness and cost-efficiency.