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Amid the global pivot to a “new” energy economy – solar, wind and electric – tales of the rapid obsolescence of the oil and gas industry are simply inaccurate. In fact, “traditional” energy players such as oil and gas companies are still crucial even as we transition to renewable energy and electric vehicles.

Established oil and gas companies such as Schlumberger now realize that change, innovation and disruption are central for long-term success. Technology developments translate to either opportunities for those who adapt or risks for those who do not.

In keeping up with their principle of putting “knowledge, technical innovation and teamwork” at the center of operations, executives from Schlumberger Ecuador, a subsidiary of Schlumberger Ltd., engaged in a three-day executive immersion program organized by Silicon Valley Innovation Center. Schlumberger participants sought to discover capabilities from US tech innovations for implementation in Ecuador as the country seeks to expand its hydrocarbon production.

“This is the experience that every business person who really wants to be part of the future should do,” said Isabel Noboa, CEO of Grupo Nobis Ecuador.

Building the “Rig of the Future”

For over 80 years, Schlumberger has been the world’s leading provider of technology and services for oil and gas exploration, drilling, production and processing. All along, Schlumberger’s commitment to technology and quality has been the basis for its competitive advantage. With 125 research and engineering (R&E) facilities worldwide, Schlumberger places strong emphasis on developing innovative technology that adds value for customers. In 2017, the company invested nearly $800 million in R&E for their oilfield activities.

Learning from Silicon Valley companies that focus on data, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) opens up new possibilities for Schlumberger to evolve its IT infrastructure and solutions. At Naiss, a venture capital firm, Schlumberger learned about ML and AI early stage investments and technology life cycles. ML as-a-service platforms have reached enterprise grade maturity, enabling corporations to embrace ML at scale.

Top managers from Schlumberger learn about how IBM has reinvented itself over the years to remain a leading technology company in spite of a constantly changing marketplace.
Top managers from Schlumberger learn about how IBM has reinvented itself over the years to remain a leading technology company in spite of a constantly changing marketplace.

In the past few years, Schlumberger has already reduced costs by harnessing automation software. Schlumberger’s adoption of ML and AI could further help them in the process of launching their digital and automated land rig drilling system, which Schlumberger has referred to as the “Rig of the Future.” The Rig of the Future program was created to improve drilling efficiency by digitizing existing workflows and documents to enhance the overall integrated drilling system performance. AI is also poised to open great possibilities for the oil and gas industry. As Vidar Gunnerud, CEO of Norwegian tech start-up Solution Seeker says, “I think this is going to be a long journey, and AI is not a simple term. AI could mean a lot of things, and the oil companies will start in small steps as they add more complex content to the algorithms.”

The Customer-Obsessed Culture

Schlumberger takes pride in its well-established corporate value of focusing on its people: “People thrive on the challenge to excel in any environment and their dedication to safety and customer service worldwide.” Schlumberger aims to be consistent and transparent with all clients to win and retain their trust.

Through a visit to Amazon, Schlumberger gained perspective about game-changing ways to engage with customers. With its mission to be the Earth’s most customer-centric company, Amazon has best understood the shift in the nature of customer relationships. Social media, for example, now allows customers to engage brands directly and take their complaints to the public arena. Amazon keeps up by using robots to perform some basic customer service functions, leaving agents to deal with more complicated issues. Amazon now has more than 100,000 robots which prioritize support interactions to keep customers consistently satisfied without putting a strain on employees.

The Schlumberger team hears from an Amazon representative about how the tech company maintains a corporate culture that encourages innovation.
The Schlumberger team hears from an Amazon representative about how the tech company maintains a corporate culture that encourages innovation.

Meanwhile, at Squirro, a leader in context intelligence, Schlumberger learned about combining structured and unstructured data to make decisions. Squirro showed how it can deliver personalized, real-time contextual insights from a sea of information. With multiple stakeholders and complex projects around the globe, achieving similar capabilities through algorithms and predictive analytics could help Schlumberger to reduce web searching time by 90%, significantly cuttings costs and allowing for better and more effective decision-making.

Looking into the future

What does overall product development and services look like for Schlumberger in the future? In a marketplace where speed and flexibility are more important than ever, oil and gas companies are using cloud computing, automation, and other technologies to transform their back-office systems, operations, and product and platform offerings.

The goal is to harness automation for complex projects and build digitally enhanced factories that provide continuous information to help achieve greater levels of quality, efficiency and cost reduction.

As Schlumberger CEO Paal Kibsgaard says, “For the complexity of data’s oilfield operations and the advances made in other industries in terms of total system performance it is clear that replacing the industry’s fragmented approach with a new focus on complete technology systems holds a massive performance upside.”


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