Maintaining Sustainable Performance by the Multinational Oil and Gas Industry in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) using Lean Six Sigma

8. 15. 2023

Companies in the oil and gas (O&G) sector engage in various business processes that entail exploration, appraisal, development, production, and refining of oil and gas, transportation, distribution, and logistics. Process improvement is a critical element of the oil and gas industry in Sub-Saharan Africa as it enables them achieve operational efficiency and profitability. Multinational oil and gas companies have been successfully analysing ways of getting process improvement from few subject matter experts into the hands of all the company workers. Multinational companies in various industries have succeeded using different strategies, including Lean principles, Six Sigma structures, and project-based delivery. This research will investigate multiple applications of the Lean tenets and Six Sigma processes that multinational oil and gas companies in Sub-Saharan Africa have adopted and their impacts on the industry performances.

Problem Statement

The oil and gas industry is developing technologies that can enhance operational performance, reduce health, environmental, and safety risks, and lower non-productive time to improve productivity. Oil price volatility in the industry requires eliminating activities that add no value in order to offset the low margin and maintain competitiveness. According to Lim, Kueh, and Maskawi (2019), constructing an oil well uses a set of pre-designed workflow processes. The use of Lean thinking in the auto-manufacturing and health sectors has enabled remarkable outcomes exhibited by process waste management, effective performance, customer value addition, and problem-solving (Demirkesen, 2020). Implementing Lean management in the oil and gas industry enables economic, environmental, safety, and social benefits for multinational O&G companies in the SSA.

The oil and gas exploration and production generate eight wastes that Lean management helps minimise. According to Lim, Kueh, and Maskawi (2019), the oil and gas industry has been characterised by reducing profits attributed to a surge in costs due to frequent challenges of accessing new reserves. Conventional delivery of oil and gas accounts for about 40 to 50 percent of capital expenditures for exploration and production in the industry (Nascimento et al. 2020, p.127). Consequently, it is essential to apply Lean thinking and Six Sigma to streamline the oil and gas exploration and production processes and eliminate all processes that do not add value. The petroleum business is both high-risk, capital and technology-intensive business. For instance, among oil rig activities are actual well drilling, waiting time, compliance, run casing and cement, defect detection, motion, and transportation, among many more. In all the lifecycle phases of a well, a reliable well-integrity system is crucial as it helps minimise waste (Abimbola, Khan, & Khakzad 2016). This research analyses the application of Lean Six Sigma in waste minimisation and reduction of accidents in the oil and gas industry in SSA.

Research Objectives

The research will investigate various applications of Lean principles and Six Sigma processes that multinational oil and gas companies in Sub-Saharan Africa have adopted and their impacts on the industry performances. The research will specifically:

  1. Analyse process improvement strategies using Lean principles by multinational oil and gas companies in SSA.
  2. Determine the use of the Lean Six Sigma methodology in the SSA oil and gas industry.
  3. Determine the impact of Lean Six Sigma on multinational oil and gas industries in SSA.

Knowledge of the Issue

Background of the Sub-Saharan Africa Oil and Gas Industry

The Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) oil and gas industry is one of the latest markets to develop compared to other global markets. The sector comprises various countries endowed with hydrocarbons and responsible for producing oil and gas, which is sold to the worldwide market. According to Baumuller et al. (2015), oil-producing countries in SSA encounter numerous challenges, including inefficiencies, as they establish production. Governments are under immense pressure to decarbonise and develop green energy to minimise the effects of fossil energy on the environment. The continent is located within the tropics and has much potential for renewable energy as an alternative energy source to petroleum and natural gas (Bajjou et al., 2017). Although the oil and gas industry is growing gradually, discussions have been held about increasing investment in green energy. The world had forecast the region’s economy to grow by an average of 3.6% in 2022, although it needs an average growth of 6-7% to alleviate poverty and enhance development. The electrification rate is still low at 45% in 2019, with above 570 million people living without electricity. Despite being home to 15% of the global population, the demand for global energy is only 4.3%, accounting for less than 1.75% of global electricity consumption (Copinschi, 2022; p.693). The SSA region has been an attractive market for many multinational oil corporations, including Shell and British Petroleum (BP). Many development agencies and governments have projected that the discovering of oil and gas in the continent could help achieve economic development. However, this is far from reality, as most economies register low economic growth.

SSA has various natural resources, including natural oil and gas, distributed across the continent. Oil was discovered at different times in multiple countries. For instance, oil was discovered in Angola in 1955, Nigeria in 1956, the Gulf of Guinea in the 1960s, and Congo Brazzaville in the 1970s (Cherif & Matsumoto, 2021). As a result, substantial oil and gas exploration got underway in SSA in the 1970s, especially post-civil war in Nigeria, which was endowed with the region's largest oil deposits (Copinschi, 2022; p.694). Oil producing countries in SSA realised a production boom between 1973 to 1979 after the nationalisation of oil industries in OPEC countries. The process led to two successful oil shocks that opened new production opportunities in SSA, with the governments keen on attracting new multinational investors. They offered favourable terms to the multinationals that had exited OPEC countries after the nationalisation of oil production. Despite pressure from OPEC, state weaknesses and vulnerability ensured that no government in SSA nationalised their oil and gas industries. Major oil producers such as Nigeria, Angola, and Congo benefited from the oil shocks because they did not nationalise oil production as encouraged by OPEC.

SSA's oil industry experienced the second oil boom in the 1990s after more countries discovered oil and gas. According to Copinschi (2022), oil exploration started in Ghana, Chad, Niger, Mauritania, and Sudan, increasing the region's production from 400,000 barrels per day reported in the 1960s to over 2.5 million b/d in the mid-1970s. Production increased to 4 million b/d and 5 million b/d in the 1990s and 2019, respectively, given that the region has over a dozen oil producers today. The current oil production of 5 million b/d is less than 5 percent of the global oil production, despite oil reserves being 3.5 percent of the world’s total oil reserves (Copinschi, 2022; p.695). Many multinational companies operate in the SSA oil and gas industry because of openness to the global market, exploring deep-water offshore production.

A continuous search led many SSA countries to discover and develop hydrocarbons. The governments rely on multinational oil companies to explore the production of hydrocarbons and gas because no country is engaged in producing oil and gas. There is a limited exploration of natural gas because most of it is considered a petroleum by-product. Consequently, gas flaring is one of the significant issues and risks that multinational oil producers face in the region. Gas flaring is attributed to inadequate infrastructure to commercialise natural gas. The industry developed in the late 1990s, with the first LNG plant designed in Nigeria in 1999 (Copinschi, 2022). Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Angola developed their natural gas sectors later. Nigeria leads in natural gas production, generating 7% of the global natural gas, and is among the top five natural gas producers globally, behind Qatar, Australia, Malaysia, and the U.S. (Copinschi, 2022). After late discoveries in Tanzania and Mozambique, the East African region lags behind other SSA countries in natural gas exploration. Tables. 1 and 2 illustrate oil and gas proved reserves and production in SSA, respectively.

Table 1

Table 2

The oil and gas industry in SSA is significant because it helps the countries generate foreign income from selling the products to the global market, including the European Union. According to Baumuller et al. (2015, p.12), 7% of EU oil imports in 2010 were from SSA, with Nigeria being the most significant oil exporter. Nigeria is a potential oil supplier to European countries, especially Germany, the UK, Portugal, and Spain. SSA has been opened to global oil multinationals. Many countries operating in the SSA oil and gas industry can be classified as super-majors, independents, state players, and minnows. Super-majors are companies with a market capitalisation exceeding $150 billion. Examples include BP, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and Chevron. Those operating independently comprise ENI, ConocoPhillips and Repsol-YPF while the national corporations include China National Petroleum, Saudi Aramco, Petrobras, Petronas, and National Iranian Oil Company. The SSA national corporations include the Nigeria’s Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and Algeria’s Sonatrach (Baumuller et al. 2015). Consequently, SSA's oil and gas industry is high-stakes, providing business for many multinational corporations.

Lean Production and Six Sigma Methodology

Lean production originated from the automotive industry after Toyota Motor Corporation aimed to minimise waste in its production system in the 1950s using extensive involvement of workers and collaboration with suppliers and consumers in problem-solving (Aziz & Hafes, 2013). According to Nascimento et al. (2020), Lean production comprises Just-in-Time (JIT) and Jidoka. JIT entails producing according to demand, while Jidoka is about human-machine separation with the operator managing multiple machines. Lean production is multi-dimensional because of JIT, cellular layout, total preventive maintenance, total quality, and human resource management (Hekmatpanah et al., 2013; p.9). Research by Chaurasia et al. (2016) outlined benefits characterising Lean management as reduced delivery time, accelerated time-to-market, low operating costs, exceeded customer expectations, streamlining of outsourcing processes, improved visibility of business performance, and effective utilisation of more effective forms of energy, technology, and skilled labour. Lean production's success is linked to a mindset that all workers must adopt at all organisational levels to achieve sustainable results (Yeshitila, Kitaw, & Jilcha, 2021). Organisations using Lean production focus on business, development of managers, support for workers, customer orientation, sharing success, and improvement of opportunities. Many multinational oil corporations fall into this category, although the wastes in the industry might differ from those in the automotive industry.

Bill Smith developed the Six Sigma methodology at the Motorola Corporation in the 1980s. The method aims to lower variances and reduce errors and defects by adopting the DMAIC cycle (Daniyan et al., 2022). A company's Six Sigma goal is to reach level 6 or achieve objective 3.4 faults in a million chances (Hekmatpanah, 2013; p.5). Using Six Sigma helps companies achieve a breakthrough in profitability using quantum gains in service quality, performance management, productivity, and customer satisfaction. The method uses statistical analysis to enhance operational efficiency. The focus is to identify and eliminate defects in processes and maximise profits. The success of Six Sigma is in the capacity to add a communication layer to industrial processes so that all stakeholders can collaborate effectively (Hekmatpanah et al., 2013). Daniyan et al. (2022) summarise Six Sigma as having necessary indicators for continuous improvement in quality and reduction of rejects or wastes through the definition of targets and visions. Companies implement Six Sigma through the DMAIC process.

The DMAIC process provides the road map to structure approaches for implementing Six Sigma. The roadmap is a plan that enables decision-makers to achieve success. The DMAIC process defines, measures, analyses, improves, and controls oil and gas exploration and production processes.

Defining: The beginning phase of the Six Sigma involves outlining the project's purpose. The step determines the project and sets up the team through several stages. These are the identification of potential projects, evaluation of projects, selection of a project, preparation of problem and mission statement of the chosen project, and selecting and launching of a project team (Daniyan et al., 2022).

Measurement: The step entails the identification of crucial parameters of a product and process features defining the current process capability (Farrukh, Mathrani & Taskin, 2020). The phase focuses on the needs of potential customers. Among the activities involved are: measuring baseline performance and identifying project needs, planning for data collection, validating the measurement system, and measuring process capability.

Analysis: The step involves analysis of historical and current performance to identify performance variances and their causes. Six Sigma executes this step by collecting and analyzing data, developing and testing theories concerning sources of variation, and outlining cause-effect relationships (Cordeiro et al., 2020).

Improvement: This step of Six Sigma designs remedies, proves their effectiveness, and prepares an implementation strategy. The project team should be ready to veer back and forth between ideas and details necessary for plan execution (Daniyan et al., 2022). The project team completes this step by evaluating alternatives, designing formal experiments for process optimisation, choosing optimal alternatives (remedy), proving the solution's effectiveness, and dealing with resistance to change.

Control: As the last phase of the Six Sigma methodology, the project team designs and implements specified activities that guarantee performance improvement. The team can use Statistical Process Control (SPC) by designing controls and documenting the improved process. They can validate the measurement system, determine the final capability, and implement and monitor process controls (Daniyan et al., 2022).

The execution of the DMAIC process in Six Sigma enables companies to focus on delivering low-cost products with improved quality and reduced cycle time. Six Sigma improves organisational processes, considers radical changes, and forms new markets. According to Nascimento et al. (2020), integrating Lean production and Six Sigma reduces the cost and complexity of projects. Reis et al. (2016) argue that applying Lean principles is incorporated into how DMAIC methodology works in favour of operational excellence, with the processes being crucial for success.

Lean Sigma

Lean Sigma is the resulting process of combining Lean principles and Six Sigma. The approach maximises the shareholder's value by attaining the fastest rate or improvement of customer satisfaction, cost, quality, process speed, and invested capital (Ansar et al., 2018). The integrated approach is based on the systems approach and considers the entire supply chain. It is applied in many multinational corporations operating in various industries. The process has expanded the seven wastes into nine, comprising defects, overproduction, transport, waiting time, inventory, movement, over-processing, behaviour, and underutilisation of employees (Farrukh, Mathrani & Taskin, 2020). The approach integrates the principles of speed and immediate action of Lean production with a defect-free vision from Six Sigma to minimise variances and queue time. Many organisations use Lean Sigma to solve the problem of cost complexity and the need to engage all workers in improving quality, lead time, and cost management. The approach is practical in many multinational companies operating in the SSA oil and gas industry.

Lean Production and Process Management in SSA Oil and Gas Industry

Offshore oil and gas operations exhibit various hazards linked to production. The industry has one of the safest standards because multinational corporations are expected to comply with stringent host regulatory policies. The offshore oil and gas industry's safety systems, standards, rules, and regulations still have minor to significant accidents (Dodoo and Al-Samarraie, 2019). This affirms the argument by Howell, Ballard, and Demirkesen (2017), who reported that tragedies happen each year in the oil and gas industry, despite the implementation of safety programmes, occupational safety and health administration (OSHA) inspections and training, having project safety professionals, and stand-downs. Little efforts have been made to integrate Lean management despite the knowledge that incidents result in significant waste in the industry. Safety management entails planning to identify all safety hazards and risks, their assessment, analysis, and mitigation (Farrukh, Mathrani & Taskin, 2020). This step is linked to Lean Six Sigma or Lean thinking.

Occupational accidents negatively impact a corporation's cost, schedule, quality, employee turnover, and reputation. A study by Dodoo and Al-Samarraie (2019) reported that organisations could minimise waste and increase value generation by improving workplace safety. Lean thinking and safety management are reasonable solutions to improved operational performance because all accidents result in waste from the Lean perspective. Yeshitila, Kitaw, & Jilcha (2021) defines poor as a people-based management system entrenched in high workforce engagement (p.123). Lean methods comprise continuous process improvement using waste elimination by the system, preventing mistakes, and empowering workers to implement changes in their routine work. The hands-on experience of frontline workers enables them to suggest safety-focused improvement strategies and add value to the customers. Lean thinking takes advantage of the development of the capability of workers by building trust and autonomy to allow them to improve their productivity. They gain satisfaction in their work, enhance strategy buy-in, and promote occupational safety (Yeshitila, Kitaw, & Jilcha, 2021; p.123). A lack of focus on occupational safety and process hazards affects workers' productivity.

Lean thinking has several tools applied in SSA oil and gas industry. First is the 5S, which guarantees a Lean and tidy work environment, with workers capable of housekeeping to aid visual management and identify issues. 5S focuses on creating an organised workplace (Srinivasan et al., 2016). Another tool is Poko-Yoke, which helps employees feel safe since it helps protect them and their assets from damage caused by process failure (Blackmore et al., 2013). Lean thinking can help companies minimise processed waste, reduce lead time, create less rework, reduce inventory, motivate workers, and reduce travel time. Yeshitila, Kitaw, and Jilcha (2021) argue that oil and gas organizations use Lean tools to lower the rate of accidents. Companies using 5S have a tidy and Lean work environment that minimises injury of workers.

The nature of the products and operational environment makes hydrocarbons require extra caution during exploration, development, production, handling, and transportation. Oil companies develop substantial safety measures to reduce risks and safeguard assets and employees. Lean applications can improve safety standards and performance. According to Nascimento et al. (2020), good safety performance helps companies create a competitive advantage over peers and acquire support from general stakeholders. For example, NORSOK D10 standard, designed to enhance well integrity in the North Sea continental, is used by many multinational corporations in SSA oil and gas industry. According to the NORSOK D10 standard, well integrity is the application of three solutions to minimise risk levels of undesired leakage during the well's lifetime to achieve optimum reservoir productivity (Yeshitila, Kitaw, & Jilcha, 2021; p.124). Well-integrity also helps companies avoid the loss of natural resources to the environment and maintain environmental safety. The solution is technical because it deals with designing and selecting materials. Multinational O&G companies also use the second approach involving monitoring. The solution entails inspection, maintenance, and testing of integrity pressure (Abimbola et al., 2016). The last element concerns competence, training, and proper data handling and transfer. More than standards alone are needed to bridge the gaps in safety management, hence, the need for O&G companies to actively engage frontline employees in continuous safety improvement.

Process management and improvement in many lifecycle operations involve a best practice guide, including exploration, development, production, and decommissioning phases (Yeshitila, Kitaw, & Jilcha, 2021; p.124). NORSOK D-10 documents more processes involving testing and acceptance criteria. Nonetheless, O&G companies ensure that employees and managers constantly follow up, inspect, and engage in remedial actions so that they can update standards and prolong the lifetime of the well. The measures are also necessary to maximise oil extraction, maintain cost efficiency, and improve the well productivity. When decommissioning a well, there is no return on investment. However, continuously investing in new technologies and reliable standards can help companies lower operational expenses related to plug and abandonment. These activities of the offshore lifecycle are illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Deepwater oil extraction is the new form of oil exploration attributed to the growing demand for energy, although it is operationally challenging. Visible and non-invisible non-productive periods are costly to the oil industry. The root cause is kick, lost circulation, stuck pipes, drill string failures, waiting time for supplies, weather, and service providers to fix issues (Howell, Ballard, & Demirkesen, 2017). According to Yeshitila et al. (2021), a kick is an influx of hydrocarbons to the wellbore arising whenever the well's pressure is lower than the reservoir pressure. Oil companies control kicks by properly designing control procedures that prevent undesirable surface blowouts (Yeshitila et al., 2021). An example is the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico that led to the largest oil spill in the global industry. Investigators reported that the cause of the problem was eight technical issues, among them a discrepancy in BP's operations concerning NORSOK D-010.

Humans and organizations are critical in organisational process management because they are responsible for oil exploration projects' design, construction, maintenance, and decommissioning phases. Dodoo and Al-Samarraie (2019) add that continuous real-time management of safety operations in the SSA industry entails human factors, who also develop safety management assessment systems to prolong the life of structures. Accidents can be attributed to many factors, including dangerous technology failures, poor design guidelines, mistakes in managing personnel on board, and insufficient attention to inspection and maintenance. By effectively implementing a safety management assessment system, Lean management encourages reducing the risk of failure and accidents. The system lowers non-productive time (NPT) wastes related to oil rig maintenance and undesired expenses. The oil and gas industries in SSA face the aging problem of oil facilities, with many mature installations approaching the design lifetime (Ansar et al., 2018). Consequently, the oil facilities have degraded flow lines due to corrosion and erosion. Deteriorated flow can increase the risk of leakages and ruptures, leading to serious health, safety, environmental, and economic effects.

Research Methodology

The research used a qualitative design to analyse studies published on using Lean principles and Six Sigma by multinational O&G industry in SSA. A semi-systematic literature review is the most effective design used in the research because it allows an analysis of different studies published on the research topic. Snyder (2019) reported that the invention suits an issue conceptualised differently and studied by various researchers. Since it is impossible to analyse all articles, a small sample was selected based on an inclusion criterion. Only articles published on Lean principles in the oil and gas industry were selected, with a preference for those focusing on the SSA oil and gas industry. The search strategy entailed the creation of key terms related to the study and entering them into a search engine. Some keywords used to search for articles were 'Lean principles,' 'Six-Sigma,' ‘oil and gas industry in Sub-Saharan Africa,’ and ‘Lean production.’ The keywords were typed into the Google search engine, Google Scholar, and Scopus. Since few studies have analysed Lean principles in the oil industry, only those published in the past ten years were considered for this analysis. Peer reviews, company annual reports, and reputable organisational publications were also included in the search criteria. The studies were analysed thematically.

Findings and Discussion

The multinational oil and gas industry in SSA has various wastages experienced in their operations. They comprise transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, overproduction, overprocessing, defects, and unutilised employees’ talent.

Transportation: This problem is common in upstream offshore oil and gas operations. Due to remoteness and harsh weather conditions, the problem makes it difficult to supply different offshore-process items. According to Camuffo, De Stefano, and Paolino (2017), transportation is among Lean wastes. Taking more time to transport supplies and produce oil for the market increases the cost of production. According to the perspective of Lean thinking, more transportation time does not add value to an organisation. Ansar et al. (2018) found that multinational oil companies can lower transport expenses by using integrated drilling approaches and collaboration of involved stakeholders in the value chain.

Inventory: Offshore drilling requires a constant supply of workforce and food, drill bits, pipes, cement, barite, lost circulation materials, and chemicals, among other collections. Lean thinking advocates for delivering supplies to offshore oil and gas operations by road and helicopter to reduce inventory holding costs and shortage of space.

Motion:  Motion wastes entail unnecessary movement of people engaged in offshore operations. Lean work processes and ergonomics help in the practical design of work environments and streamline processes to lower the risk of employee motions caused by a poor work environment. For instance, workers can minimise unnecessary movements in search of information by walking up and down the rig deck or travelling to redundant meetings.

Waiting Time: Waiting is a frequent problem associated with time wastage in SSA offshore oil and gas industry. Waiting for an order, service, company crew, equipment, lost circulation, work on a stuck-up pipe or rig repair can involve waiting. Waiting can incur huge expenses for multinational oil companies due to rig rates and service and equipment rentals (Arunagiri & Gnanavelbabu, 2016). Conventional offshore drilling is a sequential activity in which one activity's completion enables starting of the next one. Lean Sigma advocates for the timely completion of tasks to minimise time wastage and completion of projects. Other avoidable wastes in the industry comprise overproduction, overprocessing, defects, and under-utilizing employees' talents.

Lean Sigma Practices in the Oil and Gas Industry

Lean Sigma principles and practices are embedded by multinational O&G companies in SSA. According to Lim, Kueh, and Maskawi (2019), many multinational corporations in the sector have Lean philosophies in drilling, project completion, and production processes. Companies apply Lean drilling in rig movement, rig move cycle, and well planning cycle time. In contrast, Lean manufacturing reduces lead time, enhances productivity, reduces work in process inventory, and improves quality and space utilisation. Proper application of Lean practices has a vast potential to improve operational efficiency in upstream and downstream sectors.

In development projects, multinational companies adopt the HSE management system to improve health, safety, and environmental performance. According to Antony et al. (2017), the integrated system ensures that human and equipment resources support each other to offer a healthy and convenient environment free from accidents and injuries (p.132). SSA offshore oil and gas activity emphasises continuous improvement in health, safety, and the environment, as it is a high-risk industry (Nwankwo et al., 2021). Lean Sigma enables the development of a health and safety culture through a collaborative endeavour with all stakeholders. The core pillars of the Lean philosophy is the industry respect for people and continuous improvement. The philosophy is based on the desire to engage and involves employees instead of using traditional approaches to health, safety, and environmental management (Nwankwo et al., 2021). Organisations apply correct procedures to minimise health risks and secure the work environment. Nonetheless, Lean principles advocate for continuous standards and best practices updates with employees undergoing constant training and development.

Conclusion and Recommendations


The nature of offshore oil and gas exploration and production dramatically impacts the environment, local communities, employees, and the entire ecosystem. Multinational O&G firms operating in the SSA encounter challenges in the form of transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, over-production, over-processing, defects, and unutilised workers. The wastages require the companies to use Lean Sigma principles for waste reduction. Developing an incident-free environment is in the best interest of all stakeholders. Companies create a workforce safety culture, installing offshore well-integrity installations, using health, safety, and environmental management standards, and observing regulatory standards and policies. The companies continuously improve all processes to enhance operations and product quality and minimise waste. Command and control safety standards can send the wrong signal against the interests of all workers. Focusing on the safety of the entire organisation is embedded in every process, with common mistakes in managing safety affecting outcomes. Lean Sigma thinking advocates for a systems approach and solving problems along the value chain through value stream mapping. The broken process is the primary cause of the issues in the workplace rather than individuals who advocate for Lean approaches. The safety issues in SSA oil and gas industry require a bottom-up approach and an up-down system whereby all stakeholders are involved in creating a solution. The findings of this research conclude that multinational O&G companies in SSA can implement a Lean Sigma philosophy based on the engagement of workers, involving them, cross-functional collaboration, and the commitment of executives to complement adopted safety standards.


Safety is a critical issue in the oil and gas industry in SSA. Multinational companies use various safety standards and guidelines to enhance technical integrity, improve safety, lower environmental damage and improve business efficiencies. Poorly designed engineering works can easily create structural failures resulting in catastrophe, loss of human lives, and affect the environment (Laing et al., 2019; p.428). Lean thinking is concerned with applying Lean tools and the inclusion of a cultural mindset, enabling companies to pursue continuous improvement by combining the human capacity of Lean and respect for people. The all-rounded philosophy aims at the elimination of waste, customer value innovation, creation of a smooth process flow, engaging all workers, solving problems, sharing knowledge, having open communication, and continuously improving environmental safety (Yeshitila et al., 2021; p.134). Multinational O&G companies operating in the SSA can use various Lean Sigma tools to improve their operations.

Five S (Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardise, and Sustain): The Lean tool can help O&G companies in SSA maintain a work environment characterised by a visible value chain and easy identification of problems before they result in hazards. The five S model enables efficiency maximisation by identifying and storing used items, maintaining work areas and tools, and sustaining the new approach to work.

Error proofing (Poka Yoke): The Japanese Lean tool can help companies prevent human errors by disabling non-functional systems in operational errors. The method can be implemented in a process line perceived to be unsafe.

The Five Whys: The approach helps to determine the root causes of issues in the workplace by asking why until the discovery of the root cause. Oil and gas companies can identify two root causes when analysing a problem. First is why the defect was made and why it was not detected.

The above Lean Sigma tools are a few examples that multinational O&G companies in SSA can use to improve efficiency. Companies are digitising and automating operations to reduce costs. Careful design of workflows requires experience and expertise to interpret the detected incident alarm. Antony et al. (2017) caution that major process wastes originate from broken processes. The companies can resolve the issue by engaging employees in waste minimisation and continuous process improvement.



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Author: Inemesit Ekong, student LIGS University
Approved by: Dr. Darren Fisher, lecturer LIGS University

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