Oilfield services company improves profitability and increases operational efficiency with a satellite-based asset tracking system.
For Tampa, Florida-based QC Energy, business has been very good since its vehicles hit the road in 2010. A wholly owned subsidiary of Quality Distribution (QDI), operator of a large bulk tank network in North America, QC Energy has grown from being the “new kid on the block” to a major player in the industry, providing logistics and transportation services to some of the largest oil and gas operators in the country.
But business growth came with a challenge. With terminals spread across the United States and Canada and a growing list of customers, the company was faced with a need to efficiently and effectively track and manage its assets (both vehicles and heavy equipment) and have maximum visibility across its network — a familiar problem for many businesses in the oil and gas industry.
It wasn’t just enough to move water, sand and oil from one location to the next. QC Energy also wanted to provide value-added transportation and logistics services, such as real-time updated volume levels and shipment locations, to help its clients improve their bottom line. To achieve this, QC Energy focused on equipment and software from SkyBitz that would provide comprehensive dispatch management, remote monitoring and control, and improved safety and security.
ADDRESSING THE ISSUES
Given the breadth of its service area and the fact that oil and gas exploration takes place in very remote areas, QC Energy needed an effective way to stay in touch with its assets, whether they were in the field or on the road, across the state or across the country.
“Not knowing where your assets are can be costly for a company and its end client,” says Dan Moore, QC Energy’s vice president of operations. “Companies run the risk of purchasing too much equipment to address the immediate need as well as having already available equipment standing idle. Under-utilization of existing
resources and unnecessary increases in capital investment can be avoided with the right asset tracking system.”
Maintaining assets in remote areas over hundreds of miles can be chaotic, time-consuming and expensive, with the annual cost of physically searching for misplaced or unknown locations of assets well over $1 million for a company with 1,000 or more assets. Field personnel spend countless man-hours “chasing” equipment, while office employees must wade through a mountain of paperwork to track each unit’s last recorded location — which can change daily or even hourly. Additionally, when data is entered manually, there are higher incidents of human error. This inefficient strategy wastes time and money — neither of which is easy to recoup.
But with a tracking system, an asset inventory or “site check” can be performed simply by reviewing all assets within a pre-defined geographic perimeter, while using GPS mapping to match the right piece of equipment to the right location to optimize the asset’s use.
QC Energy integrated a battery-powered GPS tracking solution combined with its own software to maximize visibility of its trucks and heavy equipment — a win-win for the company and its clients, who appreciated the ability to monitor their shipments.
And it’s not just the customers’ confidence level that has increased. By improving asset visibility, companies like QC Energy can maximize their revenues by an estimated 10 to 15 percent, either by using fewer assets to maintain the standard level of performance (reducing capital expenditures) or by expanding operational capacity by more efficiently using existing assets. Factor in the related fuel costs, and the savings grow exponentially.
“Satellite-based tracking is particularly valuable due to the lack of infrastructure out in the field,” says Moore. “It’s a more efficient and reliable way of locating our vehicles and heavy equipment in the field, which allows us to better deploy and use these assets.”
REMOTE MONITORING AND CONTROL
Beyond tracking physical location of the assets, remote monitoring allows oil and gas companies to maintain critical operational equipment, continuously and inexpensively monitor operational metrics, and reduce costs of transportation to remote sites for these purposes.
Instead of dispatching crews to physically track down and inspect units for potential maintenance problems — which can take countless man-hours — companies can rely on the data captured by the tracking system to identify the condition of the equipment and take proactive steps to reduce unexpected downtime.
Targeted sensors can register various status changes, the number of engine hours logged on equipment and fill levels on containment vessels that are reaching a critical point — and send the information back to a central location for immediate response. This information provides insight into possible problems, helps prevent breakdowns, reduces unnecessary equipment replacement and maintenance costs, enables operational improvements, extends equipment life, and reduces costs related to unnecessary trips.
From a financial standpoint, the detailed and comprehensive data that result from a remote asset management solution enable better recordkeeping and billing while reducing redundancies and over-billing — a problem that can occur with a manual tracking system typically used in the gas and oil transport industry. No longer relying on handwritten documentation provided by drivers, the system efficiently and accurately tracks vehicle movement and delivery.
“This completely eliminates the amount of time spent tracking down billing errors,” says Moore. “Because the system creates an accurate record of where the vehicle has been, it validates the paperwork used for customer billing. The result is less paperwork, better documentation and improved client trust in the billing process.”
The asset tracking system also provides QC Energy’s customers with a wide range of reports based on the comprehensive data collected, with the technology supplying up-to-date information needed for analysis or alterations.
“Customers appreciate the ability to have immediate access to critical data,” says Moore. “Whether it’s changes in schedules, response to emergencies or the status monitoring of trucks or shipments, the software provides real-time answers to the questions.”
IMPROVED SAFETY AND SECURITY OF ASSETS
Satellite-based asset tracking systems incorporate key safety and security features such as anti-tampering, targeted sensors and remote monitoring, which can help companies track and quickly recover stolen equipment. By knowing the location of all high-value assets at all times, companies can act immediately in cases of asset theft and misuse, while crew safety, rapid response to accidents and disaster recovery can all be improved immensely through satellite-based alerting.
Remote tracking also provides information that’s crucial for compliance issues, such as the location, storage and transfer of hazardous materials. With a real-time reporting process, the system will instantly alert clients to situations that may require immediate action.
“The tracking of the delivered product is especially critical,” says Moore. “If there are contamination or other environmental issues that make it imperative to know where, when and how much was delivered, the system can provide you with that information.”
Using a satellite-based asset tracking system locates and coordinates the movement of critical equipment, optimizing its allocation and utilization to avoid downtime costs and lost revenue, and reduce capital equipment expenses. The visibility provided by the “eye in the sky” combined with a robust operating system that instantly monitors all incoming data will improve a company’s bottom line from an efficiency and profitability standpoint.
Equally important is selecting an asset tracking solution that will address the company’s specific needs and fulfill all requirements when implemented into the overall operation. Critical aspects to analyze when comparing different systems include ease of installation, ability to deploy and use across equipment fleet, dependable operation even in remote areas or under adverse weather conditions, and responsive, round-the-clock customer service support.
As QC Energy learned, once key criteria are met in a comprehensive tracking system, the overall operation becomes more efficient, more customer-responsive and ultimately more profitable.