April 19, 2024

Why ERP is the Key To Simplifying Well Drilling Project Management Strategies

The oil and gas industry is a cornerstone of the global economy and well drilling is a critical component of this complex sector. Drilling a successful well requires intricate planning, specialized equipment, and a skilled workforce. Behind these technical and logistical challenges lies an equally important aspect: financial management. Accurate job costing is essential for well-drilling companies to make sound decisions, maintain profitability, and remain competitive.

Defining Job Costing

Job costing is an accounting method that tracks all costs associated with a specific project or job, in this case, the drilling of an individual well. This process involves identifying, categorizing, and allocating costs to directly provide an accurate picture of the total expenditure required to bring a well into production.

Cost Categories in Well Drilling

Understanding the different types of costs involved in well drilling is the foundation of effective job costing. Costs can broadly be divided into two main categories:

Direct Costs


Well drilling requires a diverse workforce, including drill crews, engineers, geologists, safety personnel, and support staff. Labor costs encompass wages, salaries, benefits, and any associated taxes.


Materials constitute a significant portion of well-drilling expenses. These include casing, drill bits, drilling fluids, cement, specialized chemicals, and other consumable supplies. Fluctuations in material prices can have a notable impact on overall project costs.

Equipment Rental

Drilling rigs, support vehicles, pumps, generators, and other heavy machinery are often rented from specialized providers. Rental costs can be based on daily, weekly, or monthly rates.


Well-drilling projects may utilize subcontractors for specialized services such as directional drilling, wireline logging, transportation, or environmental assessments. The cost of these services must be factored into the overall job costing analysis.

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Indirect Costs


These are general expenses required to run the business. Examples include administrative salaries, office rent, utilities, insurance, and legal fees.

Project-Specific Overheads

These costs are directly related to a project but are not easily traceable to specific activities. They include site preparation, mobilization of equipment and personnel, permitting, and demobilization after project completion.

A deep understanding of all the costs involved –  both direct and indirect – allows businesses to make informed decisions about bidding, resource allocation, and operational efficiency.  

The Challenges of Traditional Project Management in Well Drilling

Well-drilling projects are inherently complex, involving a multitude of moving parts, from technical operations to logistics and financial management. Traditional project management methods, often relying on spreadsheets, disparate systems, and paper-based documentation, create significant roadblocks to efficiency and transparency. These limitations can lead to costly delays, budget overruns, and safety risks.

Decentralized Information

Traditional project management tools in well drilling often cause information silos.  Critical data related to progress reports, equipment usage, material inventories, and personnel schedules may be scattered across various spreadsheets, email threads, or handwritten records. This decentralization makes it difficult to obtain a holistic, real-time picture of the project's status.  Key questions become hard to answer quickly:

  • Are we on track to meet the drilling timeline?
  • Do we have enough materials on-site to avoid work stoppages?
  • Is the specialized equipment we need available when required?

Limited Real-Time Visibility

Without up-to-date information, project managers in well drilling are essentially flying blind.  Delays in identifying bottlenecks, resource shortages, or cost discrepancies hinder their ability to make timely adjustments.  This lack of real-time visibility can have cascading effects. Example include:

  • Minor delays can snowball into major schedule setbacks.
  • Cost overruns might go unnoticed until they've spiraled out of control.
  • Equipment breakdowns could cause extended downtime if spare parts aren't readily available.

Poor Communication and Collaboration

Spreadsheets and paper-based communication are prone to errors and versioning issues.  Field teams, office staff, and external stakeholders (e.g., subcontractors, and regulatory bodies) may not be working from the same information.  This leads to miscommunication, duplicated efforts, and costly rework.  

  • Outdated drilling progress reports delay the mobilization of completion crews.
  • Miscommunication about equipment needs leading to improper tools on-site.
  • Inaccurate budget data resulting in disputes with subcontractors or clients.

Risk of Cost Overruns and Delays

The combined effect of decentralized information, limited visibility, and poor communication creates a breeding ground for financial risk.  Without accurate and timely data, it's incredibly difficult to control costs and stay on schedule. Well-drilling projects can become susceptible to:

  • Unexpected expenses due to inefficient resource utilization.
  • Penalties for missed deadlines.
  • Damaged client relationships due to budget disputes and project setbacks.

Traditional project management methods expose well-drilling companies to operational inefficiencies, financial losses, and reputational damage. To remain competitive and profitable, it's essential to embrace technology that can overcome these challenges.  

How ERP Streamlines Well Drilling Project Management

By unifying data across departments, providing real-time insights, and facilitating seamless collaboration, ERP empowers well-drilling companies to make informed decisions, streamline operations, and mitigate risks.

A Centralized Project Data for Enhanced Decision-Making

ERP acts as a central repository for all project-related data. Unlike fragmented spreadsheets or disparate systems, ERP integrates information from various sources, providing a single source of truth. Key benefits include:

Integration with Field Systems

ERP can connect with mobile devices and field data collection tools, capturing real-time updates on drilling progress, equipment status, and material consumption.

Consolidated Financial Data

ERP seamlessly integrates with procurement, inventory management, HR/payroll, and accounting systems, ensuring accurate tracking of project costs.

Shared Knowledge Base

All stakeholders, from field engineers to executives, can access the same reliable data stored within the ERP system, eliminating discrepancies and version control issues.

Proactive Project Control

ERP replaces reactive management with proactive control. Key features include:

Customizable Dashboards

ERP offers role-based dashboards, providing tailored views for project managers, field supervisors, and executives. These dashboards display key performance indicators (KPIs), such as timelines, budget vs. actual costs, equipment utilization, and safety metrics.

Real-Time Monitoring

RP allows for continuous monitoring of critical metrics, enabling early identification of potential bottlenecks or deviations from the plan.

Automated Alerts and Notifications

ERP can be configured to send alerts when certain thresholds are crossed (e.g., budget limits, delayed material deliveries), prompting timely intervention.

Streamlined Communication and Collaboration Tools

ERP bridges the communication gap between field personnel, office teams, and external stakeholders, fostering transparency and accountability. This is achieved through features like:

Built-in Communication Tools

ERP often includes project-specific discussion threads, task assignments, and document repositories, reducing reliance on fragmented email chains and lost paperwork.

Workflow Automation

ERP streamlines approvals, change requests, and other processes with automated workflows, ensuring everyone is on the same page.

Secure Data Sharing

ERP can enable secure data exchange with clients and regulatory bodies, facilitating reporting and streamlining compliance.

Advanced Planning and Risk Mitigation

ERP empowers well drilling companies to move from a reactive to a proactive approach towards project management. With the insights and tools provided by ERP, organizations can:

Scenario Planning

Simulate different scenarios (e.g., fluctuating material costs, equipment failure) to test the resilience of project plans and budgets.

Resource Optimization

ERP offers advanced scheduling tools to optimize the deployment of personnel, equipment, and materials, minimizing downtime and maximizing resource utilization.

Data-Driven Risk Assessment:

By analyzing historical project data, ERP can identify potential risk factors and help develop mitigation strategies.

ERP systems help companies make better decisions, reduce costs, improve efficiency, and mitigate risks by centralizing data, providing real-time visibility, enhancing collaboration, and enabling advanced planning. 

Optimizing Job Costing in Well Drilling with ERP

Accurate job costing lies at the heart of financial decision-making in well drilling.  Understanding the true costs of each project is essential for profitability analysis, competitive bidding, and operational optimization. ERP systems provide robust tools that go far beyond the limitations of traditional spreadsheets and manual cost tracking.

Drilling Down into Direct Costs with ERP

ERP software enables granular tracking of direct costs associated with well-drilling projects. This enhanced level of detail provides valuable insights into:

Labor Costs

ERP can track labor hours at the individual well level and by specific phases (drilling, completion, etc.). Integration with payroll systems ensures accurate labor costs are accounted for, including overtime, benefits, and taxes.

Material Costs

ERP links material consumption directly to specific wells and projects. Integration with procurement and inventory management systems ensures real-time, accurate costing of materials used, even in the face of price fluctuations.

Equipment Costs

ERP can track equipment use (rental or owned) against individual well projects, providing a clear picture of equipment-related expenses. This data can also inform future decisions about equipment purchases vs. rentals.

Subcontractor Costs

ERP streamlines the management of subcontractor invoices and contracts. Costs are tracked directly against the well project, enabling accurate job costing analysis.

"Effective financial management, specifically accurate job costing, is crucial for well-drilling companies to navigate the complexities of the industry, maintain profitability, and stay competitive." - Zabe Siddique, CEO - CEBA Solutions

Managing Indirect Costs and Overhead Allocation

ERP simplifies the allocation of indirect costs, which are often challenging to track accurately.  Features include:

Flexible Allocation Methods

ERP supports various methods for allocating overhead costs (e.g., based on labor hours, equipment usage, or a percentage of direct costs). This allows businesses to choose the method best suited to their operations.

Automated Calculations

ERP eliminates the need for error-prone manual calculations by automating overhead allocation at the project level.

Project-Specific Indirect Costs

ERP allows for tracking costs like site-specific management, permitting, and regulatory compliance directly against individual well projects, rather than lumping them into general overhead.

The granular cost tracking, real-time visibility, and accurate budgeting capabilities of ERP enable well-drilling companies to make informed decisions, improve profitability, and gain a competitive edge.

NetSuite's Industry-Specific Functionality for Advanced Project and Job Costing

While the core functionality of ERP is valuable across various industries, true efficiency gains are realized when the software is tailored to the specific needs of a sector, like the Oil Well Drilling Industry. The team at CEBA Solutions has developed specialized features and modules designed to handle the complexities of project-based industries like oil and gas well drilling.

Granular Cost Tracking in NetSuite

NetSuite facilitates in-depth cost tracking, crucial for accurate profitability analysis in well drilling. Here's how it enhances cost management:

Project-Specific Cost Capture

NetSuite allows costs to be tracked at the individual well level. Purchase orders, timesheets, expense reports, and invoices can be directly linked to the project.

Customizable Cost Categories

NetSuite supports well drilling-specific cost categories and reporting structures (e.g., drilling fluids, casing expenses, cementing costs).

Automated Overhead Allocation

NetSuite's flexible allocation rules and automated calculations ensure that indirect costs and overhead are accurately assigned to well projects.

Advanced Budgeting and Forecasting

NetSuite provides tools for developing detailed budgets, comparing them against real-time data, and proactively managing project finances. Key functionalities include:

Detailed Project Budgets

NetSuite facilitates the creation of granular project budgets that break down costs by phase, category, and time period.

Budget Revisions

As conditions change, NetSuite supports streamlined budget revisions, tracking versions and the rationale behind changes.

Budget vs. Actual Variance Reporting

NetSuite provides real-time visualizations of budget vs. actual expenditure, highlighting potential cost overruns early on.

Streamlined Billing and Revenue Recognition

NetSuite ensures timely invoicing, simplifies complex billing scenarios, and helps companies follow revenue recognition standards. 

This is achieved through features like:

Flexible Billing Models

NetSuite supports various pricing and billing structures common in well drilling, including time & materials, fixed-price, cost-plus, and progress-based billing.

Automated Invoice Generation

NetSuite can automate project invoice generation based on contract terms, time entries, and material usage, reducing administrative workload and errors.

Revenue Recognition Compliance

NetSuite adheres to revenue recognition standards (e.g., percentage-of-completion method), ensuring accurate financial reporting.

NetSuite provides well-drilling companies with a powerful set of tools to optimize project management and job costing.  Its granular tracking, advanced budgeting, streamlined billing, and industry-specific features empower businesses to gain greater control over their finances, make informed decisions, and boost profitability.

Final Thoughts

Traditional methods of project management and job costing expose companies to inefficiencies, financial risks, and missed opportunities. ERP transforms these processes by providing a centralized data hub, real-time visibility, streamlined collaboration, and powerful analytical tools.

CEBA Solutions

Well Drilling Customizations for NetSuite offers a tailored solution designed to meet the unique challenges of this industry.  The granular cost tracking, advanced budgeting capabilities, and flexible billing features empower well drilling companies to gain unprecedented control over their projects, maximizing profitability and making data-driven decisions with confidence.

If you're ready to upgrade your well-drilling operations, contact CEBA Solutions. Our team of experts has deep experience in the oil and gas sector and a proven track record of successful NetSuite implementations.  Let us show you how NetSuite can streamline your project management, optimize your job costing, and drive your business forward. Book your free demonstration CEBA Solutions NetSuite Well Drilling customizations today!