Remote Verifications: How to Reduce Cost and Exposure Without Sacrificing Quality
The global pandemic has driven a renewed industry-wide effort to reduce costs and exposure by reducing the need to deploy on-site personnel. One way to accomplish this is to move the work off-site to the home location of the necessary resources. Activities such as planning, program design and development, and document reviews lend themselves well to this work relocation.
However, there are major activities that simply cannot be relocated off-site. These activities include verification milestones such as factory acceptance (FAT) and commissioning. In these cases, the verifiers need to witness the on-site verification activity. The challenge the industry faces today is that in many cases the verifier SME cannot be physically present where travel restrictions, costs, or visa issues may prevent traveling to and/or working on location.
The availability of low cost, real-time, high bandwidth, multi-party video conferencing, coupled with the ability to collaborate with multiple shared screens provides a new opportunity for verification and witnessing without having to be physically present on site. However, it’s not a simple as just putting a camera and microphone in front of the worksite.
Verification activities require a high level of attention to integrity and detail to ensure the relevant requirements are in fact demonstrated as met, and the verifier can trust what they are remotely witnessing.
A remote verification plan requires a higher level of development and execution detail than would normally be found in a locally executed plan. In remote situations, there is less opportunity for the verifier to provide guidance to resolve ambiguity or to react to unanticipated behaviors or results. Eliminating ambiguity and the potential for unanticipated behaviors or results must be part of the remote verification plan.
Provision of Points for Remote Verifications
The proof points for the results must be clearly defined in advance to ensure they can be produced and witnessed remotely. These proof points include photographs, live video feeds, or a documented output. It must be available in real-time on the platform being used to witness the work.
The remote plan also requires the provision of proof points to ensure the integrity of the results. We cannot ignore the fact that it is much easier to misrepresent remotely observed results, so the verifier must have a way to ensure the integrity of the results remotely. This can be done via various methods including timestamping, location tagging, and local personal attestations.
In one recent example, a mix of local and remote execution was successfully completed for the FAT of a drilling control system for a large platform in the North Sea. In this case, the initial HIL testing was completed with a team on-site in Norway. During this period, the verifiers gained confidence that the test environment was fully capable of producing verifiable actionable results. This allowed the punch list items to be cleared entirely remotely. After each item was fixed, the item was retested according to an already agreed to test plan. The results were transmitted to the home location of the verifier for review and sign-off. This process eliminated the need to keep the team on-site for an additional 6 weeks and resulted in significant cost savings and reduced exposure.
In another recent example, a completely remote FAT was executed which involved coordinating 8 locations across 4 time zones. The entire activity was managed over a standard MS Teams platform maintaining the necessary cybersecurity levels. Fourteen system interfaces over 4 protocols were remotely accessible to an experienced acceptance surveyor. The result was a successful acceptance with no “A” punches – and no flight, hotels, or risk of COVID-19 exposure.
Athens Group Services surveyors has unmatched experience in designing and executing effective verification activities, including remote rig inspections. We have carefully compared the existing regulations, standards, guidance, and best practices for verification against the latest remote work tools and capabilities as well as recent successful projects across the industry. Remote verification activities are not only effective, but in many cases, they will save time, cost, and exposure, while increasing efficiency and effectiveness. Contact us today to explore how these new capabilities can help you.