Great things take time to mature... and so does engineering excellence. As MDL reaches 18 years in business, CEO Derek Smith recaps on the company's journey of growth - one reel drive at a time.
18 is a great number… particularly for whisky!
Just like good whisky, it also takes time to mature a company… And MDL is now 18 years old.
18 years means a significant track record, and we have seen a different set of challenges throughout those years. Clients ask a different set of questions: in years 1 and 2 it’s: “Who are you?” and “How can I trust you?”. At 18 they ask: “How quickly can you deliver?”.
It has been quite a journey. We started as a fishing winch builder and repair shop. Because of this we had a design capability in-house - and so, as we started repairing tensioners and refurbishing reel drive systems, our clients begun to ask us for new-built equipment; and that new-built equipment was the foundation for what MDL is today.
We started with a small tensioner - that was the first ever complete MDL-manufactured piece of equipment, built for Aquatic for their rental fleet. We then went on to deliver 20Te tensioners, 40Te tensioners and so on, up to our current biggest machine at 110Te.
Similar story with the reel drive systems: the first MDL design started at 80Te, and from there it’s worked its way up. The biggest one to date - at 800Te - was just delivered earlier this month… as you probably know as we didn’t keep that a secret!
If you were to ask 18-year-old MDL: “Why did Oceaneering choose you for the delivery of this system?”, I’d like to believe it was because they saw us as a mature company. A company that was big enough to deliver what they wanted, but small and experienced enough to care about the optimisation that they were looking for, and the design details that would give them an edge in their market.
We pride ourselves on those characteristics that MDL has come to be known for: innovative, flexible and customer-focused. Of course, everyone is “innovative” these days… but I believe MDL truly is; that’s because we come up with ideas before we are asked for them.
Take the PVLS for example: the reason we came up with a portable VLS was not to compete with dedicated installation vessels with lay towers, but rather: to provide a more cost-effective alternative to project teams running individual missions, on tight schedules or in distant parts of the world, where manufacturing a dedicated ramp or a support structure would be a costly headache.
The market didn’t know how much this solution was needed until it carried out its first project, contributing to reducing the mission by 11 days. I’d say there’s a bit of an instinct in coming up with an idea that we can commercialise, and taking it to the market before we’re asked for it.
We push our products and we push ourselves in the way we deliver our services… But we never take giant leaps, really. The Oceaneering reel drive system was the seventh one we delivered in about 3 years, but each next one had been a design iteration of the last - and we’ve been delivering these since our early days, after all.
We never get outrageous and come out with a brand new concept from start to finish; instead, we package proven elements in a clever way that is more beneficial to the client or the specific market, adding a few improvements as we, ourselves, learn and develop further. That reduces the risk commonly associated with anything new - and ensures any risks on the job are mitigated or completely eliminated.
But all of this takes time: time spent with clients, understanding their challenges; over the proverbial drawing board; proving the technology on a job; and building the track record. We call it maturing an Ingenious Instinct - and at 18 we feel we’re doing exactly that.
Derek Smith, CEO
Follow MDL. Instinct, Matured on our YouTube channel.
- MDL delivers first LiveWire spreadAugust 2018
- MDL returns to Norway with TechnipFMCJune 2018
- Double Bibby win for MDLJune 2018
- Halving the headache with a simple approachMay 2018
- MDL awarded California pipelay jobMay 2018
- MDL wins Mediterranean umbilical installationMay 2018
- Three lessons about changeApril 2018
- Delmar and MDL join forces to launch LiveWireApril 2018
- Leading the way in subsea innovationMarch 2018
- Disposing of hidden costsMarch 2018
- RDS completes first GoM mission for Subsea 7February 2018
- Hitting the 150Te markJanuary 2018
- Maritime Developments Year in Review: 2017January 2018
- MDL sets up equipment base in GoM with DelmarDecember 2017
- MDL maximises focus in the AmericasDecember 2017
- A helping hand across the SeaNovember 2017
- Instinct, MaturedOctober 2017
- Oceaneering adds MDL 800Te RDS to global fleetOctober 2017
- Safe as MDLAugust 2017
- Calculated MovesMay 2017
- 24/7 AmbassadorsApril 2017
- MDL Spread concludes Trinidad jobApril 2017
- Turning the frown upside down at ExpoFebruary 2017
- MDL converts Expo leads to RNLI cashFebruary 2017
- Contract award brings MDL tensioner to APACJanuary 2017
- Maritime Developments Year in Review: 2016January 2017
- Winding up the new-buildsDecember 2016
- 800 Tonnes of InnovationDecember 2016
- MDL goes east with new appointmentNovember 2016
- A different cup of teaOctober 2016
- Early project makes a comeback with USA deliveryOctober 2016
- New system redefines global tensioner marketSeptember 2016
- MDL Spread hits anniversary milestoneSeptember 2016
- Latest rental RDS completes first missionJuly 2016
- Asking the right questionsJune 2016
- MDL launches innovative well intervention systemMay 2016
- Portable spread creates new opportunitiesMarch 2016
- An ex-Captain’s perspectiveFebruary 2016
- MDL opens door in AmericaFebruary 2016
- Subsea Expo 2016: Inspiring smart conversationsFebruary 2016
- That's one New Year's resolution worth sticking toJanuary 2016
- Subsea Expo 2016: MDL powers up flex-lay costs reductionJanuary 2016
- Maritime Developments Year in Review: 2015December 2015
- Mission accomplished for MDL PVLSNovember 2015
- Maritime Rentals fleet continues to growOctober 2015
- Maritime Developments' first PVLS sets sailSeptember 2015
- Selling value: The toughest challenge with supply chainSeptember 2015
- Let their hair down: Investment that pays backJuly 2015
- Maritime Developments raises £1,400 for Marie Curie Cancer CareJuly 2015
- Cutting costs: Why we’re all in it togetherJune 2015
- Looking hot this summerJune 2015
- Innovation: Speaking the same languageMay 2015
- Final winch order ready for early pickupMay 2015
- Latest reel drive system steals the spotlightApril 2015
- The Budget: A step in the right directionMarch 2015
- Maritime Developments seals 15th anniversary with first VLS orderFebruary 2015
- Smart thinking at Subsea Expo: It all figuresFebruary 2015
- Bespoke tensioner boosts Maritime Developments’ rental fleetJanuary 2015
- Maritime Developments targets well intervention market with joint ventureJanuary 2015
- Third winch package tips electrical delivery over £12millionJanuary 2015
- Maritime Developments Year in Review: 2014January 2015
- MDL celebrates 15th Christmas with magical fundraiserDecember 2014
- MDL extends competitive edge with electrical pushNovember 2014
- Key appointment boosts Maritime
Developments’ electrical divisionNovember 2014
- Maritime Developments celebrates 15 years in businessOctober 2014
- Maritime Developments marks RDS success with Aker deliverySeptember 2014
- Major winch delivery ahead of scheduleSeptember 2014
- £1,000 raised for RNLI at Maritime Developments’ eventSeptember 2014
- Patent protection secured for Maritime Developments’ tensionerSeptember 2014
- Maritime Developments celebrates 15th anniversary with workshop hog roastSeptember 2014
- Subsea Expo winners’ pit stop at British Grand PrixSeptember 2014
- Maritime Developments at Subsea Expo 2014April 2014
- Lochnagar fundraiser for Paul Lawrie FoundationApril 2014
- West African contract success as further growth targetedApril 2014
- Largest contract to date for MDLApril 2014
- Maritime Developments launches equipment hire serviceMarch 2014
- Bright future for subsea specialistMarch 2014
- ‘Next Generation’ Tensioner designMarch 2013
- Increased capacity at Aberdeen and PeterheadMarch 2013
- Paul Lawrie swings by MDL stand at Subsea 2013February 2013
- Maritime Developments appoints Operations DirectorSeptember 2012
- Maritime Developments appoints Commercial DirectorJune 2012
- Maritime Developments continued expansionMay 2012
- Fast-track US contract delivered on timeApril 2012
- £1.7m contract from international subsea businessApril 2012
- Maritime Developments exhibits at Subsea 2012 in AberdeenFebruary 2012