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Black Elk Uses FileTrail-SharePoint Solution to Track All Its Documents, Physical and Electronic

The oil and gas company is employing RFID to track tens of thousands of paper files as they move around its offices; the next phase will be to apply EPC tags to assets such as computers and drilling tools.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 23, 2012After nearly a year of using a radio frequency identification system to track tens of thousands of files within its office, oil and gas exploitation and investment firm Black Elk Energy plans to use the technology to track IT assets, as well as drilling equipment and other oil-rig tools. Since the file-tracking system went live in spring 2011, the firm has reduced the amount of time that its staff spends locating and dispensing paperwork by 25 percent, using an RFID-based solution, known as FileTrail for SharePoint, to run on Black Elk's electronic-document-management solution, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. The company had been storing and managing all of its electronic records using the SharePoint system. With FileTrail for SharePoint—a software program that adds physical-records tracking and management capability to SharePoint Server—the firm is now able to access and manage both electronic and physical documents via the same solution. In so doing, the rapidly growing company reports that it will be able to avoid hiring additional employees, thereby resulting in an overall annual savings of $100,000.

Black Elk Energy, based in Houston, purchases underproducing oil and gas well sites, and then adds capital and technology to make them profitable. The company currently has grown to include an aggregate interest in more than 854 wells on 155 platforms located across 430,000 acres offshore. The firm needs to access many reams of paperwork, it explains, including files with contractors, legal documents and leases, in order to assess the value and productivity of each offshore well that it acquires. Black Elk makes its most critical decisions based, in many instances, upon what staff members read in the paperwork stored for a particular oil well. In some cases, the paperwork extends back for decades, and there can be thousands of boxes filled with documents and printed details.

FileTrail's Darrel Mervau
In the past, when boxes of paperwork were received for a new acquisition, workers spent a great deal of time dedicated to receiving and processing each file, identifying a location for that file and recording the information it contains. In 2010, Black Elk approached FileTrail, a provider of software and solutions for managing physical records, with the goal of implementing a management system in SharePoint so that it could also access data regarding each physical file and its location, says Darrel Mervau, FileTrail's president and CEO. The energy company was interested in learning about FileTrail's RFID solutions, and how they could be used in conjunction with SharePoint to track the locations of physical files moving around the facility.

Since adopting the FileTrail system, Black Elk Energy has attached 50,000 Alien Technology Squiggle EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags to files. The company has installed four fixed Motorola Solutions FX7400 RFID readers, with a total of six RFID antennas mounted in doorways and ceilings throughout the office. It also acquired a single Motorola MC3190-Z handheld reader, for the purpose of checking inventory or searching for specific files.

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