Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a series about a bit of Phil Schwarz’s personal experience as a wireline field engineer in Alaska. You can read part one here.

The training curriculum for a new wireline “junior” field engineer, with the company I worked for at the time, was six months. A junior field engineer would typically spend two to four weeks in the field, followed by an intense 12-week training course, working 13 out of 14 days. The 80 percent of students who passed would spend another eight to 10 at their assigned location going on jobs with another field engineer before they could go out on jobs by themselves. Imagine the costs associated with training a newly hired field engineer for six months! It includes their compensation, the cost of the training equipment, training center, etc. — it would cost $100,000 to $200,000, if not more.

There’s a lot to the job of a wireline field engineer. Technology to learn, processes, customers, regulations, safety practices, and much more. I personally led more than 200 jobs during the three years I was a field engineer. We had hundreds of wireline field engineers in the U.S. and thousands worldwide. You can imagine the sea of file cabinets each location had allocated to store the hard copy records of more than a dozen forms required for each job. Below are a few I used on the job.

Hard-copy forms and documents

  • HAZMAT for radiation
  • HAZMAT for explosives
  • Transport bill of lading
  • Dispatch forms
  • Asset transfer
  • Field ticket (aka. a pro-forma invoice)
  • Wireline log
  • Quality control form
  • Job safety analysis
  • Customer evaluation
  • Risk identification report

We also had four internally built, designed and maintained software applications that helped us perform certain functions of our field service job. Imagine the costs associated with building these applications, maintaining them, using them (double entry between systems), and learning them! I was speaking with former colleagues recently and this particular company is only today moving towards end-to-end field service management platform. Many oilfield companies continue to use expensive custom build applications or simply use Excel to manage their business.

Separate in-house applications

  • Preventative maintenance: We recorded PM on our logging tools & equipment. The software was terribly unfriendly to use so most field engineers didn’t, and therefore didn’t document their PM. Because it wasn’t documented consistently it wasn’t managed consistently and much of the equipment was under maintained ultimately risking “lost: time (AKA unproductive time at the wellsite).
  • Field ticketing & work order debrief: Because this software wasn’t integrated with the PM software, there was no history to the number of jobs the equipment was run on, what temperature and pressures they were exposed to, what field engineer used them, etc. Furthermore, we actively used more than 10 different price books. Each client had a contract or agreement based on one of these price books. Each client also had unique discounts for each service performed. You can imagine the field ticket errors because it was just too burdensome on the FE’s to keep track and ensure 100 percent accuracy.
  • Knowledge management: Field engineers would use this application to ask questions to internal experts, find answers to common questions, download equipment manuals, find best practices, etc. This was a quite handy application back then because it had offline capabilities as long as I selected the material I wanted offline access to.
  • Asset transfer: One location developed an application to transfer assets. Only few locations used it, and it wasn’t well maintained.

If only I had ServiceMax back when I was a field engineer! The benefits would have been enormous, including:

  • A single end-to-end platform: I would only have to learn one intuitive system. A single tool that serves all the functionality above (and much more!) in an easy to use platform designed for offline/online use.
  • No more paper: All of these forms would be electronically captured, automatically filed/organized, and some (like the asset transfer form) could be eliminated. If any particular form had to be printed after it was completed, we could. No double entry! Shoot, I could have even used voice to text recognition for those open text fields we had to complete.
  • On-demand work calendar access: I could see which jobs were coming up and I had enough time to catch a movie and dinner with my wife before getting dispatched.
  • Accurate driving instructions and no late wellsite arrivals: No more instructions like “take the fifth left after cow crossing guard.”
  • 100 percent accurate field tickets: There were few things worse than having to go back to the wellsite to get a field ticket resigned because of errors. As a former field service manager, at least 20 percent of my days would have been freed up not having to fix field ticket errors.
  • Service workflows: The platform is set up using workflows. I would always know what the next step was in my job.
  • Faster training: Training could have been done in at least 50 percent of the time. I’m confident all the logging equipment, training well sites, and perhaps even the wireline training centers could have been eliminated. The classwork could have been done virtually. All the hands-on training could be taught on the job using training material and documentation attached in ServiceMax. All of it available me to me on my mobile device! I would have been making job bonus much earlier!
  • Avoid mistakes: There were so many tasks I had to keep track of. Missing one step could potentially injure someone or cost my company a lot of money. In ServiceMax my crew and I wouldn’t have had to remember everything ourselves. We would have standard checklists to help us remember critical steps preparing for the service or executing it. No more sliding logging units!
  • Dashboards set up for my success: No more spending hours each quarter compiling metrics myself!

Technology has evolved a lot since my time as a wireline field engineer and with that evolution has come tremendous benefits. If our teams had access to a tool like ServiceMax we would have been more efficient and productive. Today, I’m proud to say that companies are finding real value in what successful service can bring to an organization and investing in the technology they need. We’ve come a long way, and I can’t wait to see where we go next.

To learn more about ServiceMax please visit: https://www.servicemax.com/industries/oil-gas

ABOUT Phil Schwarz

Avatar photoPhil Schwarz has nearly 20 years of experience in the oil & gas industry with oilfield service, industrial automation and SaaS companies. He is passionate about smart oilfield technologies and the economics of oil & gas. He holds a Graduate Certificate in Smart Oilfield Technologies from the University of Southern California and a Masters in Economics from the University of North Dakota. Phil is the former oil & gas industry development director at ServiceMax.