Standardizing the Release-to-Drill Process Through a Lean Manufacturing SMED Approach
A major upstream Oil & Gas exploitation company, our client operates in the four Western Canadian provinces. Management was facing a lengthy cycle time for bringing new wells into production and, unfortunately, two previous attempts to implement improvements produced only marginal results. Having assisted this firm in the past, they reached out to us again to help analyze the Release to Drill to Initial Production process. The project was dubbed “Go to Flow.”
Our charter was to assist in the design and implementation of a documented process that would cover project wells from deep oil in the foothills, to multi-well projects for shallow gas in the prairies. From the onset of the As-Is analytical phase, we quickly realized the extent of the challenge we faced in trying to clearly define all aspects of the process. With each acquisition of new assets (fields or other companies) or on-boarding new employees, individuals formed their own perception of what the process was, essentially making the existing process even more complex. Adding to our challenge was a short window of opportunity. We had only six months to implement the new process before the next year’s drilling season began.
Working with one full-time client resource and select representation from each of the major departments (Surface Land, Mineral Land, Production, Facility and Development Engineers, Service and Facilities Supervisors, Production Foremen and Joint Interest), we utilized a Kaizen team approach. Our objectives were to:
- Clearly identify the existing process (the As-Is)
- Identify at each step what could or had gone wrong in the past
- Use “Lessons Learned” to determine what should be done in the future
- Implement changes as quickly as possible, in small steps (quick-hitters), rather than tackling a full-blown To-Be approach, due to the fact that the project had to be completed in a short period of time
- Develop and utilize Action Logs as the primary vehicle to keep everyone focused and on-time throughout the implementation
- Support the implementation with a Kaizen Continuous Improvement culture, which would allow the client’s team to continue to sustain and improve upon the results when our role in the project ended
During the Go-To-flow project, a detailed Process Flow was developed. New tools were identified and required meetings implemented as needed. This process flow became the “keystone” for the project. Through it, team members could talk through the entire process, prove to others that the process was correct, and thereby gain ownership from everyone involved.
Best Practices were developed through a detailed Q&A process. In developing the process flow, the team asked at each step, “What could and/or did go wrong at this point?” The findings were then collected and a checklist was developed to address each of the points, including determining who was responsible for each step (that is, who should be asked, informed or consulted with).
What we had essentially done was to apply a Lean Manufacturing SMED (Single-Minute Exchange of Dies) approach to the RTD process, with the creation of Best Practices acting as a form of quality control, or Poka Yoke (reducing the occurrence of recurring problems that delayed the process cycle-time). Through this method, we were able to develop a standardized process in which many of the causes for rework were removed upfront.
Working with internal development teams and senior operations management, the project team also designed a Dashboard to track the use of the new tools, critical meetings, the timing for release of key documents, and the time involved in the Release-to-Drill/Initial Production process.
In reviewing the findings since the new process was implemented, the “Rig Release to Initial Production” cycle time was reduced by over 63 percent – from 111 to 41 days, with significant elimination of rework and “wasted” RTDs (each one taking three times longer than a “clean” well). In addition, the volume of new wells being brought on production has more than doubled.
An additional benefit came from the fact that the new process significantly reduced the on-boarding time for new employees, in addition to reducing stress and frustration of existing employees. Within one year, this manifested in lower turnover rates.