The massive knowledge that is retiring and about to retire in the next five years will bring some companies to a new low in productivity. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 60% of job openings from 2010 to 2020 across all industries will result from retirees leaving the workforce, and it’s estimated that up to half of the current oil & gas workforce could retire in the next five to ten years.
For companies that do not have their processes defined and weaved into their everyday culture and systems — relying on their engineers and geoscientists knowledge instead — retirement of these professionals will cause a ‘brain drain,’ potentially costing these companies real down time and real money.
One way to minimize the impact of “Brain Drain” is by documenting a company’s unique technical processes and weaving them into training programs and, where possible, into automating technology. Why are process flows important to document? Process flow maps and documents are the geographical maps that give new employees the direction and the transparency they need, not only to ramp up a learning curve faster, but also to repeat the success that experienced resources deliver with their eyes closed.
For example, if a reservoir engineer decides to commission a transient test, equipment must be transported to location, the well is shut down and penetrated, pressure buildup is measured, data is interpreted, and BHP is extrapolated and Kh is calculated.
The above transient test process, if well mapped, would consist of: 1) Decisions 2) Tasks/ Activities 3) A Sequence Flow 4) Responsible and Accountable Parties 5) Clear Input and Output 6) and Possible Reference Materials and Safety Rules. These process components, when well documented and defined, allow a relatively new engineer to easily run the operation from start to end without downtime.
When documenting this knowledge, some of the rules will make its way in contracts and sometimes in technology enablers, such as software and workflow applications. The retiring knowledge can easily be weaved into the rules, reference materials, the sequence flow, and in information systems.
Documenting technical processes is one of the tools to minimize the impact of a retiring workforce. Another equally important way to capture and preserve knowledge is to ensure that data in personal network drives is accumulated, merged with mainstream information, and put in context early enough for the retiring workforce to verify its accuracy before they leave.
Processes and data for a company make the foundation of a competitive edge, cuts back on rework and errors, and helps for quickly identifying new opportunities.
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