It’s been a volatile two years for the energy and resource industries. Now more than ever, balancing operational efficiency with operational risk management – two critical pillars of operational excellence - is difficult to achieve. And where do you go to learn how to start?

All too often, events are only about Digital Operations, Process Safety or Asset Management. The problem is that all of these efforts are critical to business success, but many would argue that often they become conflicting business priorities and die before they get off the ground because of a market shift, regulatory change or sudden unplanned incident.

With this in mind, we spoke to three industry experts who attended the Operational Excellence in Oil and Gas Summit in Calgary this year. They gave their insights into the main trends affecting the Oil and Gas industry. Among other important trends, we look at the technologies driving risk reduction and how innovations are driving increased operational efficiency.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your current role?

Mark Little, VP Health & Safety at Cenovus Energy has a a background in Geology and Climatology, but came into Oil and Gas to "fundamentally apply his climate background where the rubber hits the road." He has worked across five continents, but has now settled into his current role, where he uses his lean manufacturing and operational excellence expertise to directly affect Cenovus Energy's health and safety.

We also hear from Emmanuel Giry, Manager, Enterprise Risk Management, Alberta Energy Regulator, whose role is to create a "framework to help the organisation do a better job of assessing and managing its risks."

The next speaker is Shannon Guterson, Senior Business Analyst, Transcanada who supports the company's operational management systems, and coaches the workforce to reach the necessary standards.

Finally, Francisco Soto, Manager, Wilson Perumal & Company, has an extensive background as an engineer, but has now transitioned into his current role where he manages the company's operational excellence programs. He helps create the culture needed for operational excellence to thrive.

When it comes to operational excellence, what do you think Canada’s oil and gas players should be focused on right now?

Mark Little, Cenovus Energy, points to the long period of growth which saw organisations monetize assets as a clear indicator of innovation within the industry, but that a new focus is required to take the industry to the next frontier.

For Emmanuel Giry, the Oil and Gas industry has a tradition of being "stop and go" by nature and that focus often shifts depending on the price of oil. When high, organisations favor production and volume, and when low, the core business is prioritized. Giry, however, believes that those which have a consistent focus on operational excellence - irrespective of the price of oil - will emerge strongest.

Shannon Guterson's focus is to make sure that Transcanada is running its operations in a reliable and safe manner. Wilson Perumal & Company's Francisco Soto agreed, but also highlighted the difficulty in defining how the journey to process improvement should start, with data management and process improvement key areas for examination.

What are the biggest priorities for your organization right now when it comes to reducing risk and driving Operational excellence?

Francisco Soto states that there are two main challenges in risk reduction. The first is defining where you begin - companies are aware of many risk-types, but see them as competing investments - so finding how they can approach all organisational risk as a single entity is imperative. He also looks at the importance of updating the current operational tools and methodologies as a reaction to the complexity seen in today's marketplace

For Shannon Guterson, it's important that Transcanada optimizes its management system and reduces complexity as this allows them to maintain the necessary standards both externally and internally for reduced operational risk.

There has been a lot of talk about ‘digital transformation’ – a big buzzword. What opportunities are there now for the industry to better leverage technology to drive OE?

"We have to leverage technology," states Mark Little. "We can't [the Oil and Gas industry] be the dinosaur in the room." Little points to the need for strategies which look at mobility, cognitive computing and augmented reality. "They're emerging so fast, but we must embrace them," further stating that technology is a "must-have not a nice-to-have."

Emmanuel Giry is of a similar point of view, stating that there is a "revolution" happening with technology at the moment. He also stated that augmented reality and increased data "cannot be ignored." For Shannon Guterson, improved tools to analyse data is the key technological trend in operational excellence. Francisco Soto also pointed to the challenge of selecting the right technology and utilizing it correctly.

For organizations operating in the oil and gas, chemicals and resources sectors around the globe the pressure to improve efficiency and do more with less is high. How can companies strike that delicate balance between improving operational efficiency while reducing human and environmental risk?

"Risk as a driver of operational performance is the key," states Emmanuel Giry. He believes the main way to strike a balance is by leveraging data and using more risk-based processes to prioritize high-risk areas. He states that this should improve their bottom-line and safety and environmental record.

The increased cost pressures seen in the industry are recognized by Francisco Soto as a "stressful" time, but he sees positives. "There are a few Canadian companies that are stepping out and taking advantage, states Soto." It makes companies throw out their old initiatives and rethink the way they do things in a creative manner." For Soto, the key is cutting complexity at once, not in small chunks.

Do you see any differences between the Canadian and the U.S. market in terms of their level of maturity with respect to Operational Excellence?

As a concept, Operational Excellence may have been with U.S companies for longer, but Canadian firms are starting to adapt. For Soto, U.S. companies are more mature, but Canadian firms are leading the way in re-thinking processes and therefore leaping frogging many of their U.S. counterparts.

How do you feel events like the OpEx in Energy, Chemicals & Resources summit can help companies achieve excellence in health and safety and deliver consistent operational excellence?

"Every year I get something out of this conference," states Mark Little. He points to the event's varied case studies and industry perspectives as the main advantages. He also states that the event's ability to attract academics from leading universities has been very insightful. Emmanuel Giry reiterates that importance of the varying industries of the present companies as a real driver of the event's success.

Interested in learning more?

This executive level summit is your best opportunity to benchmark against over 200 Heads of OE, Operations, Assets and HSE and gain the tools you need to eliminate inefficiencies, reduce operational risk and build a sustainable culture of operational excellence.

Learn from over 40 leading experts that have successfully executed on strategy and delivered substantial improvements in operational performance, and drive step-changes in performance in the current business environment.

To find out more download the 2017 agenda or visit the official website

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