Q&A with Jason Brown, President, Smart Process Industries

2019-09-17T09:42:12+00:00September 17th, 2019|Article|

Jason Brown, President, Smart Process Industries, offers customers in the oil & gas industry a simple proposition: make your plant run better and more efficiently by leveraging the latest technologies.

It’s difficult to argue with Jason once he details the value of the subscription-based, results-focused solutions mCloud delivers through advanced tech such as cloud-based computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and 3D digital twins.

One of the first employees at Autopro and an integral part of its leadership team, Jason was promoted to his new position following the recent acquisition by mCloud.  Jason believes that Autopro’s longtime customers and many others can secure major competitive advantages through the cutting-edge technologies and services mCloud provides.

Learn more about Jason and his thoughts on mCloud’s role in the evolving oil & gas industry in the Q&A below.

1. Can you provide us more information on your professional background?

I studied instrumentation at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) when the field was not very well known.  After working as a tradesman for a couple of years, I entered the University of Alberta and received a degree in chemical engineering, process control. As part of my education, I served for eight months in a project engineering group at a large petrochemical facility in Edmonton. That’s where I got some appreciation for the complexity of these plants and what it takes to implement projects in an operating facility. 

When I graduated, I learned about Autopro and my previous experience seemed to be a perfect fit. I hit it off with everyone and it was in my hometown where I wanted to be. I always felt extremely lucky that there was a kind of confluence of all those things that came together.  I was able to grow with the company, starting as a Control Systems Engineer, then advancing to Branch Manager and then to Vice President, Operations.

2. Are oil & gas operators ready for ‘digital transformation?’

Different companies seem to be on different parts of the learning curve and adoption.  They all read the headlines and the buzzwords around AI and machine learning and even the 3D digital twin, but many don’t quite understand how it all works, how to implement it and how to drive value in their business. 

However, I think a key driver is that costs for implementing these technologies have come down.  Large multinationals have capital to leverage these advances in their early stages. But mCloud can now offer a similar solution to what the big players have at a fraction of the cost because of the ability to leverage the cloud.  Our solutions are especially beneficial to midstream gas processors that can’t absorb large capital costs to remain competitive. Even the smallest oil & gas companies will see benefits from this technology.

3. How significant is 3D digital twin technology for the oil & gas industry?

3D digital models have been around for some time, especially in the design of new plants. But the ability to access one from the cloud and tie asset data to it is new.  A 3D digital twin can replicate almost everything in a plant. The technology will transform the way people work in the oil & gas industry – moving them away from paper, copies, drawings, field verifications, etc.  

With all the information available from a single access point, plant workers can find a pump manual or data sheet for an instrument by simply clicking on the part.  The 3D digital twin can be used for spatial reference in preparation for installing a new pipe or other equipment. Before you ever step foot in the plant, it can show you it’s going to fit and what type of set-up you’ll need to install it. 

The 3D digital twin is also accessible anywhere. A worker can be at the plant wearing a RealWear augmented reality headset and call up any information they need on specific equipment.  Information is right at your fingertips.

4. How do you think AI will benefit oil & gas operations?

AI and data analytics will help make plants run more efficiently as trends are discovered through machine learning that will lead to predictive maintenance and fine-tuning of operations to get that much more out of a particular asset. The operators that adopt it early and get it right are going to have a substantial advantage in the market.

5. What are the challenges in getting customers started down this new path? 

One of the commonalities between mCloud and Autopro we immediately discovered was how we’re both focused on producing positive business results for our customers. So, it isn’t so much about the technology, it’s about asking and answering key questions for them, such as why should we make this investment? Or, why should we have better monitoring and control over the system’s health?

We want our customers to expect real-world, positive business results such as increased production or less downtime and maintenance. We are dedicated to helping our customers understand what the value will be from making these investments. 

In the past, if an oil & gas operation made capital investments, there could be a lag time of up to several years before they saw the payback. mCloud, however, places its technology on top of existing systems at a very low capital cost. In fact, we just amortize the investment through your subscriptions so you will see immediate savings. Our subscription-based services offer predictable costs for our customer connected to real business outcomes.  This model allows our customers to start saving money from the very the first month without a big capital outlay.

6. How do you think mCloud’s services compare to the competition?

mCloud’s founders Russ and Tino have been involved in this kind of technology for decades.  They cut their teeth in automation for the oil & gas industry. They also proved a lot of the concepts of asset management in the smart building space first.  Then it was a logical progression from buildings to wind turbines to the more complex challenges in the process industry. I think mCloud is way ahead of the curve as far as being able to pull all this technology together and deliver business results.

It’s no longer a question about “if” digital transformation will take hold in the oil & gas industry, it’s how fast will it spread and who will get it right.  I believe mCloud is very well-positioned to help our customers get it right before their competitors do.

For more information about mCloud’s AssetCare and Smart Process Industries, contact us here.