Visual Path Analysis
- Richard P. Schoemaker (Mobil Oil Canada Ltd., Calgary, Alta., Canada)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- February 1967
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 177 - 185
- 1967. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 4.3.4 Scale, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 1.6.9 Coring, Fishing
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Advanced planning techniques have been proven as effective and inexpensive means to maximize the use of manpower and resources. An important contribution towards improved planning was made by development of the technique known as critical path analysis. However, the effective use of this quantitative technique is severely limited in many sectors of operation in the oil industry due to the great element of uncertainty. Nevertheless, the quality of performance in these sectors would benefit greatly from a consistent and systematic logic in planning. In the absence of a meaningful time-dollar. definition of all elements of a project or operation, the planning effort should be directed towards the qualitative definition of the project structure.
A qualitative technique for operations planning is formalized in this article and has been used with good results in a great variety of projects. The technique is to stimulate organized-thinking and to portray the organized thought in a diagram for further examination, communication and execution. The diagram shows the entire structure of the project or plan of action in its main divisions and subsidiary components, as well as areas of uncertainty requiring further definition.
The new technique is called visual path analysis, since the diagram portrays the path of the train of thought in exercising qualitative judgment and analyzing the project logic. It can be used for the planning of a simple operation or a highly complex project, as well as for planning in the face of uncertainty. The method provides an effective medium for rapid communication of ideas to associates, supervisors and management. The diagram is useful for information retrieval and for preserving the continuity of planning and work in progress when a key individual is transferred to other duties or leaves the organization.
The technique is relatively uncomplicated but, because of its simplicity and the absence. of rigid rules; it requires practice and some natural aptitude to achieve effective diagramming.
In recent years the quantitative planning technique critical path analysis has gained widespread acceptance and has made an important contribution towards increasing the efficiency and profitability of operations. However, use of this technique requires exact knowledge of what the ultimate objective is and, also, exactly what intermediate steps are required to reach this objective. Without this exact knowledge critical path analysis becomes a rather meaningless exercise and any attempt to apply it in situations of great uncertainty is doomed to failure.
Operations in the oil industry are often subject to uncertainty. Ultimate objectives are known, but the intermediate steps required to reach these objectives can only be defined in the most general terms. Quite often these intermediate steps are known only as a number of possibilities, none of which may actually materialize. The element of uncertainty precludes the use of critical path analysis in many sectors of operation. In the absence of an exact knowledge of the many factors that affect the operation, the planning effort should be directed towards the qualitative definition of the project, rather than its quantitative evaluation. This approach allows unrestricted use of the imagination without being committed to any rigid time or dollar schedule.
The fundamental difference between the qualitative and quantitative approaches can best be illustrated by an analogy. Suppose we have the desire and opportunity to spend the winter in a warmer climate. We start our planning in a qualitative manner by investigating the various places we could go, what these places have to offer and how we can make our ultimate choice to ensure the maximum pleasure from our trip. On the other hand, quantitative planning is needed once we have made our choice where and when to go. We must decide on the best mode of travel and set up an itinerary to obtain the maximum advantage from the time and funds at our disposal. It is obvious that the qualitative part of our planning (where do we want to go?) can ultimately result in a quantitative analysis and a time-dollar plan of action. The two methods complement each other; the one provides the foundation for the other.
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