Digital Oilfield: Streamlining Pipeline Inspections with Mobile and Digital Solutions

By Kirk Eggleston | Jan 12, 2017

With increased regulatory pressure on pipeline operators to provide highly accurate and detailed inspection reports — pipeline inspection service providers can stay competitive by upping their game with mobile and digital solutions.

When it comes to pipeline construction and maintenance projects, accurate, well documented pipeline inspections not only ensure pipe integrity, they also protect the pipeline operator from regulatory risk.

Until recently, pipeline inspectors largely depended on antiquated processes to document their inspection findings. Today, thanks to the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices, the jobs of pipeline inspectors and other stakeholders that rely on inspection reports are made easier thanks to mobile and digital.

Key Benefits of Going Digital

There are several key benefits to digitizing the pipeline inspection process — whether it be for residential natural gas lines or major transmission and trunkline projects.

Streamlining the paperwork process

With a digital solution, you can completely eliminate paperwork completion in the field.

Connecting Key Internal Stakeholders

With a digital platform — integrated apps can connect key internal stakeholders with the information they need instantly.

Current Pipeline Inspection Market Offerings

If you take a look online at some of the current market options for pipeline inspection apps, you’ll find a mix of both good and bad. Some apps are little more than box solutions, while other apps claim to be completely customizable — but usually aren’t.

The term customizable can mean different things to different people. By one definition, an app is customizable based on its functionality, while by another definition, an app is customizable based on its usability.

To be truly custom, an application or digital solution must put the usability needs of the team first. At the enterprise level, a custom digital solution is the most optimum.

Box Solutions vs. Custom Digital Solutions

Box solutions can only do so much for your business because they typically don’t address all of the needs of the business or the user — and they aren’t easily scalable.

While a box solution is generally a lower cost than a custom digital solution, company stakeholders have to continually reinvest in other digital products or components to support extended capabilities needs.

With a custom digital solution, your tech team is free of restrictions and can create the right application that specifically meets the needs of your user and business goals.

For example, let’s say your business conducts NDT (non destructive testing) inspections on high-value transmission and trunkline projects. The pipeline operator is required to keep on file all of your NDT personnel’s certifications to ensure inspectors meet the requirements outlined in API Standard 1104. As the pipeline inspection company, you find it beneficial to create an app that makes it easy for your NDT personnel to centrally share all of their certifications. This information can then be easily shared with the client — mitigating problems arising from NDT personnel showing up to a job site without the proper paperwork. The result? Greater peace of mind for the pipeline operator and a new business tactic you can use to add value to your services for future clients. The problem? The box solution your company purchased for pipeline inspections doesn’t allow for such a custom application to fix this problem. With a truly custom digital solution, this problem can be solved with digital much easier, faster and cheaper than with a box solution.

SaaS for Pipeline Inspections

Today, a few pipeline inspection providers have started offering their customers (often other pipeline inspection providers) software as a service (SaaS) solutions. If you work in the pipeline inspection services, your company may have already considered creating its own platform and suite of mobile offerings for use internally and as SaaS.

If you’re company is considering building a SaaS model, congratulations! Not only is your company on the right track to building a custom digital solution that will help your business grow and execute duties more effectively, but your company is also creating a new revenue stream.

Regardless of whether your company is in the market for an existing solution or considering building a solution, the most important thing to consider is usability.

When evaluating an existing offering or deciding to build your own — ask yourself one simple question, will this solution be adopted by the user?

How Do I Get Pipeline Inspection Stakeholders to Adopt a Digital Solution?

At ChaiOne, we work with many customers that think they know the answer to this question. While it’s a simple question to ask, it’s not always the simplest answer.

One of the mistakes made when developing a digital product is not defining the requirements for the project with the user in mind. The solution? User experience (UX) research.

At digital innovation firms like ours, we employ highly trained user experience researchers to go out in the field or office environment to observe users in the actual context of their work. What this reveals are impactful insights that ultimately go into the development of digital products. Often these insights are those not immediately apparent to our clients. The result? Custom digital solutions that hit home runs for our client’s business objectives.

Ultimately, a custom digital solution provides the best path forward for a company because it is scalable and can grow with your business. Furthermore, when it comes to keeping clean documentation and avoiding regulatory risk, there really isn’t a better option for pipeline inspection companies than going digital.

Want more information? Read our eBook Mobilizing the Oil and Gas Industry.

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