What we've learned in the SME supply chain.
We're delighted to be participating in the Shetland & Industry Energy showcase event which will take place in Lerwick next week and would like to thank the Oil and Gas Authority and Highland and Islands Enterprise for their efforts in bringing so many high profile operators to Shetland to see what the supply chain here has to offer.
As we get busy preparing for tours of our facilities and planning our engagement in the various supply chain events I thought it might be interesting to reflect on how Ocean Kinetics has worked to become a great SME supplier in the energy industry.
We’re now picking up more work on the UK mainland and are well established at Sullom Voe Oil Terminal. We’re working closely with operators on the Shetland Gas Plant to improve our presence there and are now pricing work offshore in the Northern North Sea.
This engagement didn’t come easily though and we learned a lot of lessons along the way. When I think of the journey we’ve been on to get here there are probably five important lessons that have been key to our success;
1. Making safety a priority.
From an early stage we understood that our safety culture had to be of paramount importance. We employed a dedicated HSE manager and gave him autonomy and independence to ensure safety awareness and practices were ingrained into all employees. Everyone in the company became their own health and safety manager.
In a smaller business it’s sometimes easier to achieve this as our lines of communication are much shorter and we can have safety meetings and discuss new initiatives with the entire workforce at any time.
Consequently we’ve never had a lost time accident in all our years working in the energy industry and this is a record we’re proud to demonstrate to all our current and future clients.
2. Understanding our service offering.
In the early years we struggled with this as we were guilty of trying to meet client’s requirements whatever they might be.
Our strengths are our multi skilled teams and our experience of working on the energy sites in Shetland. We can take a workscope from planning stage to completion, handling all trades and find alternative and cost-efficient methods of execution. This allows us to come on site quickly, complete works efficiently and be off site again with minimal downtime or overheads. We also like challenging works where our experience can come into its own. In these cases we more often than not find delivery solutions that save time and cost for our clients.
We are not going to be picking up major multi-asset maintenance contracts but we can come in and be extremely competitive on multiple smaller and medium size work packages.
Understanding and being confident in our value proposition has been key for us.
3. Innovation does not mean having to re-invent the wheel.
In the years of extremely low oil prices major operators constantly demanded best value and innovation from the supply chain.
We realised it was innovative to offer different ways of working and that allowed us to develop our concept of offering multi-skilled teams to execute work.
In days gone past workscopes might have included an access company, a rigging company, a mechanical company and a fabrication company etc. Every supplier would have their own sets of overheads and the time and cost of being coordinated and managed by the client.
Our model has stripped out this cost and the challenges of managing multiple contractors for work scopes that are often modest in value. By controlling all the various services required on a particular job we reduce management expense for the client and mitigate delays and downtime.
So we realised it’s not necessarily rocket science innovation that’s required, just a willingness to look at adapting our service to give more value to our clients.
4. Lean, responsive and effective decision making.
Larger companies can sometimes be guilty of analysis paralysis when different and remote departments and individuals are constantly reviewing contracts or project work. The overheads this generates generally comes back to the client.
We have deliberately maintained a flat management system with open, shared office space. This has allowed challenges, solutions and problems to be quickly discussed and addressed by our technical and design team with input from our MD and drawing staff. This also allows all our senior staff to have constant awareness of progress and issues on all projects and work packages we are engaged on. This means we can give the responsive service that many of clients require.
5. Service, service, service.
It can be easy to set the energy industry apart and look at it only in an engineering context where technological solutions and practices become the main focus.
However in the supply chain it is crucial to maintain transactional, commercial awareness and understand the client is a customer in the same way as any other business.
From the very start we embraced this and would occasionally lose money on a job to ensure that when we signed off the client was still satisfied with our service.
Customer satisfaction is a priority for us and this involves three things – honesty, accountability and dependability.
We never forget who the customer is.
Business Development Manager