Continuous Delivery at Suncor's Digital Bay; Mining Maintenance Meets DevOps (US 2021)

In 2011, Marc Andreessen authored his seminal essay on Why Software is Eating the World. Since that time, organizations have wrestled with introducing digital capabilities into traditional functions. Suncor is undergoing a similar journey, and we're privileged to share one of our examples. Our Mining Maintenance operations are laden with manual processes that must interface with numerous business systems. Yet, within these manual processes, Suncor has opportunities to bring automation, dynamic integration across several systems, and incrementally bring value to our operators. In our virtual presentation, a trio of speakers will summarize how DevOps automation brings value to a traditionally manual area of our business; mining maintenance. To best set the stage for a deeper understanding, our Senior Vice-President will describe the Suncor enterprise, its strategic priorities, and how it is structured to realize these objectives. This understanding will also include explaining the underlying motivations behind our enterprise-wide transformation. Next, our Director of Mining Maintenance (yes, the business!) will introduce you to mining maintenance and why it is a vital aspect of our business. She will lay out Digital Shop Bay management vision and how it is transforming how maintenance operations. She will describe her own introduction to DevOps and how it is being used to accelerate value delivery to Suncor in a close collaboration between business and IT. Finally, our Director of DevOps and Delivery Services will summarize the challenges that we faced (and continue to face) with introducing DevOps automation into the enterprise and how we are overcoming these obstacles. We're looking forward to sharing our journey of value acceleration and DevOps automation with you.

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John A. Hill

Senior Vice President Digital & Information Technology, Suncor


Lindsey Deluca

Director Maintenance and Reliability, Suncor


Joey Roa

Director, DevOps & Digital Delivery Services, Suncor



Up next is Suncor Canada's largest energy company with over $40 billion in revenue. It has operations and retailing, but specializes in production of synthetic crude from oil sands, which it pioneered. There are many interesting things about Suncor, including the focused on sustainability and its investment in clean, renewable energy. But for me, one of the most interesting parts about Suncor is this absolute focus on safety, which is so important because of the enormous danger involved in so many aspects of its daily operations. Earlier this year, I asked Joey Rowa director in delivery services center of excellence. If he could teach us about the safety culture at Suncor and how it sometimes helps and sometimes hinders getting important work done. I'm so delighted that not only did he say yes, but he'll be presenting an experience report of their journey along with John Hill senior vice president of digital and information technology along with one of their key business partners, Lindsay DeLuca, director of maintenance and reliability from their mobile mining assets. Here's John Lindsey and Joey,


Thank you, Jean enters to the loud, late to thank you in the organizing committee of the summit for a great opportunity for us to share our story on transformation for all, and for all of you to learn a bit about Suncorp, but our journey is not by any means complete and we'll continue to evolve for a number of years to come. But the real story we want to share with you today is how quickly the organization has adopted our new way of working to support what we call our Suncor for auto digital transformation. But first, let's learn a bit more about Suncor. We are Canada's largest and premier energy company, our operations and clean oil sands in development and upgrading. In fact, Alberta's oil sands are the third largest oil reserve globally. After Venezuela in Saudi Arabia, we simply follow the energy molecule from our production to retail, whether it is oil and gas or electricity are really gas.


Production is a combination of what we call technically savvy money and offshore production. We refine our petroleum products to take them to market with a large national brand of is Petro Canada and various partners for wholesale opportunities in the United States and abroad. We operate both in Canada and the U S obviously with offshore assets in Eastern Canada, Scotland and Norway with reserve assets in the continent of Africa. Our major refineries are in Colorado. In three major locations across Canada. We have Wells and oil sand reserves of 29 years and over 50 million barrels of oil storage capacity. Currently in play, we take this to market to 1,875 real retail locations across Canada and vast majority of wholesale customers into the United States and across other parts of our region. We are all about safety culture. And so here's Lindsey to start us off with the safety culture moment.


Thanks John. Um, and per Suncor tradition, we always start a meeting with safety share or a safety reflection. And I want to talk a little bit about the environment that we work in at Suncor. Um, we work in a risky perilous environment. There's been multiple fatalities in the last 10 years across multiple different companies in the wood, Buffalo and Fort McMurray region. Uh, our journey to zero has taken equally as long that there was a big transition period where we went from a culture of production over safety to production being aligned with safety, to finally prioritizing safety over production. And it really was a combination of various levels of management and the frontline workforce that got us here. What I want to talk about is, uh, as we transitioned through this digital transformation effort, and it, sometimes it's hard to reflect that the areas that we're impacting transformation, it's not in the downtown Calgary office.


It's not sitting working in your basement. It's out at the mine site. Uh, the design and implementation of hardware and software has serious considerations of where and how we're completing these installs. We want our people to feel safe. We also have tremendous pressure to evolve and perform and a key consideration of how we work needs to include safety at all different levels. Whether it's the person turning the wrench on the floor or the person that's doing the coding or the decision of hardware selection in the office in Calgary, I'm going to pass it over to Joey. And he's going to take us through one of his experiences at a Satan Fort McMurray.


Thanks Lindsay, for those that don't know me, my name is Joey Roy. I'm the director for delivery services center of excellence for Suncor. I operate in Calgary and then want to share an experience that we recently had where, um, I got enlightened about some of the safety culture that goes on in the Fort McMurray region. So not too long ago, we had a project that was underway, where we needed to have extensive, uh, wildlife connectivity for some of the operations that we were doing to accelerate the delivery. We wanted to apply what we call a cow, the cellular on wheels. For those not familiar with that, you can just think of it like a giant cell tower on a platform that you can move around. We arranged this with some of our vendor partners to actually have this cow delivered, share our, uh, Fort McMurray site, unbeknownst to me, or as a newcomer to this whole safety culture.


I was very aggressive in trying to actually push forward with this, uh, cell on wheels, this cow, to be delivered to us, fighting them. Why it's technology, I'm not dealing with hydrocarbons it's technology. I'm not delivering, I'm dealing with some of the big machinery, the heavy equipment that goes on. Would I had to become very acquainted with though, is that in this big facility that is, uh, the Fort Hills mine. There's a lot of open space. What became very clear is that the technologists up at the site and the mining partners there started to come back to me and saying, are you prepared now take responsibility all the way from Calgary for these vendor partners that might be operating in a very remote part of the mind out of sight in cold weather conditions, how will they get transport back to Washington? How will they get transported back to finding a way to get lunch, to get snacks?


How, what will be the break periods? So when it's minus 30 minus 40, are they getting come in? Where are they going to go into this whole part of the experience was a great grounding to meet. And now say, am I actually doing right by these individuals that are working on our behalf in what is a very perilous environment? So for me, I really appreciated both the business partners and the technology partners on site to grounds to say, we appreciate the urgency of trying to drive value quickly, but we have to do so in a safety culture, we have to do so without our vendor partners or our staff at risk. So for me, that was a great grounding and great lesson learned about how we can do stuff in collaboration, but also in a very safety fashion. Jean also asked me what's the most challenging part in dealing with our culture.


Uh, that's so driven by safety and maybe to start this off, uh, start the answer off. One of the things I find is that when you bring new people in, especially people from a different industry where they're not as safety conscious or are, I've seen a deal where it's the, how do you, how do you ground into them, the urgency, uh, of safety? How do you ground into the importance? And in some cases, the unfortunate repercussions have become to safety very effectively. So it's bringing those newcomers on board and understanding why safety is important. That can, that can be a challenge unto itself. And that's also to balance the pressures. So as I've outlined, uh, sometimes it's, it's, there's a desire to go vast, but you have to consciously step back and go, I'm going fast, but am I going safe, uh, safely? And so it's that, that ability to pull yourself out of the situation and say, I need to stop, or I'm able to proceed and go, go forward and, and say, Bouchon, hubber your cell phones.


Yeah. That's similar to what you said in the latter half of your answer there. I think there's sometimes the message that gets communicated when you're in the heat of the moment, or you got to get that last 10 to, to the extractor is that is what the workforce hears that, you know, we are prioritizing production over safety. And versus what we want to, for them to hear is that we are prioritizing safety over production. So I think the most challenging part and the biggest opportunity to be honest is how we show up as leaders, uh, to the plant workforce and show them that absolutely we're prioritizing safety production,


Great color. And of course, he also flipped on that flip. The question is what's, what's the, what's the purpose that, what's the thing that we're most appreciative for and maybe Lindsay Hubbard, well, I'll start with you in that. And then I'll, I'll wrap up.


Yeah, you bet. Uh, one of my favorite parts of working in a really safety, aware culture within a mining environment is that it's everybody's responsibility to show up and not only look out for yourself, but look out for the person that's next to you, knowing that every single person there is somebody that they want to go home to, um, in the same way that came to work. So I think that's really what drives me to push the safety culture is that, uh, is that it's everybody's responsibility.


Yeah. I love that. And I'll, I'll try to build on that. The thing I came to really appreciate is it, it, it builds such a, such a bond across the entire organization. So regardless of what discipline you are, whether it's finance it or the business, then a mining maintenance, you have a common element in saying safety is our first piece. And so it brings our commonality right away, right out of the gate. And then the other element is just knowing that we're a big organization that we're treating are our most important asset of people, and we're putting them first. So it's saying that we recognize the importance and the priority of our staff. And then we'll put that ahead of profitability ahead of other items to make sure people can go home at night. And I'm, I'm very proud of being in a company that does that.


We want to hand this now back to John Hill or Phil continuing the journey about what our strategic priorities are for some core the enterprise. Thank Lindsay. And Joey, it's been a great opportunity to continue to talk about our industry changes. We're under tremendous change in the industry, as most of you know, and new ways of working in energy expansion are key to our future into the world. Actually we've defined six key priorities. I quickly want to share with you. First of all, we want to continue to grow our longterm returns on invested capital. We want it to be a net zero greenhouse gas emissions company by 2050 and substantially contribute to society's net zero goals. We want to sustain and optimize our base business while the previous cost and carbon competitiveness continue to grow low greenhouse gas emissions, and businesses associated to those that materially contribute to earnings and cashflow.


We want to continue to grow our customer connections through low carbon products and services, and we want to achieve world-class. And this is extremely important. World-class ESG performance and disclose while we're being recognized as a leader in sustainability, in the energy transition, every one of these pillars has an element of digital transformation, and I'm proud to lead our team in this journey where dev ops is at the core of our success. Let's talk about this dev ops journey. You could see some of the big rocks on the slide, but let me cover a few highlights. You have to understand our culture and history. We have a longstanding engineering culture where many of our assets and operations are planned, designed and rightfully so with the upmost level of safety and reliability in mind for decades of operations, but optimizing these assets, harvesting the wealth of data we have and simplifying our processes fundamentally needed a more adaptable and agile approach along comes agile and dev dev ops in a culture focus around that technology is key, but as far from taking more is far more than taking advantage of enabling technologies.


We need to focus on innovation, making a step change in our user experience, disrupting old ways of thinking and reorganizing our delivery teams. We took a grassroots approach on standing up agile product teams on several strategically selected high value projects and business opportunities. Let me keep the story very simple. So we can hear from our stars at a moment bottom line, we quickly formed product teams remove traditional project and governance, overhead focused on incremental value. And most importantly, embed a level of trust with our business development teams, knowing we had their back to experiment and take different approach. The teams were hungry for this change, and we are seeing an amazing groundswell of support across the board. Let's hear from one of our business stars, Lindsey on making this journey real.


Thanks, John, before we get into the opportunity in a Methodist solution delivery, I'd like to provide some context as to the maintenance environment and the minus and court. We maintain a wide range of assets that move waste in or, and allow for and production at our facilities. Currently, we own operate and maintain about 200 ultra class truck, uh, ultra truck fleets up 10, 410 rock checks. And so they range from 320 to 410 with primarily 410 volt. These trucks are big. The payload capacity of each truck is approximately 180 F150 pickup trucks to put it to perspective. They work in some of the most severe mining operating condition and run 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. And every time one of these assets is that a service for either planned maintenance or unexpected failures. It costs money because we are not living material.


Maximizing uptime is there for critical for value generation. Before we move on to our next slide, take notice of the pictures below the picture on the left is a sample of what our shops look like with the, with the ultra class track in the background and the two slides on the right show, how the sites currently look and feel and would be very similar to other sites around the globe who have not gone through a digital transformation. Currently, what words are used to allow for visibility as to what is in the shop and all the notes are recorded on pieces of paper that are then transcribed manually.


Our customer, the mobile maintenance team came to us asking for a solution that can transition the current binders with paper printed work orders, to a digital platform. Other challenges we learned we needed to overcome are the differences between union and non-union sites and historical challenges that were faced when attempts were at implementing similar ideas. There was an opportunity to allow the maintainers, to flag the supervisor. Other in staff when there is an issue with the job, ultimately these issues cause work to stop and efficiency to be lost. These shops are also very big. Some of them are up to a kilometer long. It is a lot of ground to cover, to go baby looking for these issues after evaluating what different off the shelf market solutions can be implemented. We decided to pursue a custom dev ops software solution. What we found when we were looking at market solutions is the highest value driven features may not have been included or that they were diluted with, uh, with features that our customers truly did not meet.


Uh, we set up a construction team using our Suncor agile norms, standards, and dev ups standard tools. And we developed a technology strategy that would allow us to focus on the highest value features first and was scalable to other facilities and integrated with other enterprise platforms. Ultimately large consideration when selecting our technology stack was that we were in control of system performance. This is a monumental for our maintenance shops. As you can imagine, we really cannot afford to have any downtime or little downtime on the system. Once we move away from paper. And if the system goes down at work will stop and it's, I've iterated above that. It lost value to our business, our solution, which we are currently transitioning from POC to NVP includes a monitor, a worker kiosk, and a supervisor dashboard. The supervisor, other maintenance staff can be flagged and call to a bay.


As soon as an issue arises for quick resolution, no one needs to leave the bay looking for a supervisor and no one needs to be waiting for a supervisor to the end. Address. Problem is ultimately increases wrench time and get the asset up quicker. We also have, um, prescriptive delivery of tasks and control over work. The maintainers no longer have the ability to select what work they feel like doing, but instead are required all of the well laid out and sequential task list for optimizing the work. The supervisors are also to see if the work is ahead or behind schedule next slide.


So this whole process looks and feels extremely different from how I would have done projects at silage. This in the past, I process has involved the customer from the first day eight and we've included subject matter experts along the way. The product they envisioned in February is not what we will be seeing when we roll this out this fall. And this is a very good thing. We were able to drive the most valuable features first, and we really got a good understanding of what not would provide value. The build team is well integrated and a satisfied working team. And I'm really looking forward to seeing how quickly we can push and test value-driven features in the future through our CI CD pipeline. This is not only valuable for the build team, but it's invaluable for the customer. They can quickly bring a feature to us and we can assess the value and turn it into action, and they can get a good reliable product. At the end. Once the customers see their ability to turn it into action quickly, I've got full confidence that the pipeline will start filling, and it is incredibly important for us to have a process for new features, as well as maintaining our current software. And now I'm going to pass it over to Joe Lee, who will be walking us through the challenges we've encountered in this journey and how we are managing through them.


Thanks, Lindsey, our journey has been really exciting. Uh, the, the fruits I had are, are amazing, but it doesn't mean that we haven't had some challenges that we've had to overcome. And this is a sample of some of the challenges that we have when we bring in new ways of working agile delivery, DevOps concepts into a large enterprise. First off, there's a lot of handoffs that we have to deal with. We have a lot of departments that we have to navigate just to get the basic work started. We have a buy mentality and that's a good thing, but in some circumstances, the ability to actually purchase a solution for us doesn't exist. So how do we now introduce a built concept into a culture that is traditionally buy oriented? That brings us to the next challenge of development is a new muscle for us. In many cases, we haven't done development for years.


So how do we now support a business partner such as Lindsey and bring her, uh, bring forth value in small increments to help them out. The next piece is that, uh, for my CICB pipeline, that continuous integration and continuous deployment pipeline, this is new technology that we're introducing into Suncorp. So how do we simultaneously bring a culture as well as a technology stack into an organization? And then finally is the whole, uh, traditional mindset is one where we do the requirements, do the designs, do the build, do the testing, and then give it to the customer, moving into more of a dev ops mindset and an agile based delivery. We're trying to deep break everything down into small chunks. These challenges were Paramont in the digital bay project. So how do we solve that? First off as John and Lindsey, both alluded to, we had tremendous leadership support from above, they were going to encourage us and continue to encourage us to take experimental approaches, to bring value back to the customers, to the business as it really is.


We can't. So we had the air support from them to try something different. We were able to take a small cross-functional team. So instead of having a team of specialists that we had to hand off from step to step to step, we brought forward a small team and that small team was charged with doing a little bit of a market scan that small team was charged with talking to partners to see if there was a, uh, a product that we could purchase. And once we satisfied ourselves that there wasn't anything in marketplace that we could actually buy and install, we went forward and commit high commissioned and a dev on a development project. And what that development project, we had the ability to actually start to introduce CIC D concepts and technologies right out of the gate. So concepts such as test driven development orchestration, proper, uh, test automation was brought in right from the word go.


And this allowed us to bring new technologies in that didn't upset the enterprise architecture standards that we have. We were able to bring forward these concepts to the business up fucking early and explain to them the quality improvements that we can get and provide them no, uh, no leg of their concerns about what happens. If this goes down, we want to provide assurances that escaped defects would be minimized as much as possible. And that if an escaped defect kick get into production or ability to restore operations quickly was, was paramount. So with all these line items, we're still early in the journey, but the journey is looking so promising. So, but this is only about one project as in front of us. So I'm going to hand this back now to John Hill, a senior vice president. And he'll tell us more about where Suncor is going on dev ops journey as a whole.


Thanks Jody Lindsey. So where to from here for us, first of all, we're going to continue to mature our dev ops capabilities and take advantage of our ability to come up with these results. Most importantly, we're going to nurture the business pool that we are seeing as they're hearing about more engaged employees, faster benefits, realization, both actually fantastic tool overall strategy. I have to be honest, we're seeing requests for these new ways of working from areas. None of us really expected and not just on technology projects, but a wrath of other opportunities within the business to put this goodness in perspective, we have empowered business product owners to drive aggressive change with a more engaged and nimbler delivery team at an overall lower cost of on the business, our results speak volumes and with increasing demands on our team to help change the company. We are in a good place to our friend G flatland continues. Thank you.