By Kelli Ainsworth Robinson, Associate Editor
Pilots, air traffic controllers and airplane mechanics are no less susceptible to human error than anyone else. Yet commercial airlines fly billions of passengers around the world every year while experiencing very few incidents or fatalities. “What did they do? They put in checklists,” Terry Barrett, Chief Operating Office for CAVU International, said on 17 October at the 2017 IADC Human Factors Conference in Galveston, Texas.
Checklists, which have been used effectively in aviation, can also be used to combat human error in oil and gas. Recently, CAVU worked with Halliburton to develop a digital checklist for their field service representatives in the Permian Basin. “The checklists help drive the behavior of the field reps while they’re out in the field, as well as transmit data to the office as quickly as possible,” Mr Barrett said.
The aviation industry is viewed by many industries, including oil and gas, as a standout when it comes to reliability and safety, with good reason, Mr Barrett said. He pointed out that, in 2015, the global airline industry flew 3.5 billion people on 37.6 million flights, with an average of only one accident per 3.1 million flights. That equates to 99.9997% reliability.
One of the reasons for this high level of reliability is adherence to well-established procedures. However, procedures alone aren’t sufficient to drive reliability, due to human error. That’s why checklists are used to help reinforce these procedures. “Since 1935, the aviation community has been equipping their pilots with this tool to make sure they don’t forget critical steps,” he said.
In any industry, it’s important to understand the relationship between checklists and procedures, he said. Procedures are a means to capture corporate knowledge and best practices. However, procedures can be hundreds of pages and aren’t easy for employees to consult on a day-to-day basis, Mr Barrett said. “They were never meant to be used in the field,” he added.
Checklists, in contrast, are designed to be used in the field on a daily basis. They are also more dynamic than procedures. “The checklist … was designed to evolve the way the job evolves. It can provide an input back to the procedures so the procedures stay updated,” Mr Barrett said.
Halliburton commissioned CAVU’s help to design and implement a digital checklist for the company’s field representatives, who are responsible for servicing rigs, delivering and picking up inventory and capturing well data. The goals of implementing these checklists were to standardize rig engagement, track the rig visit rate for each representative and improve service quality.
Field representatives were able to access the checklist on a smartphone. The checklist asked them to record various well data points and note other critical information, including the nipple up/down dates and whether the well is completed. Finally, the representatives enter inventory numbers in the checklist, which is immediately sent to the office, so it can be accessed right away, Mr Barrett said. He noted that it takes an average of three minutes for a field representative to complete every item on the checklist. “It used to take 30 minutes just to do the inventory alone on an Excel spreadsheet,” he added.
Having a uniform checklist field reps can consult during a rig visit helps standardize the process. Every representative is capturing the same data and performing the same tasks at every rig they visit. Because the data is entered digitally through a checklist app, it’s accessible in a database. This allows Halliburton to sort the data to see how often each rig is visited and how often each field rep visits their assigned rigs. “This allowed us to recognize the good performers,” Mr Barrett said. “We could see who was following expectations and reward the people who are doing their job.” Recognizing and rewarding employees who meet or exceed expectations also motivated employees who were not meeting expectations. “It dragged some of the middle-ground employees to the hard worker side.”
Finally, he said, improving the rig visit rate and ensuring that a field rep visits a given rig every week allowed Halliburton to view the rig visit rate as a leading indicator. “There was a feeling that … a lot of lagging indicators would follow, like increased service quality and reduced invoicing time,” Mr Barrett said. So far, that’s proving true. Within a month of implementing the checklists, the invoicing time – from nipple down until the invoice arrived – had been reduced by 50%. DC