The oilfield business is all about movement. Trucking water, sand and proppants in and flowback water and oil out is a 24/7 business, and just like the oil production itself, all of the companies involved want it to flow well. The process starts with efficient dispatching. Using traditional methods such as whiteboards and colored pens or a basic spreadsheet that simply converts the same information from a whiteboard to a computer, a veteran dispatcher can handle maybe 40 trucks a day, but with the right system perhaps that number can be doubled.
That’s what Qv21 Technologies LLC provides with The LogisticsFramework™ – a cloud-based solution for logistics and fleet management operations. In 2008, Qv21 set out to transform the way oilfield trucking companies operate – replacing errors and time-consuming manual procedures with a cost-saving and streamlined process.
“The traditional method is to track drivers on a whiteboard with colored pens,” COO Bill Biewenga explains. “Alternatively, they can manage it on a spreadsheet with the same information but just done electronically, but it’s not a real time savings in tracking because they are just keeping track of loads. They are not getting the necessary information or receipts for those loads, and that system doesn’t provide true electronic ticketing.”
The Driving Force
The Logistics Framework starts with the most basic information first: the driver. It can be a company employee or an independent operator contracted for the day, week or longer. The trucking company can tailor the truck drivers’ profiles to host any pertinent information – name, birthday, social security number, hours of service, last delivery carried, trailer type – for dispatching or other administrative purposes, such as accounts payables. Drivers are provided with smartphones or tablets, and dispatchers are enabled to communicate with the drivers, tracking loads and their related details throughout the day’s deliveries.
“All of this information is in a database and the companies just have to assign a driver to a load,” Biewenga says. “They do it through electronic means of communication, so they are not just tracking but also communicating. We have a color-coding system that keeps track of each stage of a delivery for each driver. If a driver is hitting every delivery it will light up green. If it’s lighting up yellow or red then the dispatcher knows he needs to pay attention and perhaps help to resolve problems with the driver or load. So you’re not constantly checking in with everyone. Green is good, if it’s yellow pay attention and if it’s red, really pay attention. By focusing only on the issues, an experienced dispatcher who can do 40 trucks using traditional methods can now handle 80 to 100 trucks.”
The efficiency in logistics creates efficiency for exploration and production companies that rely on oilfield service companies to move product in and out – products that vary greatly in type and volume. In the oil and gas business, all oil is not created equal, nor is water or the frac sand necessary for oil production. When a driver reaches point B, his or her assigned smartphone or tablet tells not only where to pick up the product but exactly what to pick up. The same information is viewed by the dispatcher at headquarters, putting the data in real-time at everyone’s fingertips.
“You can track details related to the driver and you can track details related to the load,” Biewenga says. “For example, there are 30 different kinds of frac sand out there, so you want to know if you’re delivering one kind versus another and you want to know who it’s going to and the time of delivery. Frac sand has its own set of characteristics and the same sort of thing applies to crude oil. It’s not just handling a load of crude oil, but having the details related to that load – the temperature, amount of water (BS&W) in the oil you’re carrying and so forth. It allows you to track all the details related to the various commodities.”
Pushing Out Paper
Having this information upfront allows the logistics company to streamline the billing process. Traditionally, when drivers make a pickup or delivery, they issue run tickets detailing what was picked up or delivered and when. One copy goes to the client and the other to the dispatcher, each of who re-enters that information into his or her own electronic database. The transcribing process often leads to errors and results in duplicated efforts. Using The LogisticsFramework™ a driver can enter the delivery or pickup information into a smartphone or tablet, which makes it immediately available to the dispatcher. The driver then prints a copy for the customer using Bluetooth technology and a small portable printer.
The real-time and accurate process means tickets can be reconciled in minutes instead of days, which means less wasted time and effort, fewer errors and accelerated cashflow. Trucking companies get a faster turnaround on cashflow and all parties involved have information to make real-time decisions, avoid problems and take advantage of opportunities.
“The oil company has paper tickets left at the well site and they take those paper tickets and they match those up with the tickets from the trucking company so the trucking company can get paid,” Biewenga explains. “Our software enables electronic ticketing, which is not only for the trucking companies’ benefit but also for the oil companies.”
This realization has prompted some innovative and leading exploration and production companies in the Bakken Shale to work with Qv21 to develop a robust cloud-based database filled with information about the wells and tanks located on-site. Well and tank data are retrieved from the oil companies by Qv21/The LogisticsFramework™. The data are then made available for use by the trucking companies. When a driver arrives at a well-site, his in-cab handheld device already has all the details about that well: the tanks on site, the actual tank sizes and strappings, the tank IDs and accurate tank names. When entering gauges, the volume of oil is accurately calculated based on the strappings provided by the oil company. No manual calculations need to be performed.
Ultimately, the value of The LogisticsFramework™ doesn’t end at logistics. The amount of real-time data allows companies to make better decisions faster. “When we started this company, we knew it would be a game-changer,” Biewenga says. “Every load of crude oil, sand or water – even coal, ore, soybeans or corn – every load has a load of data associated with it and there is value in both the commodity and the data.”