Driving efficiency in the Oil and Gas industry

Driving efficiency in the Oil and Gas industry

The oil and gas industry has been under severe pressure since late 2014 when oil prices dropped significantly. The highly volatile international market and oversupply of oil has meant companies have had to reduce costs in one way shape or form.

Bill Kroger, co-chair of law firm Baker Botts told Rigzone in an interview that, “Energy companies may need to lower their prices in response to a drop in demand …. For this reason, we may see CAPEX [capital expenditures] begin to decline until there is some stability with oil prices,”

This has been evident in Australia where many oil and gas companies have reduced capital spending significantly. However, with a lot of oil and gas projects shifting towards the operational phase, how can we make processes and decisions more efficient and effective?

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Why Does analytics matter to my business?

Why does Analytics matter to my business?

Regardless of the size of your business, or position you are in, analytics is involved in one way shape or form. Analytics is used to find value within data in order to make decisions to minimise risk and maximise return. This can take the form of statistical modelling, forecasting, visualisation and much more, all in order to help with your strategic or operational decisions.

Businesses under review

The Harvard Business review’s research evaluated 5,000 employees at 22 global companies breaking them down into three groups; analysis over gut feeling; gut feeling over analysis; and the informed sceptics who balance analytics with gut feeling. The latter group being the best in regards to making the best, informed decisions as they were willing to not only look at the analytics, but the opinions of other people. Despite being recognised as being the best to make informed, critical decisions, only 38% of employees, and 50% of senior managers fall into this group.

How to tell if your business is analytically challenged?

Are your analytical decisions coming from a select few employees?

Usually when there is a skill gap within a company an outside consultant will be brought in, or a select few employees will be pushed towards training. This is an important task for bringing in new ideas and skill sets to your business. However, a lot of companies don’t encourage the spread of this wealth of knowledge. This often results in a select few employees having all of the knowledge and skills.

Biarri looks to promote education and training for key decision makers and users within your organisation so that your new software can be taught at different levels.

Are your systems focused on features rather than the benefits?

In a lot of companies the IT department is pushed away from the decision making process. This often results in building and organising things in a way to cater for the computer savvy, or IT expert rather than the general user. What this means for your business is that other employees and decision makers are hesitant to start using new systems and programs.

Biarri designs custom software for you, with you. We bring together IT, and operations staff so that design choices can be made from people using the tools!

Do you have data but don’t know what to do with it?

Many organisations get into a stage of collecting so much information that it becomes a mess and difficult to deal with. Or, someone else has told them to collect the information but they have no idea what it means. The implications this can have on your business is that it can cause clouded judgement. The Harvard business review found that less than 40% of employees know how to find the information they need for their work.

Biarri can help develop specific dashboards and input fields for your data and hosting this in the cloud means you can access your software, anytime, anywhere on any device.

Do you know who’s in charge of the data?

Historically data was considered the responsibility of the IT department and as a result a lot of managers and executives gave away this responsibility. However, it is important that managers, and executives champion data and analytics in their decision making. The right decision at the right time will help across your whole business.

Biarri can help by giving you the power to make the right decisions at the right time. We help to make Business analytics accessible to everyone.

How do I make better business decisions?

There are a bunch of ways in which you develop your analytics skills within your business.

  • Workshops and Training, Find a select few employees to champion new skills and abilities. However, make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of not spreading the wealth of knowledge. Make sure those employees spend time training and mentoring others within your business
  • Get someone in to have a look at your data, By getting an external perspective on your data, you will have a better understanding on how you can go about making better decisions
  • Get on top of your IT and software, Make sure that you have software that everyone can use to make better decisions. If you can make data easier to use then employees will be able to make faster, profitable and risk adverse decisions.

Where does Biarri Fit In?

Biarri Is an Australian Software company that uses the power of mathematics to help business make better decisions. We use the latest Operations Research tools and techniques in order to find you the best solutions. Coupled with simple and easy to use design we can build you bespoke solutions within 90 days.

Find out how we can help you across Advanced Planning and Scheduling, Workforce Management, Supply Chain Optimisation, Business Analytics and throughout different Industries.

Or, Contact us today to see how we can help you!

Death by parameters

In my previous blog post I wrote about the great flexibility and power of Genetic Algorithms. So you may have thought; why do I need help with my optimisation problems? One can just simply grab an off-the-shelf Genetic Algorithm and use it. However, as with everything, there are always two sides to every story and this time I’ll show you why optimizing with Genetic Algorithms is much harder than it seems.

The flexibility of Genetic Algorithms arises, in part, from a flexibility to choose a dizzying number of parameters. When writing your own code you potentially have to decide on things such as the number of competing optimal solutions, the number of times to improve them, the mutation and crossover probabilities, the percentage of the population to eliminate in each generation and many more.

With so many choices, choosing the parameters correctly can determine whether the algorithm bears fruit or withers and dies. This difficulty has lead to many papers on the best way to choose parameters. Unfortunately even if one is able to choose good parameters for one problem, this is no guarantee that the same parameters will work for the next problem.

Reed warbler cuckoo

A reed warbler raising the young of a common cuckoo

So over the years researchers have searched for other powerful optimisation techniques which don’t suffer from such a parameter overload. From this research we now have a number of promising algorithms. In particular, in 2009 Xin-she Ying and Suash Deb came up with the ultimate of all parameter starved algorithms, the Cuckoo Search Algorithm. In this algorithm there is one parameter. Yes only one.

The Cuckoo Search Algorithm is inspired by the parasitic nature of some cuckoo species such as the European common cuckoo. These species lay their eggs in the nests of other host birds in an attempt to trick the host to raise their own nestlings. Sometimes this devious trick succeeds. When it doesn’t, the host bird either throws the egg over the side of the nest or simply abandons the nest altogether.

In the Cuckoo Search Algorithm the cuckoo’s ploy translates into an optimisation algorithm via four idealized rules which are repeated until the desired optimisation criteria are fulfilled. In the following algorithm each egg represents a solution and by a cuckoo laying an egg, we mean create a new random solution:

  1. Each cuckoo lays an egg in a random nest.
  2. Out of all laid eggs keep a number of the best eggs equal to the number of cuckoos.
  3. Abandon a fixed fraction of the worst eggs.
  4. Repeat

Find the parameter? The single, lonely parameter in the Cuckoo Search Algorithm is the fraction of the worst nests that are abandoned. This parameter affects how thorough the algorithm searches all possible solutions and so a lower value means the algorithm will find a local optimum faster (although maybe not a desired global optimum).

The avian-inspired algorithm has been used in numerous difficult problems to oust other optimisation methods out of their leadership position. For example, it has been used for spring and beam design problems , scheduling problems, the famous traveling salesman problem and even optimisation challenges in nanoelectronics! Like most other heuristic optimisation methods, the areas of application can be quite astounding.

So now that you’ve canceled the download of a promising Genetic Algorithm and started one of a new Cuckoo Search Algorithm, I thought I’d warn you again that there’s another side to this story too. Although the bird-based algorithm makes parameter choice simple, it may or may not be your best choice for a given optimisation problem. There are many heuristics for optimisation problems and choosing the right heuristic is probably much harder than choosing the right parameters for a given optimisation method. But you don’t have to worry about your precision nest eggs because luckily you’re on the website of a company competent enough to help you with this choice.

Biarri and SaaS

SaaS deployments are now ‘mission critical’

Gartner recently published a survey citing that SaaS deployments are now ‘mission critical.’ Some of the key reasons behind this statement is that respondents looked for cost savings, an increase in innovation and accessibility to their systems as key drivers for the move away from local software solutions.

Joanne Correia, Gartner Research Vice President said,

“The most commonly cited reasons the survey found for deploying SaaS were for development and testing production/mission-critical workloads,” and went on to say “This is an affirmation that more businesses are comfortable with cloud deployments beyond the front office running salesforce automation (SFA) and email.”

This shows that companies are becoming more aware, and switched on to the benefits that cloud based software can bring to their company.

It was also demonstrated that on top of cost savings, accessibility, and innovation, SaaS based systems allowed for easier training and lower learning curves for employees.

“Non-IT professionals, often view the cloud strictly as a tool that they can use to reduce their operating costs,” and in turn effort.

Biarri empowering you through the cloud

Biarri was established in 2009 with the mission to provide accessible business optimisation to all clients regardless of size or budgets. We develop bespoke SaaS based solutions for you, with you allowing your solutions to meet your specific requirements.

We have been able to develop a bunch of applications for our clients to suit their specific; Advanced Planning and Scheduling, Workforce Management, Business Analytics and Supply Chain needs.

Get in touch and see how you can benefit from our solutions today!

 

Biarri Optimisation - 21

One tech to rule them all

Back in high school when you were battling polynomials with derivatives, you learnt one of your first all-purpose optimisation techniques. Given a function, take its derivative, set it to zero and solve for all optima. Voila! After you had coerced the equation to give up all its maxima secrets, you could then be safe in the knowledge that you had found the optimal values.

If you enjoyed computing the optimal speed to jump your calculus hurdles, then you probably went on to university to learn more about other mathematical tools. Once there you most likely met your second all-purpose optimisation technique, Linear Programming. Given a simple linear function with linear constraints, you learnt that you could use any of a number of tools such as the Simplex Method to easily and quickly solve such problem.

Ant Colonay Optimisation in Action

Figure 1 Ant Colony Optimisation in Action

From there, if you had more of an applied orientation, you probably went on to learn about the exotic optimisation creatures. For example, Genetic Algorithms, Simulated Annealing as well as a host of other nature-inspired algorithms such as Ant Colony Optimisations, Swarm Optimisation, Artificial Bee Colony Optimisation techniques, etc. In the 1990s and 2000s, for almost any type of problem, it seemed that one could find a new nature-inspired optimisation technique to solve it better than previous more mainstream tools.

However, in spite of the swarm of new optimisation tools, most problems for which these new techniques were developed could be solved with existing tools. Although probably not as efficiently. Hence the question was which method was best? The answer to this question came in 1995 when two researchers, David Wolpert and William MacReady at the renowned Sante Fe Institute, proved a number of theorems collectively referred to as the “No free lunch” theorems. These results could be seen as implying that there is no one optimisation method that is best for all problems. In addition, when we average over all problems, we expect all methods to be equal.

This result has important and deep implications. It means that if you swear by a single generic optimisation method and try and use it to solve all your problems, then don’t expect it to perform better than your three year old son who guesses random solutions to all your different stochastic multi-objective constrained optimisation techniques.

Given this it would seem strange then that I am about to suggest the idea of solving numerous problems with a single optimisation technique. Besides the fact that a number of these problems don’t look like optimisation problems at all! The reason for doing this is to see the power of an interesting optimisation technique, as well as its flexibility and generality. In addition, one needs to bear in mind that the “No free lunch” theorem is a result about every imaginable optimisation problem, which is just a tad more than the few I will touch on here.

The ST5 antenna’s final optimised design

Figure 2 The ST5 antenna’s final optimised design

The class of optimisation technique that I want to discuss here is generally referred to as Genetic Algorithms. They have been successfully used on thousands of research and industrial problems and continue to amaze researchers with their potential to solve problems far beyond their original scope. For example, one of the most famous applications of Genetic Algorithms was by NASA in 2006 to develop a new antenna design for their ST5 antenna. It can be seen that the optimal design was anything but intuitive and most likely would not have been found by a “standard” optimisation technique based on initial human guesses.

So what type of problems would be considered inappropriate for Genetic Algorithms? First of all, you couldn’t do much worse than write some code to give to your son or daughter so that in their next algebra exam they can solve x + 5 = 6 with your tailored made Genetic Algorithm. They could just let your code chug away and sit there patiently while it aces the exam for them. Although not probably the most effective use of Genetic Algorithms, it is entirely possible.

So let’s take that thought one step further. What about solving the humble quadratic equation with a genetic algorithm? It has been done (and done againand again). But the quadratic equation belongs to pure mathematics right? In addition, it’s an equation you can solve directly isn’t it? Yes and yes but interestingly enough Genetic Algorithms have started to make their way into some of the purest area of mathematics to help solve problems that are stumping pure mathematicians, This is truly one area where you would not expect the tools of applied mathematicians to come to the rescue of pure mathematicians.

We have only scratched the surface of unexpected applications of Genetic Algorithms. In fact, they have made an appearance in almost every endeavour of research from physics to economics, from architecture to chemistry and even all the way back to their nature-inspired beginnings with numerous applications in biology. So in spite of our knowledge that there is no one method to solve all problems, Genetic Algorithms present us with a versatile and powerful tool that seems to have a lot more in store for our future problem solvers.

Read the second part here.

Can Analytics help fight Ebola?

The issue facing many countries that are both directly and indirectly effected is, how can we prevent the spread of Ebola?

The use of analytics in crisis and natural disasters is not a new phenomenon. In 2010 during the Haiti Earthquakes a research team made up of staff from Karolinska Institute in Sweden and Columbia University managed to map the spread of Cholera by mapping out mobile phone data.

What is happening in Africa?

Orange Telcom has handed over data from 150,000 mobile devices to a Swedish organisation in order to determine where people are moving. BBC found that this allowed authorities to see where to best place treatment centers and plan where to restrict, and prevent travel.

Nalini Joshi is a Professor in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Sydney. She stated during her appearance on Q&A that,

”The latest mathematical models from the CDC show that if you can isolate or hospitalise 70% of the infected patients by December, then the epidemic will be over in January. “So, it gives you a measure of what you can do to finish, to make sure that the epidemic doesn’t become a pandemic across the globe.”

She went on to say,

”It leads to a decision-making process, where you have to decide what resources you need to be able to hospitalise the 70% of infected patients that are expected by December. So it leads to all kinds of other branches, how many volunteers should you be sending, how many blankets and gowns and all of that should you send? So it gives you a measuring tool. It’s a ruler for deciding how to make the action happen.”

So, what does this all mean?

At the end of the day analytics within disaster control is a tool that empowers authorities to predict and properly plan. By providing quantitative analysis that is supported by data it reduces the need for spur of the moment gut feeling. This initiative and innovation used by authorities shows how analytics really can be used everywhere, and can help with disaster control.

Is it time for you to start using analytics?

Testing how analytics can drive competitive advantage

The 5 questions to ask yourself

Competitive Advantage Analytics Checkup
ORGANISATIONAL PRACTICE
Is my organisation open to new ideas that challenge current practice?
Does my organisation view data as a core asset?
Is senior management driving the organisation to become more data driven and analytical?
Is my organisation using analytical insights to guide strategy?
Are we willing to let analytics help change the way we do business?

If you answered yes to the 5 of these questions then you are using analytics to dive a competitive advantage in your business, Well done! If your business is lagging behind, it’s never too late to begin optimising with your analytics. If you want your business to gain a greater competitive advantage using analytics, get in contact with Biarri and we can discuss how we can help by building you simple, easy to use custom software solutions that give you the power to use analytics to increase your companies competitive advantage!

Organisations that know where they are in terms of analytics adoption are better prepared to turn challenges into opportunities.

Recent research conducted by MIT Sloane Based on a global executive survey with 2,000+ respondents and interviews with more than thirty executives, suggests that analytics has become a common path to value and organisations that are embracing the sweeping advance of analytics into industry practice and continue to invest in analytics and technology stay ahead of the curve.

So, is your business analytically Aspirational, Experienced or Transformed?

At the starting point toward achieving analytical goals is the ‘Aspirational’ category. Typically your organisation will be focusing on efficiency or automation of existing processes and searching for ways to cut costs. Businesses in this category rarely use rigorous approaches to make decisions and limited use of insights to drive strategies or guide day-to-day operations.

Organisations considered ‘Experienced’ have gained some analytic experience and are exploring better ways to act on analytics and optimisation. Often your business will tend to have a moderate ability to capture, aggregate and analyse data, and employ some rigour around decision making. However these businesses tend to have a focus on insights guiding day-to-day operations and limited ability to leverage these insights to guide future strategies.

Analytically ‘Transformed’ organisations use analytics as a key competitive differentiator, they optimise people, processes and tools and are less focused on cutting costs than those in Aspirational or Experienced stages. These organisations indicated in the research that they substantially outperform their industry peers, reinforcing the performance advantage that results from higher levels of analytics adoption.

If you are serious about taking the next step and successfully implementing data-driven management for creating value then don’t let the data stand in the way!

The leading obstacle is a lack of understanding of how to use analytics to improve the business

Despite popular opinion, getting the right data is not the top challenge organisations face when adopting analytics. 40% of respondents surveyed in the research cited

“the leading obstacle to widespread adoption is lack of understanding of how to use analytics to improve the business. The other major barrier was ‘lack of management bandwidth.'”

Biarri can show how businesses can benefit from embedding the use of data, statistical and quantitative analysis, explanatory and predictive models and fact based management to guide day-to-day operational decisions, inform future strategy and build an inimitable capability.

If you would like to find out more about how you can take your business from analytically aspirational to transformed, feel free to continue the discussion today!

Analytics for a Competitive Advantage

Analytics for a Competitive Advantage

Are you serious about using analytics for a competitive advantage?

Based on a global executive survey with 2,000+ respondents and interviews with more than thirty executives, MIT Sloan Management Review and SAS Institute Inc. report that analytics has become a common path to business value and through proper use, businesses can drive analytics for a competitive advantage.

Companies that incorporate analytics into their culture are finding success in the new digital era

The report discusses how organisations are now being challenged to step up their use of analytics, whether they are just getting started or are seasoned practitioners. The implications for industry competition are coming into focus—companies that incorporate analytics into their culture are finding success in the new digital era.

In new research released by MIT Sloan Management Review and SAS managers surveyed, report that an analytics culture is the driving factor in achieving competitive advantage from data and analytics, more important than any of the other capabilities measured in the study.

Companies must continuously innovate with analytics to maintain the edge

The new report, “The Analytics Mandate,” based on results from a global survey of more than 2,000 business executives and personal interviews with over 30 senior managers, also finds that companies must continuously innovate with analytics to maintain the edge it affords.

“We found that in companies with a strong analytics culture, decision-making norms include the use of analytics, even if the results challenge views held by senior management,” said David Kiron, executive editor for MIT Sloan Management Review. “This differentiates those companies from others, where often management experience overrides insights from data.”

The research also indicates that companies with a top-down mandate for fact-driven decision making are experiencing gains with analytics to a far greater extent than other organizations. Executive support, leading by example and evangelizing “a lot of little wins” helps to both push and pull employees towards an analytics culture.

This study, now in its fourth year, suggests that analytics is no longer a new path to value; it’s a common one. Access to useful information continues to increase, and the vast majority of respondents are investing in their analytical capabilities to leverage their data.

Biarri helps to turn your data into a competitive advantage

Biarri can help to take a repository of data and knowledge and turn it into a greater competitive advantage for your business. By taking a snapshot of your historical data, we can create custom software within 90 days which gives you the power to make better, data driven decisions. We develop bespoke solutions to Advanced Planning and Scheduling, Workforce Management, Supply Chain Optimisation and Business Analytics problems, across multiple Industries and value chains.

Contact us today to see how we can help turn your data into a competitive advantage!