As part of its ongoing digitalisation strategy, Petrofac wanted to streamline the process of mobilising workers to offshore locations by using a mobile app. They wanted an app that would give instant visibility of mobilisation details – including check-in time, location, accommodation information and any last-minute updates or changes.
Petrofac’s goal was to roll-out the app to the thousands of offshore workers they mobilise each year. With varying levels of computer literacy, it was vital that the mobile app was user-friendly to maximise uptake.
Furthermore, it was essential the app work reliably in remote areas where network coverage can be typically slow/poor. Messages and updates would need to reach workers without delay – especially for time critical happenings such as flight cancellations or hotel changes.
We met with Petrofac and proposed two applications; a mobile app for Apple and Android devices, and an administration app to be used by the onshore logistics team. We held workshops with Petrofac to understand the key requirements and brainstorm what was possible. Following this we produced interactive mock-ups that helped visualise our initial design.
Interactive mock-ups are a powerful design tool, but for such a critical project we went one step further and produced a prototype of the app that could be loaded onto real Android devices. The prototype contained sample data and demonstrated all app scenarios. It was loaded onto several test phones and shared throughout the Petrofac team – it was a great investment and helped fine-tune the design.
We then set about building the mobile and administration apps. Mobile apps have additional requirements that were crucial for this project. Mobile devices are often disconnected from the internet, yet end-users still expect apps to work when offline. We designed the app to work offline using cached data and efficiently synchronise whenever connected.
Mobile app notifications also needed special consideration – the app is being used to send time-sensitive information (such as flight cancellations) and so reliability of delivery is vital. We took great care in designing the push notification system to avoid common mistakes that can cause a phone to auto-supress notifications for badly behaved apps.
Low battery drain was another key requirement. Many mobile phone apps are nothing more than “wrappers” around websites that use technology better suited to desktop and laptop computers. These technologies use the CPU more (which drains the battery quicker). Instead we built the app using a “native” approach and minimised any work done in the background.
The app was completed in December 2019 – less than 5 months after our initial meeting – and launched successfully in January 2020!
The onshore logistics team visited the heliport to train workers on using the app and were pleased with the response. The majority had already installed it from the app/play store and found it so simple to use, that little training was required.
Overall, the app has been a game-changer with regards to contacting offshore workers ahead of mobilisations – delays due to weather are common and can impact many workers at once. Previously the team would need to call everybody to notify them of a delay or cancellation. Now the app allows them to send an update to everyone instantly and with ease.
Especially with the Covid-19 pandemic, the app has been described as invaluable, as it allowed regular instant communication on Covid-19 information, regulations and updates – which were coming thick and fast during spring.
Jennifer Walker from Petrofac said: “We were hoping that at least 80% of the workforce would regularly use the app, but it has been much closer to 100%. There has been a great reception from our clients too. It has been a massive timesaver and we have big plans to build on the app for the future.”