The Office for National Statistics international comparisons of productivity show the UK’s productivity is only ranked 5th among the G7 countries, and since 2007 only Italy has seen weaker productivity growth. The persistent weakness in productivity has puzzled economists and some believe one cause is falling productivity in the oil and gas sector.
The House of Commons Library Report ‘Productivity in the UK’ by Daniel Harari, published July 2017 states: “The UK’s new trading and investment relationships in a post-Brexit world, and its impact on the amount and pattern of trade and investment that takes place, will be important in determining Brexit’s impact on productivity and economic growth.”
The report continues: “Given the importance of UK-EU links in trade and investment a majority of economists believe that the final post-Brexit settlement will leave the UK economy less open, likely lowering the UK’s long-term productivity and growth rates compared to a scenario where the UK had stayed in the EU.”
It is clear that the UK needs to urgently improve productivity as the country undertakes Brexit, and the oil and gas sector has a big role to play. But, what can be done to reverse these fortunes that can make a significant difference in the immediate term? Implementing processes to address data quality is arguably a very strong candidate.
There are millions of product identifiers for all types of products and services across the global supply chain. In an electronic marketplace, buyers need to correctly identify suppliers and product part numbers to successfully purchase the right item. Incorrect product numbers and incomplete supplier information cause orders to fail, costing businesses both time and money. It all adds up to millions of dollars per annum and with it a significant loss in productivity.
The business challenge, particularly for UK organisations in the oil and gas sector, is to streamline the order process and eliminate these errors, thereby significantly increasing productivity whilst also making products and services more attractive to international buyers.
A recent study by the Oil & Gas Journal Online Research Center recommended the industry (i) adopt data standards and processes, and (ii) use technology, automation and industry standards for data cleansing, processing and sharing — to free valuable time of high-end data consumers and improve efficiency.
Manufacturers already use international standards for their quality management processes, such as ISO 9001, and for their manufacturing standards such as ISO-15 but not the data that defines their product specifications. It makes sense for these companies to implement data standards, and ISO 8000, together with ISO 22745, are fast becoming the de facto data standards for this.
These ISO data quality standards require each company to register a unique prefix, and then publish their technical dictionary, and their product specifications in an open searchable registry. The prefix acts like a DNS address and points buyers to the source company. All specifications can be downloaded in machine readable form, enabling everyone and every system in the supply chain to share the exact same data. It means no more failed orders and no need for expensive, time consuming data cleaning services anymore.
Not only are organisations recognising these benefits and looking to adopt the ISO standards, but the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as part of their Vision 2030 program, has developed a National Industrial Strategy (NIS) with ISO 8000 at its core.
During this summer of 2017, exporters of industrial items have begun to receive notifications requesting that they comply to ISO 8000. This will enable Saudi Arabia to automatically charge the correct import tariff, speed up the import process, and importantly enable companies based in the Kingdom to benefit from product specifications meeting stringent data standards.
Alongside Saudi Arabia, other countries are recognising the productivity benefits that can be gained and are starting to embrace the future world of data standards:
• A major G7 country has started to add a clause into some of their Government tenders requiring compliance to ISO 8000;
• The UK Home Office has started to recruit ISO 8000 skilled people; and
• A G20 country based in the Far East is expected to announce adoption of ISO 8000 in the near future.
As Brexit approaches it is fundamentally important that the UK Oil and Gas industry starts to improve its recent decline in productivity, and position itself as a world leader again. The lack of data quality standards in the industry is costing it dear. This cannot continue.
Manufacturing companies need to starting implementing ISO 8000 immediately. However, as always the uptake on new initiatives needs a kick start and this is where the the UK Government needs to play its part.
The Government should aim to follow Saudi Arabia’s lead, adopt the ISO 8000 data quality standard, start adding clauses into tenders to demand compliance, and once again demonstrate leadership and innovation in the field of manufacturing.