Whoever holds the information about all the assets, processes, and people involved in an asset, a facility or a project also holds all of the control over that entity. For example, if you own a large facility you’d better hope that that person is you or someone close to you on your team. Unfortunately, in many cases, the facility owner has lost complete control of the knowledge that is necessary for the facility to be delivered on schedule and ultimately, maintained.
There are historical reasons for this sorry state of affairs. Traditionally, an owner of an asset such as a well head platform or a gas plant managed risk through the use of a contract which put space between the operational aspects of the asset and the revenue stream. The operations were delivered through this contract and the revenue which was used to pay contractual obligations and then provide dividends to the investors.
This process of using contracts to cover operations meant that responsibility for an aspect or an asset’s operation was being ceded to a third party. This party may in turn contract out aspects of the scope of work again and in time the operational “know how” becomes further removed from the asset owner. Each time a contract is let:
- The recipient creates a set of processes to manage the scope of work
- The recipient utilises a system to organise and collect process outputs
- The recipient creates a mechanism to feed KPI based information back to the owner
During this process, the owner becomes less of a knowledge expert in the operation of their asset, and more an expert in contract management and outsourcing of perceived risk. In the process, the core operational engineering data, the core processes, and the understanding of those processes, have become disaggregated. For each layer that is introduced, an ecosystem of integration is created to absorb information and pass it out again. Disaggregation feeds an expanding cost base to achieve an output. Disaggregation creates silos of expertise that increasingly become removed from the holistic view and over time introduce inefficiency of process, productivity reductions, and plummeting quality. It encourages a behaviour of knowledge protection – not sharing.
The real and present dangers of losing control of knowledge
Does your project depend on the knowledge of irreplaceable team members? What about when a team member is on vacation or sick leave? It’s very typical for large infrastructure projects to experience a slowdown of processes and spiraling increases in cost when crucial knowledge becomes temporarily or permanently unavailable. In some cases, when the knowledge in the team becomes totally unavailable, the entire project can be threatened. Why? Because the ownership of data is key to the success of the project. It’s not uncommon to see contractors walking out of contracts following disputes and taking all the engineering data with them.
So how do we resolve this?
The modern way to deal with this threat is to ensure that everyone on the team is contributing to the project knowledge base as part of their daily routine. By integrating knowledge management into every process or workflow, projects remove the risk of losing the business functions in case of attrition or leave of individual employees.
The French playwright, Etienne (and Napoleon) has been quoted saying “If you want something done right, do it yourself”. This draws on the premise that expert knowledge resides with the speaker. The inference is that there should be as little distance as possible between the owner of the knowledge and execution of the process to ensure a high level of efficiency, productivity, and quality.
A Proposal: Knowledge Agglomeration
Agglomeration has been used to described economies and the benefits derived by businesses being near each other. Knowledge is also capital, and we propose to use the term to describe bringing participants in a scope of work closer. Agglomeration describes how a body of knowledge in a project can come to fruition and empower the project through good practice. The objective of agglomeration in this sense is to build a core body of knowledge that all participants contribute to. The owner of this knowledge and of the process is the owner of the asset. As activity is outsourced by the owner, contractors are invited to participate by accessing the core body of engineering knowledge and then contribute to its enrichment directly through the execution of process.
Agglomeration, through direct communication, allows the multiple layers of obfuscation of knowledge ownership to disappear, it allows the endless merry-go-round of report writing to be scrapped in favour of decision making based on real, timely information, it allows all participants to contribute directly to process improvement and focusses everyone on the objective of an efficiently managed and productive facility.
Agglomeration reverses the cancer of knowledge ownership for the purpose of greed by removing the expensive layers of multiple systems and multiple processes into a flat structure that connects the decision maker directly with the execution layer.
Completions Connect enables Agglomeration
There are numerous benefits for Owner/Operators if they adopt this approach. From an Owner’s perspective, Agglomeration enables all contractors access to the same platform meaning contractors are not introducing their individual systems to perform their work scopes but are feeding directly into the Owner’s platform. The Owner then retains control over all project data.
The enabler for this approach is a clear understanding of how individual systems in your ecosystem work together. Completions Connect provides the backbone to glue together asset visualisation with engineering data and inspection and maintenance processes allowing the owner to leverage their significant investment in these systems and expose them to contracted participants to more effectively manage operations and maintenance activities of an asset.
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