Find out why automation technology can eliminate mundane repetitive tasks so you can focus on value-add analysis and scale your business efficiently.
Technology is at the forefront of minimizing the negative impacts of constant change. We seek out advancements to modernize business, sequence our day, and make our lives easier. Among these advancements in the business world, we often hear and become weary of, is automation technology. Automation technology doesn’t always precede a cost reduction, headcount reduction, or elimination of jobs. It can facilitate a streamlined approach to day-to-day repetitive activities so that the time saved can be applied to other value-add activities in the organization.
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An antiquated process in gas scheduling, for example, nomination entry, updating, and actualizing is an ideal candidate for automation. Most organizations are still entering nominations in three places: 1) the pipeline electronic bulletin boards (EBBs) – we can’t get around this requirement as it’s at the key data point to move product; 2) an internal position spreadsheet – we’ve found that nearly all front office teams have a position spreadsheet either shared across desks or managed for the best information, and 3) the chosen ETRM – a system of record for information to flow from team to team and ultimately for invoicing. Why enter three times when once will get you the same results in less time? What could you do with the time you get back?
Let’s look at the benefits that companies can realize with an automated approach to everyday logistics operations without putting jobs at risk.
- Resiliency: Over the past two years and many cycles before, companies have learned that resiliency is key to surviving a fluid industry. By using automated business processes, redundancy becomes a core activity that employees can review in total rather than spend much of their time completing. Automation offers tighter controls and a tighter grip on the fundamentals of your business. By implementing and depending on automated technology for nomination capture, we allow employees to oversee the cyclical activity rather than spend their time hand-keying data in multiple sources with a high potential for error. This isn’t eliminating the need for a person; it’s making a job easier while tightening necessary controls.
- Scalability: Companies are keen to look at opportunities to scale their business without unnecessarily adding headcount. Energy mergers and acquisitions are on the rise, as well as expansions into renewables. Laying a foundation for your company to easily integrate new business is a vital foundation for continued success. Through automation, additional business activity, whether it’s a new company, new territory, or new product offering, can be layered in with the existing business processes. Doing so requires minimal setup and an efficient transition to managing a new business. In our example of scheduling automation, a company should be easily able to bring on expansion into a new shale play or the nominations that come with an acquired company with nomination automation functionality in place.
- Optimization: Automation frees up time in the day to focus on market conditions for, say, a trader or scheduler. With 1-2 hours freed up thanks to automation technology, a person could analyze market shifts, identify cost-reduction routes for gas supply or demand, or investigate new storage opportunities. These activities allow the team to make more informed decisions and maximize revenue potential.
- Transparency & Traceability: To achieve efficient automation, business processes need to be defined thoroughly. Through automating steps in the business value chain, simple functions such as who entered data, the time it was entered, and time updated call for less discrepancy or tie-outs between data and systems. We’re also able to see iterations of the information as better data becomes available. Nominations have cyclical updates processed throughout the day and the next day (Timely, Evening, ID1, ID2, ID3). Rather than waiting for a final nomination update, whether it be a scheduled or actual number, an automated approach can provide the data near real-time as it’s updated on the pipeline bulletin boards. This latest and greatest approach provides transparency in the system of record, as well as operational effectiveness by providing information upstream to traders and downstream to accountants.
- Expanding Skillsets: More time available during the day means employees can shift focus on new prospects ranging from identifying emissions reduction opportunities to the expansion of operations in a new region. Individuals also gain a chance to grow more competent in their current role if this newly available time is used on cross-training or attending industry-specific seminars.
Bottom line: automation isn’t all bad. We simply must be open to change to benefit from innovation.
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