April 2018

Three lessons about change

MDL has reached another milestone in the USA with our first stand at the Subsea Tieback Forum Offshore Conference.

Although SSTB was billed during Spring Break week this year, the turnout over the two days was quite strong from both operators and suppliers – hopefully, an indication of a return to a stronger market.

This was my 5th SSTB and each time I find another rewarding experience out of it. Besides the interesting conversations on our stand and elsewhere on the exhibition floor, SSTB has one of the best conference programs out there, because of the unique opportunity for suppliers to engage with multiple operators in an open environment.

This year, the three key takeaways for me were: learning - not just innovating; simplification - not just standardization; and how we are adapting to the digital movement.

Even as industry leaders, sometimes we need to look into what other industries are doing, in order to help us create a roadmap of what might be possible in our own sector. One example is the mining industry, and how they are systematically moving towards full automation. One mine in the Australian outback now has autonomous excavators, trucks and trains operating in the field, reducing their HSEQ risk and increasing efficiency, while crews monitor the operation from a control room almost 1,000 miles away.

It’s inspiration like this that can generate true innovation and a lasting improvement in efficiency and safety in our industry – if we are collectively brave enough to embrace it, that is.

Just like innovation, another buzzword of our times is standardization. And yet, project-specific solutions dominate in the complex, specification-driven subsea industry. This approach does not go hand-in-hand with cost savings. If the sector can both standardize and simplify procedures, processes, designs or operations, we can drive sustainable long-term efficiencies.

Which leads me to the third takeaway…

When we think of “big data”, we naturally think about Amazon, Facebook or tech startups, but the digital movement is changing every aspect of our lives – and the oil industry is not immune to that.

In the current price environment, we can’t just accept that this change is happening - we have to buy into it and maximize it to underpin our future success. One fascinating statistic shared at SSTB was that only 1% of data collected from offshore fields is being analyzed.

Imagine if you only analyzed 1% of your credit card transactions and then tried to make decisions on family budgeting based on that…

As the digital movement wave hits the energy industry, there will be changes across all disciplines: operators could start using Blockchain for joint-operating agreements to reduce paperwork; digital design automation could make designing subsea structures more efficient; increased use of data processing and analytics could empower offshore operational and boardroom decisions. And these changes are probably closer than we think.

Having joined MDL only a few months ago, I knew I was coming into a vibrant, forward-thinking company, and I was not disappointed. We’re implementing all of the points above: from automating our equipment for higher efficiency and safety, to making it more versatile for a wide range of applications, to incorporating new IT and software solutions to facilitate quicker data exchange and faster operations.

However, even if we find ourselves ahead of the curve today, the change is still happening, and we can’t become complacent. But complacency isn’t something I would attribute to MDL anyway – after all, as our strapline suggests, it’s in our instinct to be ingenious!

I would love to hear your thoughts on what you heard and saw at SSTB. What were your major takeaways?

I am already looking forward to SSTB 2019 in San Antonio and to see how our subsea industry has continued to evolve to meet the current challenges.

Andrew Blaquiere, VP MDL Americas

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