May 2015

Innovation: Speaking the same language

If it’s not broken, why fix it?

I’ve been saying this phrase a lot in the last few months and whoever I speak to knows exactly what I’m talking about.

The oil and gas market is now broken, and finally the industry is prepared to take on change. The buzzword today is “cost reduction”, which is the main driver for looking outside the box. And that’s where innovation steps in.

It is a funny word, innovation: everyone talks about it, many companies put it in their taglines and mission statements, and yet very few seem to understand what it actually means - to be innovative.

For us, it is certainly not a new concept. Maritime Developments thrives in innovation. We have some huge guys playing in our field of back-deck pipe laying equipment, and the only way we can compete is to deliver solutions that are smarter, more efficient and more cost-effective.

We started by taking out the best of the technology we saw in the fishing industry and put it on the back-deck of an oil vessel; it wasn’t as easy as that, it took a lot of convincing to get a globally recognised offshore service company to buy into our design - but once they gave us a vote of confidence, they never turned back.

Roll the clock forward to where we are today and this summer we will be delivering our first complete pipe laying spread in a major North Sea development. There’s nothing but innovative stuff there: our new, third generation multi reel drive system; our patented 4-track tensioner, on which two tracks open when in vertical orientation; and, of course, our portable vertical lay system, which is road transportable and can be assembled on the quayside and off critical path.

This latest solution will save significant vessel days in one single campaign for the client; and since they are undertaking a multi-campaign project, the savings are massive. It’s that simple.

Or is it? The final product is quite different from the original concept, as the design has been fine-tuned jointly with the client. In a series of workshops we worked together to understand the requirements of the project and to figure out the most cost-effective solution. We stripped the tower of unnecessary features and added toys that would increase to the maximum the efficiency of the footprint taken up by the solution.

We worked like this until both sides were happy with the final design. This was a new concept for us, sitting down with a client to bring a new system to life, but one that is in line with our innovative spirit.

In late April we travelled to Texas for the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. We arrived early, to attend a number of meetings with our current and potential clients and to talk to them about the PVLS and the rest of our offering. We knew we had a great story to tell but we were not expecting such warm welcome and positive response.

It was nearly a two-week trip, and that still didn’t seem long enough. Following the pre-arranged meetings, we were invited to a number of follow-ups, so that we could share our presentation with the key decision makers.

We answered questions and observed as those lightbulb moments took place: it was obvious the clients could see the benefits from using our equipment and wanted to get their boards to buy-in. Afterwards, they spoke to us about their determination to make things happen:

“If you have a system like this, you don’t need the colossal vessels that cost a fortune to charter or maintain; you can use it on a smaller vessel to do one job, and move it on a different vessel to do another,” we’ve heard from one of the project managers.

“Also, the fact that it’s road transportable and portable means we can use it for our operations anywhere in the globe. It’s a no-brainer!”

Another PM said: “If you’ve got a good market and you’re comfortable, you don’t challenge yourself.

“No one has thought of being a little bit daring, and take a different approach to offshore operations, to improve the way we work and reduce costs. I want to show them it can be done differently - that it can be done better.”

What these guys have in common is that they want to make a mark for themselves, by finding a better solution to the problem of growing operations costs. To do that, they embraced innovation and they want to work closely with us to make it happen in their departments.

That’s how we found a common language with the Texans - even if sometimes they struggled with my Doric.

Derek Smith, CEO