A Conversation about Robotic Automation in the Oil and Gas Industry

A Conversation about Robotic Automation in the Oil and Gas Industry
"There is a very fine balance between physical labor and digital labor. As organizations see efficiencies as a result of digital labor, they will have to determine whether they want to redeploy their employees or take the hard savings."

On Tuesday, November 15, Pega and EY hosted an executive breakfast at the Petroleum Club of Houston for leaders in the oil & gas industry to discuss the hype around Robotic Automation. After the event I sat down with event speakers Jose Contreras, Global Advisory Principal for EY, and David Brunner, Director of Solution Consulting for Pega Robotics, to discuss the opportunities Robotic Automation technology presents.

I know Robotic Automation is a big focus area for EY. Does the technology really live up to the hype?

Jose Contreras: As you know, we are in the midst of a digital movement—and Robotic Automation is a critical component of this progress.

In a recent EY study of 750+ finance leaders across the globe, Is the future of finance new technology or new people?, 65 percent of respondents said automating processes is a significant priority for their organizations. Robotic Process Automation allows companies to leverage digital labor to do more, faster. It works 24/7, is one-third the cost of off-shore labor, and leads to a double-digit reduction in error rates. In addition, it is 100 percent auditable and lowers attribution risk. It also allows a company's smart employees to focus on smart work.

What does an organization do with all the physical labor that is freed up by Robotic Automation?

Jose Contreras: There is a very fine balance between physical labor and digital labor. As organizations see efficiencies as a result of digital labor, they will have to determine whether they want to redeploy their employees onto other projects or take the hard savings. In that way, software robotics can create a new operating model, which is very exciting to many of our clients.

Can you give us an example of the opportunity your clients are finding with Robotic Automation?

Jose Contreras: One of our clients, a leading oil & gas company, was in the process of centralizing back office processes into shared service hubs to reduce costs. Robotic Process Automation was introduced as an additional lever to help the company meet standardization and cost reduction goals. In evaluating the case for digital labor, EY found this client's potential savings could be more than $35M over five years, with an initial automation potential upwards of 25 percent organization-wide.

Gartner has identified over 30 Robotic Automation vendors offering some flavor of digital labor. What makes Pega different and what advice do you offer organizations looking to leverage the technology?

David Brunner: Pega offers two flavors of software robotics: Robotic Desktop Automation and Robotic Process Automation. Our applications are fast, flexible, scalable, and intelligent. And we integrate with legacy systems to drive incredible results.

For an organization just starting out with software robotics, we recommend beginning with your low-hanging fruit. Focus on business process, not technology. Target data entry, routine work, and tasks that are rules-based. Win quickly to show value and pay back the investment, and then tackle bigger processes. Finally, and most importantly, business and IT must partner—from the beginning—to be successful with Robotic Automation.

Jose Contreras gave an example of a client using Robotic Automation to automate the back office. Where are the cutting-edge areas that Pega is seeing the technology used?

David Brunner: Robotic Automation can be used on any activity with standardized processes, structured data, and discrete rules. For Pega, the most exciting use cases are focused on improving the customer experience. In particular, Robotic Automation can be used to automate the sales and onboarding experience, making the experience feel more human and more personal. Rote tasks are performed by the robots so sales reps can focus on the customer. I think that's an area that has a lot of promise, especially in highly competitive industries like oil & gas.

Another emerging area is using Robotic Automation to proactively identify and analyze trends that, when the appropriate action is taken, minimize the cost impact of Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) and improve employee wellness.