In 2020, the Kingdom can add its own outstanding reaction to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Building on their hard-earned experience in dealing with the MERS Coronavirus in 2015, Ministry of Health officials and Saudi health care providers moved quickly, establishing protocols for handling large numbers of patients with respiratory illnesses, while ensuring that doctors and nurses had the adequate equipment and medicines to treat them.
But, the Kingdom’s medical response — supported by Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare — are just part of the story. When COVID-19 struck, the company had just completed a successful public listing of company stock on the Tadawul, confirming our status as the world’s most valuable company.
Demonstrating the company’s capacity to meet energy demands, the company created a COVID-19 Task Force and promptly made plans to both protect its people and communities, and to meet the Ministry of Energy’s commitment to increase production to a record maximum sustained capacity of over 12 million barrels a day.
As a key driver of the Kingdom’s economy, and an enabler of the Kingdom’s ambitious goals for economic and social transformation through the Saudi Vision 2030, Aramco knew that it had no option but to meet its many commitments. Moreover, in coordination with the Kingdom’s agencies, the company’s response to the COVID crisis has been extraordinary. Here are just a few examples of the company’s actions, in alignment with Saudi government direction:
When the Kingdom closed land and sea borders, and halted international and domestic air traffic, starting March 7, the company had to move fast to ensure the continued supply of key services and materials. Fortunately, Aramco had long ago laid plans across business lines to ensure business continuity.
All major oil and gas production plants remained fully manned, although measures were taken to ensure the health and safety of plant personnel. At refineries and production plants, offices and workspaces were regularly sanitized, and networks of digital sensors allowed maintenance and operations engineers to monitor the integrity and the performance of equipment.
At remote drilling rig sites, rig medics checked field personnel’s temperatures on a daily basis, and a newly digitalized logistics system ensured the arrival of supplies in remote areas on demand, with the already established network of companies based in Saudi Arabia under the iktva localizaion program, which guaranteed we had the specialized parts and services that kept our operations going.
Tying all these parts together, from wellhead to terminal, the company’s Oil Supply Planning and Scheduling group kept a careful eye on all areas, so that every customer received the products they needed, when they needed them.
Careful planning also allowed the company’s IT organization to maintain business continuity, just as the nature of the company’s business environment was changing dramatically. With thousands of office personnel sent home to prevent infection at the workplace, IT stepped in to make sure every employee working from home could continue to be productive with laptop computers.
Business meetings that previously were held in-person were deemed to be no longer safe; IT ensured that all desktop and laptop computers were equipped with the Skype for Business application.
Behind the scenes, backup command and control centers were set up across the Kingdom, managing and controlling the company’s computing, communications, and cybersecurity operations. On-site support for critical operations were maintained, and help desk support was expanded to make sure that all employees, remote and on-site, had the tools they needed to get their work done.
For critical personnel who worked at Aramco offices and facilities throughout the pandemic and for those who have been returning to workplaces more recently, the company sustained an intensive sanitation regimen to keep the workforce safe.
The company’s Visualization Center, operated by Office Services, monitored the availability of office space and tracked inspections in the field. A COVID-19 help desk handled requests from community members. In addition, as office buildings and community facilities reopened, the company provided users with the reassurance that their safety remained a top priority.
Keeping track of the 70,000 employees and more than 172,000 contractors working at Aramco, and making sure the company’s manpower needs were met, the company established a Human Resources Intelligent Solutions Center to provide real-time workforce insights with scenario planning, benchmarking, and an ability to provide multiple data views.
The company also set up a Training and Development COVID-19 Support Center — operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week — to help thousands of employees and company sponsored college students stranded outside the Kingdom to return.
In coordination with the Ministries of Interior and Health, Aramco developed plans for keeping the company’s communities and workplaces safe and healthy.
Industrial Security monitored compliance with curfews and lockdowns, but also created procedures and mobile apps to track the health of employees and to arrange travel permission for those employees needing to travel during curfew.
At entry gates, physical distancing was enforced through queuing procedures that involve floor markings and the creation of more than one queue to prevent congestion. Thermal sensors at entry gates checked the temperatures of each employee on the way to work.
The nerve center for coordinating company activities with Saudi government authorities was the Government Affairs Command Center. The 24-hour center led communication with government agencies to address COVID-19 issues such as curfews, transportation clearances, and quarantined employees and dependents.
By monitoring and anticipating regulatory and policy changes, and proactively ensuring compliance, the Command Center helped to reduce the impact on company operations. Separately, the company showed its commitment to Corporate Citizenship by donating money and medical equipment to the communities where it operates, not only here in the Kingdom, but around the globe.
As the Kingdom’s infection rates continue to drop, Aramco has played its part in keeping our people, communities, and operations safe.