Automation Helps Field Compression Firm Manage Assets Spread From Texas To Alaska

September 2009 Vol. 236 No. 9

Chris Anderson, Compressco and Roy Lund, Skymira, LLC

A manufacturer and provider of production field enhancement compressors that are working at sites spread from onshore and offshore Texas to Alaska has achieved significant gains in efficiency since it implemented an integrated solution from Skymira that delivers remote work order automation, real-time inventory management, equipment monitoring and GPS positioning.

Compressco manufactures production enhancement solutions for marginal and low pressure oil and gas wells. The firm manufactures, leases and services its GasJack™ mobile compressor technology designed to increase production and total recoverable reserves of natural oil and gas wells.

Most of the placements are in extremely remote areas, including offshore locations, from Texas up through Alaska. Compressco’s business model is one of leasing and servicing the units. The company deploys a team of technicians on a regular basis to service the units and to make repairs when required. Customer contracts typically include an uptime guarantee.
At the time the Skymira solutions were implemented, Compressco had several thousand units in operation and over 160 full time technicians servicing them.

Compressco Challenges That Needed To Be Overcome

  • Manual work orders were creating extensive paperwork bottlenecks.
  • Parts inventory management was manually managed.
  • Remote machinery could go down without anyone knowing right away.
  • Reasons for machine failure could not be established until technicians arrived.
  • Verification of machine location was based on paper records.
  • Without a centralized database, mining all of the valuable data that was coming out of the field was difficult.

Compressco realized early on that manual processes for creating work orders, managing parts inventory and identifying machines requiring maintenance were significantly impeding their ability to grow as quickly as they required. The challenges identified as having the greatest near-term impact included:

Work orders were all paper-based. Service records were handwritten and mailed back to the main office for manual data entry. With over 4,000 work orders each month, the amount of paperwork was extreme, taking three full time clerks and an entire conference room to handle it.
Parts inventory on the technicians’ trucks was also manually managed. The inefficiencies of this process were believed to be resulting in higher costs for the company, but there was no way to effectively analyze the data to know where savings could be generated.

GasJacks™ could go down in remote areas and the company would not be aware of the situation unless called by the people on-site, or until it was discovered by a technician on a routine maintenance call. The downtime resulted in lost customer productivity and charge-backs.

The specific reason for a machine’s failure was not known until the technician arrived on site. There was no way to assure the proper parts were on the technician’s truck, nor whether the technician’s skill set best matched the nature of the repair.

Compressco’s method of verifying the exact location of their units was paper based records of last known location. They needed real-time GPS tracking to assure maximum use of resources.

Without a centralized database, mining all of this information — service records, technician time sheets, unit failure codes, etc. – was difficult. The firm wanted to begin to determine avenues to greater efficiencies and effectiveness.

Phased Implementation
With such a broad range of challenges, Compressco determined that several phases of implementation would be the best course of action.

Phase 1, the Mercury project, would tackle the issue of work order automation followed closely with real-time inventory management and technician access to machine data.

Phase 2, the ePumper project, would address the need for real-time equipment monitoring and failure code identification as well as GPS positioning.

Phase 3 would focus on data-mining and the resulting decisions and changes the firm would deploy.

Skymira offered its TailorFit™ solution as Compressco looked at providers. The implementation team wanted to avoid dealing with multiple suppliers. They also wanted a solution that would integrate with the way they were doing business, having the least amount of impact on operations. For example, they wanted electronic work orders that resembled the existing form layout. Another requirement was complete integration with existing enterprise systems. Most frustrating, however, was that all the proposals for equipment monitoring required at least two hardware devices. Compressco insisted the solution be based on a single device.

According to Larry Brickman, one of Compressco’s project leaders, “Skymira got it right away. They asked the right questions and understood our requirements. They also had a process in place to offer us exactly what we wanted, but without the long lead-times one-off custom work requires. In the end, they made tailoring the solution part of the contract, everything in one place, easy and convenient.”

Implementation went smoothly. Installing new hardware in all 180 trucks had the greatest impact. Compressco coordinated the installation of the laptops with regularly scheduled technician training. By the end of the day’s classes each technician had a newly outfitted truck and was up to speed on use of the new system.

Skymira also addressed specific software issues that were required. For the additional two phases, the impact on operations was less because these phases were predominantly software upgrades.

For the ePumper implementation, Compressco was able to train their own technicians to do the equipment monitoring installation, making the switch more cost effective.

Compressco understood that the only way the new data would be valuable was if it was all in one database. It was crucial that all the data, regardless of application, be in an .xml format and integrated with the enterprise systems. Skymira also addressed this requirement as part of the individual implementations.

Positive Results

The positive results of the work order automation showed up almost immediately. Compressco could now check and make sure things were operating smoothly. Did the tech show up when they were supposed to? Did the work get done? Were there any unforeseen problems? Field efficiency and scheduling were greatly improved. Paperwork was streamlined with accompanying improvement in response times. And, with service reports being sent electronically, technicians were now freed up to spend more time on maintenance and less on paperwork. Just from a morale standpoint the improvement was significant.

When inventory management came on line, the system began to provide checks and balances. Compressco could now check parts inventory on trucks, determine which techs were most successful and which ones might need more training based on hours and parts expended. They were also able to see which techs were located closest to projects.

Perhaps the crowning achievement came during an extensive analysis of parts usage. With access to a complete database of information, Compressco was able to trim parts inventory costs by an astounding $200,000 per month.

When equipment monitoring went live, it brought the whole picture together for Compressco. The operating team now knows at any minute how many units are up and running. With a contractual obligation for 95% uptime, the team now has a better way of assuring conformance. They can verify a downtime situation the minute it happens as well as monitor the level of service and average response time for repairs. The system is tied into a call center where reaction time has increased dramatically.

Service Operations can also capture the machine’s failure code, analyze the data and correlate the problem to the parts that will most likely be needed, verify if those parts are on the technician’s truck, and if not, dispatch another tech who does have the parts or the specific experience. Compressco has also been able to institute new policies designed to decrease costs. For example, technicians now must receive authorization before using previously identified high cost parts.

The Compressco team reports it is just starting to scratch the surface of results the new system is expected to be able to deliver. In time they expect be able control inventory even better by identifying expensive parts displaying higher failure rates and re-engineer them to save money. They also believe they will be able to increase the efficiencies of their technicians.

About Compressco
Compressco, a TETRA Technologies Company headquartered in Oklahoma City, OK, is a manufacturer of production enhancement solutions for marginal and low pressure oil and gas wells. Utilizing the GasJack™ technology, the company says its solutions can dramatically increase the daily production and total recoverable reserves.

About Skymira, LLC
Skymira says it delivers the industry’s first truly tailored remote information solutions for seamless management of remote operations through a complete set of state-of-the-art satellite and cellular technologies. Designed to unlock the value in corporate remote information, Skymira TailorFit™ solutions are intended to be the perfect combination of technology, services and client-insight, tailored to the exact fit each business requires. Its partners include Inmarsat, SkyTerra, Skywave, Iridium, EMS Satcom, Hughes, Thrane & Thrane, Wideye and Sierra Wireless, among others. Skymira contact number is 203-987-3336,