Roadmap for Evolution: GAIL on a digital transformation journey

GAIL on a digital transformation journey

In the fast evolving world, digital technology assumes great significance. Taking cognisance of this, GAIL embarked on a digital journey in 2016. Its “digital yatra” is a case study for all organisations. While the company has made some headway in the digitalisation of operations and maintenance (O&M) works, it is yet to overcome a few barriers in other areas.

Initially, there were hiccups in the implementation of digital initiatives. First, there was lack of awareness as the management was not fully exposed to the digital world. Digital adaptability was missing in the middle-level management. Second, the mindset of the people was such that they were not ready to take digital initiatives. Third, there was a lot of confusion created by technology providers.

In order to combat these issues, GAIL adopted a series of measures. The company selected a good, digitally inclined team and inducted some people from the O&M side. As part of the digital training, GAIL started sending its team to events and conferences to make them aware of the digital initiatives being taken globally. It also celebrates “digital day” on the 27th of every month. With these steps, the company has been able to launch 12 digital products in the past one year. Further, it aims to digitalise every single process in the near future.

Key technology initiatives
GAIL has taken several initiatives to enhance the safety of operations and improve efficiency. Some of these are:
• For O&M, the company has implemented supervisory control and data acquisition, which allows remote monitoring and control of pipelines from O&M control rooms.
• In order to ensure real-time surveillance of pipelines, GAIL, in 2016-17, installed a pipeline intrusion detection system on a trial basis at a 72 km section from Piyala to Loni and a 175 km section from Vizag to Secunderabad liquefied petroleum gas pipeline network. The detection system works on distributed acoustic sensing technology utilising optical fibre cable.
• GAIL has installed application software for the centralised monitoring of pipelines.
• The company has started using drones for pipeline surveillance.
• Predictive maintenance has been a focus area for GAIL. The company notifies the maintenance works to be undertaken in the beginning of the month and monitors how much has been completed by the end of the month. Around 80-85 per cent success has been achieved in this area.
• Digital mapping of pipelines in SAP, e-tendering, e-billing, etc. are some other initiatives taken by the company.
The company has performed well on the O&M front though there is scope for improvement on the project area side.

Recommendations and the way forward

The key to be digitally ready is to read, learn and apply. To bring about digital transformation in an organisation, it is crucial to have a digital mindset. It should be a shared and synchronised vision. The management must also be passionate about digitalisation. Meanwhile, the technology providers must understand the requirements of the organisation and accordingly come up with a solution. Cybersecurity, for instance, has become one of the focus areas for most of the organisations. It is a combination of technological issues and business problems.
In the digital journey, manual processes must be minimised. The foremost step for bringing about a change is to develop a conducive ecosystem. Culture, behaviour and habit are the three important aspects in this. In order to develop a digital culture, people must adopt digital behaviour, habits and thinking. Habit can be formed through routine and reward. Though it is a slow process, the management needs to be patient as the outcome will be productive.
Based on remarks by Dr Ashutosh Karnatak, Director, Projects, GAIL (India), at a recent India Infrastructure conference