We’re two years on from the crux of the downturn, and thankfully, there are some small differences which point towards a more positive future.
Think back to when the oil price first dropped: in a state of panic, companies turned in on themselves and put countless resources into cost cutting measures and restructuring practices. Rightly so; they had to do what they had to do. But now, with the industry more stabilised, companies, teams and individuals have been focusing on a more outward approach: we’re all getting back to business, and are taking on real projects with long-term targets in mind.
We see more and more clients opening their minds as to what suppliers can really do for them. Seanamic can support with engineering services, repair, asset management and extension – supporting clients with a full 360-degree offering. Combined services like this will be invaluable to the recovering market.
What’s more, frugality has returned to the industry. Now this F-word may not immediately strike up some cheery connotations, but in my view, the Avant Garde, money-is-no-object mindset which the oil and gas industry was famous for may not have been a great thing. Business success was about looking smarter than the next guy, building a bigger mousetrap, or inventing another novel idea – regardless of the costs involved. But take the money away, and we’re forced to our roots, and at our roots is smart engineering. Personally, I’m glad that good, cost effective engineering principles will drive business success in the coming years: it’s as it should be.
At Umbilicals International, the downturn was a sore and concerning time – like it was for so many other companies. But it’s taken us back to our basics: designing and manufacturing bespoke umbilicals, cables and hoses which may not be glamorous, but are a vital component of any project.
In the last two years, we’ve been careful to take risks and grow the business – risks which may seem crazy but which build on UI’s core offering. In 2015, just as the downturn was taking its initial thwarts on the industry, we made a multi-million-dollar investment into our flagship horizontal helix machine. At the end of last year, we finally opened our doors at Channelview, TX: a quayside facility which houses our enormous cabler, an extrusion line, and later this year, an armouring line and handling equipment. Opening a facility like Channelview has always been a goal for UI, and while the financial conditions were very much at the forefront of our minds, the downturn was the best time to do it. Implementing a project as big as Channelview in a booming market is near impossible: it requires considerable deviation from the work which already occupies every moment of every day, and the associated cost incurrences can reach ridiculous proportions, making the financial investment decision harder to justify.
Similarly, with our new UK office, the end stages of the downturn proved to be the most opportune time to get it up and running. The lack of a competitor in the UK hindered growth in the market share, and called for a UIUK operation. There’s nothing like a downturn to expand a business: companies can take advantage of a lower cost base, and progress at a pace conducive to good cost control and quality.
While a recovering market is still very much in its early stages, the industry is stronger and more focused, and ready for another era – now that can’t be a bad thing! – Bob Conners, CEO, Umbilicals International