The Big Crew Change – What is it and how to prepare – Part 2

BySean Baird, Director, Energy and Engineering Industry solution marketing and market development for EMC's Enterprise Content Division.

In this article, we will take a look at steps that many successful organizations are employing to limit the impact on today’s operations and best position the company to thrive in the future.

This is Part 2 of a two-part series. To read Part 1, click here.

Earlier this week, we explored an issue that will be impacting the Energy industry over the next decade: The Big Crew Change. The Big Crew Change is forcing organizations to focus not only on how to maintain profitability in today’s economic environment but also on how they will recruit and train the next generation of plant workers as today’s generation retires. While many companies have put off these challenges by incenting potential retirees to stay on for a few more years, the challenge is impacting others today and will become unavoidable over the remainder of this decade.

In this article, we will take a look at steps that many successful organizations are employing to limit the impact on today’s operations and best position the company to thrive in the future. The oil and gas industry is responding to the threat caused by the Big Crew Change, adding thousands of positions in states with strong oil production. But the issue is less about less about manpower and more about information. The reality is that the Energy industry is ill prepared to retain the information that leaves organizations when its most experienced subject matter experts retire.

To prepare for the Big Crew Change and to improve productivity and reliability of your organization, successful companies are prioritizing three information management strategies:

Get Control of Your Information
Since most operating assets were built decades ago, they had been operating for many years before the information age truly emerged. Engineering drawings, standard processes and operating procedures were created on paper, and most companies still maintain these paper-based processes today. Even those that have digitized their records have not consolidated them into a single system, with records stored by individual departments, using file shares, SharePoint databases, and other proprietary systems.

Since these documents are often filed away in locked cabinets or stored on file shares that are not readily searchable or even accessible by the engineers and operators that need them, the industry remains overly dependent upon subject matter experts. And unfortunately, these are the same subject matter experts that are increasingly enjoying their retirement.

But hope is not lost. Innovative organizations are investing in information systems that pull together this disparate information in electronic form, creating a reliable source with all of the information needed to operate a plant, accessible throughout the company, and in some cases, beyond. And a select few are taking additional steps to make sure that their systems will succeed in today’s environment by selecting purpose-built solutions that provide users a familiar environment, are organized to find information rapidly, and integrate with existing business-critical systems.

Optimize Management of Change
Once you commit to making information available to anyone at any time, one of two things happen: the information is reliable and your employees use it religiously, or the information is often inaccurate, out of date, and ignored completely, continuing to rely upon the same subject matter experts they have to date. To protect your investment in information systems, it is critical to think about maintaining the information over the lifespan of your plant, beyond the initial stage of getting control of your information. A predictable “management of change” process will get you there.

To configure a management of change process, you first need to answer several questions:
• When do documents change?
• Who changes them?
• What is our review and approval process?
• How do we make sure that everyone knows about the changes?

Many information systems have options for handling management of change in an effective and compliant manner. Standards such as ISO 55000 and PAS 55 provide a good reference point for how to manage change effectively. Once you are managing change effectively, the level of confidence in the accuracy and timeliness of the information in the system increases.

Build a Millennial-Friendly Environment
This is a reality that impacts all industries: the more that you recruit new professionals, the more you need to account for the requirements of the “millennials.” Millennials are generally defined as the generation born in the early 1980s until the mid-1990s. In other words, this is the generation entering the workforce today. And this generation is large; a recent report from the Pew Research Center noted that the number of millennials is about to overtake the number of baby boomers in the United States.

For organizations targeting this generation, it is important to understand that this generation has grown up squarely during the information age, with regular access to online information, social media, and mobile devices. In a competitive recruiting situation, winning companies will have business process and information management systems built for the future, not those inherited from and rooted in the twentieth century. Investments in information systems that provide fast, predictable access to documents, promote collaboration with peers within the company, and enable mobility will provide fast and reliable returns in the hands of this information-centric generation.

By implementing systems that are designed to address these three strategies, organizations ensure much better operating excellence and mitigate the impact of the Big Crew Change, by reducing the reliance upon the experts that have driven success in the past. And instead of losing this expertise when they leave the company, their knowledge is properly preserved and properly passed on to the next generation of subject matter experts.

This is Part 2 of a two-part series. To read Part 1, click here.

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