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Supply Chains and Gas Prices: Mitigating Risk in a Volatile World

Tom Wilson, Global Industry Leader, Energy
May 30, 2022

As gas prices soar due to restrictions on both domestic oil and imports from oil-producing countries, we’ve shifted our collective focus to the energy sector. It’s increasingly apparent that the global oil and natural gas supply chain sits in a delicate balance—supply chain disruptions in one country can affect gas and oil prices around the world. If a top oil-producing nation ramps down natural gas production or distribution, additional supply must come from another nation. Plus, reserve supplies have run frustratingly low as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which many oil producers have struggled to sell supply as travel has decreased (with some estimating US consumers cut travel by as much as 40% at the start of the pandemic).

While energy companies can’t control world events, your company can optimize its supply chain management and mitigate risk with a flexible, unified development platform that lets you build and customize software to meet evolving market needs. Low-code platforms are ideal for the complex, shifting scenarios encountered by energy companies across oil, gas, and utilities, letting you quickly build applications that offer visibility across your own operation and the wider supply chain.

But not all low-code platforms are built for mission-critical challenges such as those posed by the oil and gas supply chain. Choose a low-code provider that combines process mining, workflow, and automation in a unified platform. Process mining lets you find and fix inefficiencies and bottlenecks. Workflow capabilities let you design processes, connect disparate systems, and develop unified applications that keep your team and supply chain running smoothly. And automation saves you time and effort on manual, repetitive tasks. Combining all three is a powerful way to accelerate processes and outcomes across all your integrated operations—from procurement to maintenance to shipping.

4 ways low-code addresses supply chain unpredicability.

1. Improves communication with suppliers.

Communication and collaboration are critical to supply chain management in the oil and gas industry. With a best-in-class low-code platform, you can connect to supplier systems to find out about delays or shortages early and automatically request updates. Getting information sooner lets you plan ahead, whether that means using reserve supplies, looking for alternate suppliers, or modifying pricing. Communicating with customers about delays ensures they have enough product in reserve in the meantime.

For utility companies, communication is essential to great customer service. With low-code, you can automate messages on widespread outages, give estimates on resolution times, or even build self-service portals so customers can check on outages themselves, reducing call volume and getting information to customers faster. 

Additionally, low-code lets you create workflows for resolving outages using a simple drag-and-drop interface. For example, you might design a workflow for dispatching maintenance crews and crafting communications to neighboring utility firms to quickly request assistance for an unplanned disruption. With a clear, efficient workflow with as many automated steps as possible, you can reduce overall downtime by hours or in some cases days and save your customers money, as power outages cost American businesses $150 billion per year.

2. Mitigates risk.

When an urgent issue like a downed wire, burst pipeline, weather issue, or even just a planned upgrade forces you to adapt in real time, low-code can help. Use low-code workflow capabilities to break down your risk mitigation and recovery plan into simple, easy-to-use applications. For example, you could design a low-code app that prompts you to enter the type of problem you’re facing then automatically shows you the necessary steps in the workflow to resolve the issue. This might include instructions for finding spare parts for maintenance, communicating with suppliers to purchase parts if you lack the spares, and finding contractors or team members who can work on the issue.

Additionally, process mining is a lifeline for risk mitigation. With process mining, you can find inefficiencies in your workflows using log data. After an issue subsides, a process mining tool will analyze your logs, finding places to simplify or streamline the process for next time and helping you improve response times for future incidents.

3. Improves preventive maintenance.

An equipment breakdown anywhere in the process—from upstream drilling or mining to midstream distribution to downstream refining—can cause a bottleneck in getting goods and services to customers. 

There are two key ways low-code helps with this. First, with a low-code platform, you can quickly build an application that centralizes maintenance and flags waning performance in connected devices. And a unified low-code platform will let you track this performance from a central place, notify staff to fix issues, and make fully informed decisions on when to retire or replace equipment. Second, by integrating with existing inventory management systems, low-code lets you easily find equipment in storage across your organization’s locations, so you can redistribute existing parts rather than buy new ones. 

4. Improves transportation.

Many gas retail outlets expect overnight shipments and deliveries. Whether you outsource to a trucking company or operate your own fleet, the improved visibility low-code provides helps you better meet expectations.

For instance, if demand unexpectedly increases one night at a specific gas station, a low-code app that connects to supply data across your warehouses and stations will let you know right away so you can easily plan trucking capacity for the morning. Or, here’s another example: many US utility companies rely on coal shipments that get transferred via railway. With a low-code platform, you can build a “track and trace” app to easily monitor railway shipments and transfer points.

Low-code solutions to supply chain issues.

Energy supply chain management is complicated and challenging, but low-code solutions excel at tackling complex problems. A best-in-class low-code platform will put workflow and process management at the core. Look for a platform that also includes multiple automation tools—such as robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, business rules, and intelligent document processing—so you can choose the right tool for a diversity of tasks, from automating communications to integrating data with legacy systems. Finally, a good platform will also offer built-in process mining, which analyzes your processes to find bottlenecks and deviations, giving you the insights you need to build applications that address your unique workflow challenges and boost efficiency.

Ready to learn more? Discover the top six risks to supply chains and how low-code is solving problems for leading businesses across industries.