Unified Supply Chain Management for Oil & Gas

Sept. 30, 2014
SimSci Spiral Suite software from Schneider Electric provides cross-boundary workflows to foster collaboration across the hydrocarbon supply chain.

Unifying supply chain management operations in the oil & gas industry has long required the integration of various legacy software applications designed to address different supply chain operations aspects. With the release of its SimSci Spiral Suite software, Schneider Electric brings a unified supply chain management solution to the oil & gas market.

“The lack of alignment between tools, data, and work processes in the oil & gas industry, prior to the release of Spiral Suite, resulted in losses of tens of millions of dollars,” said Charles Reib, senior developer of Spiral software for Schneider Electric.

“By improving collaboration across the refinery, Spiral Suite software helps traders, planners, and schedulers make reliable decisions, manage risks and, ultimately, increase profitability,” says Ravi Gopinath, Ph.D., executive vice president, Schneider Electric’s software business.

With its capabilities, “Spiral Suite promises to transform the refinery business environment from being a place where hundreds of people work in isolation—not seeing or understanding how their bits of individual work contribute to the whole—to a place where workers first see and understand how their decisions impact others and then cooperate to collectively unlock the maximum value of their economic forecasts.”

Using Spiral Suite’s visualizations, everyone with access to the system can view, understand and respond to incidents, as all refinery activities are supported within a single, intuitive environment, thereby making accurate, up-to-date information available across the business. For example, planners can see future scheduling constraints; schedulers can assess their decisions against commercial impact and operational feasibility; and users from different disciplines and locations can work together to create the most flexible, optimal plan for any given set of circumstances.

Most importantly, through the use of virtualization, Spiral Suite users can do this without the risk of overwriting data or causing downstream processing issues at the plant.

Reib noted that key to the development of Spiral Suite was the strategy to leverage the expertise of developers in their 20s and 30s. “They developed the software the way they thought it should work as IT and data management experts,” he said. “As a result, it functions more like an iPhone app in that it is multi-user oriented, easy to understand, and collaborative. It is the transparency that these developers made inherent to Spiral Suite that enables strategic alignments across roles.”

Spiral Suite’s SaaS (software-as-a-service) deployment model and off-the-shelf integration means that legacy point solutions can be replaced without incurring the high cost of implementing or maintaining data transfer.

“Data from in-house and external systems can be made available automatically within workflows, and people from across the business can work in parallel to build a supply chain model within weeks, without needing to know complex math,” added Rieb.

By leveraging the capabilities of modern, multi-core processors and cloud environments, Spiral Suite can generate results in seconds and present them in a way everyone can understand. “Users can explore the business and operational implications of millions of scenarios and receive real-time feedback on how their changes would impact the rest of the supply chain,” said Reib.

“With Spiral Suite, even novice planners can be up and running within a week, rather than after a year of training it would normally take with heritage products,” said Peter Reynolds, senior consultant with ARC Advisory Group. “In an industry where challenges are coming from every direction, companies risk losing out if they continue to apply outdated work processes that rely on experts. In some cases, optimized production planning is only achieved through knowledge held by a small number of people and naturally collaborative working relationships. As these experts retire, more companies are looking to invest in a sustainable solution that supports the younger, more mobile workforce. Spiral Suite offers exceptional ease-of-use, meaning users can perform all the necessary analytics and backcasting to make profitable, risk-adjusted feedstock purchasing and refinery planning decisions within weeks of licensing.”

Integral cargo tracking and assay management capabilities in Spiral Suite mean crude oil quality variations can be analyzed within minutes, rather than weeks, to assess their financial impact on the business, as well as any potential operational and reliability issues prior to purchase.

The software also automatically reconciles all available data and performs backcasting to understand how and why there may be deviations to the plan.

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