How to Build an Ironclad Reputation in the Drilling Industry

If we could sum up the state of the global drilling industry in 2016 with one word, what would it be? First, sticking to one word is asking a lot of a blogger, but if I have to choose then it’s really not that difficult.

Challenge.

Every day we’re challenged to create products that help our customers solve problems. It’s a worthy challenge to build new things, and it’s an even worthier (is that a word?) challenge to make new parts that don’t cost an arm and a leg; figuratively and literally speaking, of course.

However, through the challenges with which we’re faced on a daily basis, we’ve actually managed to not only maintain a solid reputation, we’ve actually improved our reputation in the eyes of our customers, our colleagues, and, yes, our competition.

There’s two areas we focus on when it comes to building our reputation in the drilling industry.

1. Customers

Real Examples of Good Work. Not to be confused with testimonials (we’ll get to that), above everything else, the best way to create and maintain a rock solid reputation is to help people. Do good work. Solve problems. One of today’s biggest challenges for OEM’s and drilling contractors is to get the job done within a strict budget, so if we can help facilitate that process with an attachment that doesn’t break the bank, then the customer is happy and word travels. Which brings us to…

Word of Mouth. Do a good job and people will talk. This is where your testimonials live – on the tongues of satisfied customers who will return to your shop in a heartbeat if they need something else. The drilling industry is about tangible work done in physical locations throughout the world, but a lot of the talk happens in the digital market. This is why when we’re looking for content for the blog, it’s not that hard to find!

Read more about Thoroughbred Engineering or Dando Drilling International.

The Little Things. Alright, full disclosure: the little things count for a lot regardless of the industry you call home. In our industry, it’s always nice to work with OEM’s, contractors, and large corporations that value honesty, transparency, and approachability. Most of our work happens as the result of simply asking questions and making unique requests. In fact, that’s how our partnership with Dando began.

2. Recruits

Fulfilling Atmosphere. The oil and gas industry has always experienced a large degree of turnover. New recruits are hired, they learn, they excel, and then they move on to roles with greater responsibility. And like customers, men and women working their way up through their career will talk about former employers whether their experience was positive or negative.

Professional Support. One way to attract and keep skilled workers is to provide professional support and a good work/life balance. Your market might require seasonal work, so there’s a busy season and a slow season. Even if you’re working in South America or a location without a fluctuating climate, it’s important to provide resources and certification to employees so they can improve and, ultimately, help the company improve.

Creative Encouragement. People do better work when they feel a sense of ownership. Building pride into your career is important for employees to stay engaged with the work and, in turn, better work is created. This means that sometimes people will need to take creative risks in order to achieve success. Foster this. Encourage ambition, even if it means you’ll end up losing your employee to larger roles.

Because once they’re there, they won’t forget where they came from.

3 (Non-Financial) Ways to Attract Industry-Leading Talent to Your Shop

When we started Viking West a couple years back, one of the key elements in our mission statement was to save our customers’ money. Pretty standard, right? What business doesn’t want to save money? There are two key distinctions to be made here from our perspective.

Customization & Collaboration: we believed (and still do) that money could be saved at a higher rate by committing to a detailed customization and planning process. We talk to potential customers and build to specification.

The Economy: the sticking point, however, is that Viking was also created during a time of economic turbulence. Oil prices were sliding downhill and not only did was it crucial to save time and energy during the design process, we needed to be mindful that for many companies in the lower mainland and all over the world, never before had budgets been so constrained.

However, the work must go on. Today we’re talking about additional ways to save money. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the drilling industry, construction, or forestry, recruiting smart new talent will boost your company’s reputation through reputable, helpful work.

So, how do we recruit the best and brightest talent our industry has to offer?

1. Immediate Responsibility

New graduates armed with technical knowledge and theoretical training want to hit the ground running when they’re hired. Gone are the 90’s when oil soared past $100 a barrel and recruits were happy with a paycheque and as little responsibility as possible. These days, responsibility equals opportunity. So the next way to attract industry-leading talent?

2. Potential Opportunities

A chart explaining the hierarchy of the shop isn’t going to cut it. After all, if a new recruit believes the only way to climb the ladder is by taking your job, then chances are they’ll be looking elsewhere (unless there’s something you don’t know). A realistic opportunity is represented by an avenue that doesn’t exist yet. How can a new recruit push the operation to the next level? A new skill not currently employed? A new line of thinking? An opportunity that only exists if a new recruit is hired immediately grants a sense of empowerment and responsibility.

3. Innovative Machinery

Alright, the real meat and potatoes of recruiting industry-best talent to your company: give them something awesome to work on. A few weeks ago I was talking to Mike Schlender of Viking West about how cool it was to work on the specific heat cycle involved with heat treating precision gears. The passion for the work was obvious – it almost made me want to switch departments!

On second thought, maybe not. What would become of the blog, after all?

In addition to immediate responsibility and ownership over a specific area, potential opportunities to contribute to the company and work with innovative equipment is a big priority for new recruits. Hiring people with these three points in mind also builds in natural accountability, too. No matter who shows up at the interview, we all want to hire people who earn their paycheque at the end of the day, right? Your budget might not permit you to go on a hiring spree, so that’s why it’s so important to find intelligent people who represent value.

And hey, it’s a bonus if they’re enjoyable to be around, too. The good news is that’s a common trait for most people who work hard, are intelligent, and are passionate about bringing something new to the table.

4 Extreme Conditions Where Tooling Simply Can’t Fail

For the second week in a row we’re taking the loyal readers of the Viking West blog on a scenic vacation, one that promises memories to last a lifetime. Last week we journeyed to a muggy job site in the middle of a jungle. This week we’re on top of the world – higher, actually – atop the main body of an enormous wind turbine in southern Alberta.

A few months ago I was talking to Viking’s Mike Schlender about some of the unique locations in, atop, or under which our custom tooling products and precision gears have been used. He immediately told me a story about a custom order required for a combination bearing and gear mounted at the top of a gigantic wind turbine.

From way up here, gigantic takes on a whole new meaning. The conditions required for safe work are specific, and, it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), important. The less time you spend climbing up and down a structure like this, the better your time will be spent. That’s why we outfitted the turbine with a large stainless steel ring that wouldn’t corrode. It was important for our customers to install the ring, take in the view, and climb down. Easy!

Here’s four more extreme conditions in which we’ve put our custom gears and tooling to work.

1. Slopes

We’ve got no shortage of experience working on topsy-turvy horizons here in British Columbia. The biggest challenge with slopes is that the measurements required to ensure a perfect penetration are so precise – if your angle is off or a gear doesn’t fit properly, then the entire project can be thrown off. Plus, sloped terrains are subject to the whims of the climate; weather or wind interference means today’s measurements might not be the same as tomorrow’s.

2. Cold

Like my Dad always used to say back on the flat prairie in Alberta, things just break when it’s cold. At home on the acreage, that meant the garage door, the truck, the water well or any number of items. When we create custom tooling and gears for cold weather applications, it’s crucial to apply the right type of treatment to ensure maximum wear and resistance. No one likes to work in the cold, after all, especially when it’s work that could be avoided.

3. Urban Jungles

Hot, cold, rainy, it doesn’t matter – the biggest challenge when working in the middle of a city is the accessibility. It’s why we modified our Double Wrench Breakout Table to be mounted on a mobile sled. It costs a lot of money to work in busy locations like intersections filled with annoyed drivers coming and going from work. If tooling breaks down and interrupts those jobs, then costs can skyrocket in a hurry.

4. Hard as a Rock

A custom bit isn’t worth it’s salt if it’s not strong enough to split the earth in search of all the riches contained within.

… which is a fancy way to say that the application of every product must be understood and tested for prior to drilling. What works on limestone might not work on thick clay, after all. Sure, the conditions above the surface might have an impact on the crew doing the work, but the conditions down below are what really matters to the equipment being used.

How to Prevent Failure in Precision Gears & Custom Tooling

It’s a hot, muggy afternoon that would probably be better spent on a breezy patio instead of the middle of a dense jungle.

But hey, that’s where the work is because that’s where the samples are, so it’s a hot and humid day on site.

That’s ok, because this project has been worth sweating through the intense jungle heat of central America. The work is tough, but the result will help a lot of people who live in the area, both with the work being done and the jobs being created.

And there’s nothing wrong with feeling relieved after a job well done. So all in all, it’s a good day and we’ll be done soon. Everything is going smoothly.

Until something breaks. 

There is so much to lose on large projects that are set back by failing equipment. That equipment can include large components like hydraulic drills or guard shields, which are both dangerous to both the work and the people involved, or failure can be blamed on the smallest pieces of the puzzle: tooling and gears.

Let’s be realistic for a second. Wait, we’re always realistic! Anyways, let’s be real about human error. It happens. It’s the reason we’ve built our company on finding hands-free solutions whenever possible. Human operators aren’t automated. People apply their skill, training, and intelligence to complicated situations in order to achieve the best possible results. Sometimes this means sweating through a difficult task in the middle of the jungle. It’s hard enough to keep your concentration on the task at hand in less-than-ideal conditions, but when something breaks down, even if it’s just a bit piece of the machine, it can be a frustrating reality to deal with.

Check out our custom tooling products.

Tooling & Precision Gears: Potential Failure

Wear and tear adds up. When gears and other components don’t fit perfectly with their machines, grinding occurs even at a microscopic level. Tooling breaks down naturally over time no matter how snug the fit, that’s why it’s so important to create as little friction as possible.

Here’s Viking’s Mike Schlender on the subject from an interview a couple months ago.

“It’s really all dependant on the job, or the conditions. Everything goes through a process to determine its viability in a particular environment. If you have a bearing or a gear in an application that isn’t meeting expectations for durability then we work to improve the specs.”

How Do We Avoid Failure?

Enough about problems, let’s find solutions, right? Right! Although, one of the best ways to find solutions is to pay attention to potential problems.

Anyways, in order to create custom tooling products or precision gears to a customer’s specifications, we learn as much as possible about the application for which it will be used.

Materials: fatigue resistance in unique conditions is the priority when it comes to selecting the right material to use.

Treatments: from surface treatments to coating to the controlled cycle of heat treatments, there’s plenty that can be done to improve either wear or strength.

Geometry: the strength of a gear or drive always comes back to the physical shape of the product. It’s important to pay close attention to the demands on a specific shape.

Check out Viking’s Precision Gears.

No project begins with failure in mind, but the best way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to predict potential problems. Every machine is built with a variety of components, large and small, that are all important to its success.

So the next time you find yourself deep in the jungle, make sure your gear is up to the challenge.

Hard On Equipment: Going Back After Fort McMurray’s Wildfire

On the highway in front of the car: a never-ending stream of vehicles slowly inching forward. In the rearview mirror: a wall of fire from the scorched Albertan earth reaching up to mix with black clouds of swirling ash.

A couple weeks ago, the northern Alberta oil-town of Fort McMurray was ravaged by a wildfire that forced over 90,000 people to evacuate their homes.

Fort McMurray has been growing steadily since the 1990’s – it includes a sizeable permanent population as well as temporary residents. Some estimates measure the city’s shadow population at around 20% of the town’s total inhabitants, although it’s a number that’s constantly in flux given the ebb and flow of itinerant workers..

No matter how many people live and work in Fort McMurray, it’s a town that, for a week at least in May of 2016, only had one direction.

Out.

Leaving It All Behind

It’s human nature to take our possessions for granted. It’s alright, we all do it – but it’s situations like the Fort McMurray wildfire that help us re-achieve perspective. Our homes are where we plant our roots. Our vehicles transport us and our most prized possessions (our families) to and fro.

With the mass exodus out of Fort McMurray, people left behind much more than toys, appliances, and TV’s – they were forced to abandon the memories they’d spent years building in a town that welcomed them from all over the world.

People left behind their jobs. Their life’s work. Their offices. Their homes away from home.

Certainly, the loss of one’s home cuts deepest, but it’s the tiny cuts from a million other losses that stings as well.

I imagine heavy machines left to the mercy of the flames on abandoned job-sites. The outskirts of Fort McMurray are home to work camps that house thousands of men and women. Fortunately the people got out, but the work, the equipment – that’s all gone.

For now.

The Nature of Hard Work

There are plenty of publications that will deliver the stories of people affected by the Fort McMurray wildfire in the years to come. It’s not our job here on the Viking blog to pretend we’re something we’re not: a newspaper or magazine.

But when a blue collar town goes up in flames, it hurts, even here on the sidelines. The nature of our work reminds us of the difficulty these men and women are going to have when it comes to rebuilding not only their homes, but their livelihoods. Fort Mac is the centre of petroleum production in Canada. Veins of black gold flow from this boomtown all over the world. It takes a lot of planning and hard work to extract and refine oil so it’s useful for the rest of the world – we’ve all been fortunate that the people working in northern Alberta possess these qualities in spades.

Home For Some, Heartland For Many

As Fort McMurray’s oilsands developed and attracted people from all over the world, it started to become clear that this was a place where you could leave behind your past and look forward to a lucrative future. Fort McMurray offered opportunity for anyone unafraid of using their hands to provide for themselves or their families. The oil industry, and the drilling sector in particular, is not elitist. The values of hard work, determination, and motivation are welcomed here, and not even a devastating brush with an apocalyptic fire can burn those qualities away.

Fort McMurray is home to oil rig workers. Skilled tradespeople. Small business owners. Grocery store clerks. Bankers. Wait staff. Farmers. Forestry specialists. Original equipment manufacturers.

Fort Mac is home to families and people who’ve come to put their skill to good use and subcontractors who started with nothing and built a life for themselves.

For now, that life is on hold and it’s tough to say what will be waiting when everyone goes back.

And if we have to start over again, so be it. Bring it on.

Kevin Goes to England: Dando Drilling & the Other Side of the Pond

“It’s true, I feel like I’ve been all over the world lately, but there’s still so much to explore. That’s the beauty of this business, there’s hard working, smart people everywhere.”

That’s Kevin Reimer, one of Viking West’s vice presidents and an explorer at heart.

“Here at home we’re constantly looking for new ways to get better, whether it’s in the office or in the factory, so it makes sense that we’d seek those answers elsewhere, too.” Last month, Kevin had the opportunity to tour the facilities of Dando Drilling, our partners from the UK. I caught up with Kevin to hear about the trip.

Dando Drilling Head Office
Dando Drilling Head Office

Kelvin: Dando’s home base is in a town called Littlehampton in the West Sussex area. Here’s a softball question: what was it like?

Kevin: It was so cool, that’s my first thought. We were close to the ocean on the southern tip of England, about an hour and a half west of Dover. Dando put me up in this cool little town called Arundel which was a ten minute drive from their factory. It was in a really quaint, old village with a castle overlooking the entire village area, which was adjacent to the River Arun. I stayed in the Swan Hotel which was built in the 1600’s. Cobblestone streets. It’s like time had been standing still for centuries.

Dando_Factory_JPG

What were the Dando facilities like?

Their head office is actually in an old customs house on the edge of the river. When shipments came in via the river ages ago this was where they were processed. Their factory is about five minutes away on an old World War II runway called Ford Airfield which has been converted into an industrial park.

We had meetings at the head office and meetings at the factory. I got to see the new Terrier Mark 2. The Terrier has been re-designed and it’s even better now, it worked really well before but the improvements have really touched on a lot of important details. I love watching the progression of these machines.

I also got to see the Multitec 4000 series machine and the Multitec 9000 series machine in production at the factory, so it was neat to see the real meat and potatoes of the operation as the equipment takes shape.

That being said, and not to discredit the experience of the machines, but the really great part was spending time with the team over there. The sales team, engineering team, production; our industry is still about people, and it will always be about people making new things and sharing new solutions.

Arundel_JPG

Viking is a manufacturer of attachments, Dando is an original equipment and machine manufacturer. When it comes to values and goals, what do Viking and Dando have in common?

Both companies definitely want to provide innovative and cost effective products for the North American market., which as we all know throws new challenges at us constantly. We’re both focused on providing solutions. Viking works closely with customers and listens intently to find areas where were can assist them and be more competitive and reduce cost and Dando does the same thing. This is really why this partnership began. We think the same. Dando has always been great at thinking outside the box and coming up with clever drilling solutions. That’s why I contacted Rupert Coler, the sales engineer at Dando, four years ago and challenged him to create a new sonic rig that didn’t exist. Back then we worked together to develop this new machine and it was a great experience. So much so that here we are today with Viking and we’re taking our partnership to the next level. 

Having a pint at the pub beneath the shadow of an old castle?

(Laughs) Yes, exactly. We’re excited about the future with Dando and the new projects we have planned, but it’s great to get along so well and share a few laughs. That always makes the work a little more rewarding, right?

Right!

Part 2: Thoroughbred Engineering’s Custom Drilling Rig & the SPT Auto Hammer

“This isn’t going to work. It’s too high.”

We’ve all encountered moments on the job where something that should work perfectly simply won’t. It’s easy to get frustrated, because you’re probably about to lose time or energy.

However, you won’t get far working in the drilling industry if you’re incapable of approaching a problem with logic and a cool head. That’s the choice Darrin Croucher of Georgetown, Kentucky’s Thoroughbred Engineering took when their brand new custom drilling rig encountered a significant problem. Actually, a couple significant problems.

But for Darrin, a problem only exists until a solution wins the day.

Here’s part 2 of our case study with Thoroughbred Engineering’s Darrin Croucher as we tag along for the process of creating a custom drill with several unique components, including Viking’s SPT Auto Hammer.

Kelvin: What work has the rig done so far? Have you come across any unforeseen challenges?

We’ve used the drill on three projects which have required varying depths, but in total we’ve drilled over 100 feet.

And yes, in this industry you have to prepared for anything. We were slowed down last week. Initially we found the 19 horsepower engine was not enough power to achieve our depths with the efficiency we wanted. We’ve been talking to a hydraulic designer at Link Belt, which has a factory here in Lexington, they told us the design was under-powered by half and suggested a Kohler 37 horsepower engine, so that’s ordered and on the way. This should allow us to drill pretty easily in fat clays to depths of 30 or 40 feet.

Learn more about Thoroughbred Engineering

But in the meantime, the work has all but slowed and we’re patiently waiting for the next step. Well, as patiently as possible I suppose. A lot people in this business got into it because they’re impatient, and there’s some value to that.

But we have to get it right.

It’s always tough when progress gets stalled. What’s happening in the meantime?

You know, we get excited during the process. It’s like getting a new car. Despite the lack of power, we took the rig out Monday to use the Viking Auto Hammer for the first time. However, our excitement was dashed again as we discovered our modification which attached the hammer on the mast was a bit too high to allow us to use the wench to raise it and remove it from the attachment. So we simply couldn’t detach and swing it in position.

Oh boy. Sounds like a lot of hurdles.

There are some challenges to overcome, sure, but part of why we’re in this business is to solve problems. We’re building a brand new custom rig and we want it to work perfectly to our specifications, so the modifications are necessary. I mean, no one likes to sit by while there’s work to be done, but it’s more important to get it done right than to get it done fast.

So we’re taking the rig back to the fab shop tomorrow to lower the attachment three and a half feet. This will make it easier and safer to unlock it from the mast and swing it into its operating position. 

All in all, the rig looks great and it will work once we get it where I want it to be. Taking a water drill and making it a geotechnical rig while working with several different vendors has its challenges. For instance, the rig is all standard sizes and other parts are metric. The new engine drive shaft is larger than the old 19 horsepower which will require a new housing unit to the hydro pump.

Has the process been worth it? It sounds like a lot work  and you’re not quite finished yet with the machine itself, and then the actual work begins.

We’re on the down slope now, that’s what I’ve promised my crew anyways (laughs). Once we get the new engine and lower the hammer attachment, we’ll have something at a cost almost no one can match.  

Additionally, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about drills that will benefit us as time goes on. I doubt many people can tell you how many foot-pounds of torque are needed to drill 30 feet deep in fat clays, or what RPM’s are required to drill in limestone or how much horsepower is needed to drive a 3000 PSI hydraulic system pumping 22 gallons a minute.

Needless to say, I have enjoyed myself throughout the process, as funny as that might sound.

Darrin, for us, that’s not funny at all. That’s how we operate, concentrating on the process and taking our time to get the best possible product.

You bet. And like you said, that’s before the actual project even begins. Before we get further into talking about our rig, I want to ensure it’s performing as needed. Give us another week or two and I have confidence I’ll have more to report.

No problem Darrin. Thanks so much for taking the time and allowing us to come along for the ride. Talk to you soon.

How Thoroughbred Engineering Built a Custom Drilling Rig for a Fraction of Market Cost

Thoroughbred Engineering knows a thing or two about getting the job done right. From civil design to geotechnical engineering to drilling exploration, the Georgetown, Kentucky based company is used to tackling multiple challenges all at once.

Facing an important project that required a strict budget, Thoroughbred recently purchased an SPT Auto Hammer from Viking West with the intention of modifying a custom drilling rig they purchased at a reduced cost. We were keen to “listen in” on the process of out-fitting the rig, and project coordinator Darrin Croucher was generous enough with his time to fill us in on the details.

Even when those details represented delays and frustration.

This is part one of a multi-part series examining one company’s pursuit of a custom machine built at a fraction of standard market cost.

Kelvin: We talk a lot at Viking about the conditions operators are required to work in, typically locations such as jungles to deserts to right here in the BC forest region. What are the conditions Thoroughbred is currently working in?

Darrin: 90% of our geotechnical services involve exploring beneath the surface of the Earth, typically to depths of 15 to 25 feet. We generally drill four to ten holes. Right now we’re drilling through karst, which is landscape with a layer of limestone underneath. This limestone erodes and the result is inconsistent earth that we have to manage. As a result, drilling rock cores is generally required.

Learn more about Thoroughbred.

It’s crucial to get the job done safely and we don’t want to worry about the machinery, we just want to rely on our people. Using an auto hammer lets us focus on the job, the safety and reliability is taken care of. Because we are often asked to drill in factories, we wanted the maximum height of the rig to be less than 15 feet as well.

So for your particular conditions, safety is obviously important, but the equipment simply has to fit, too. What about cost?

Our goal was to have a drill that met these requirements and we also needed to spend less than $50,000 after it was outfitted. Well, we learned this was impossible, but it’s important to stick to your budget, obviously, right? Especially in these times. No drill on the market could meet our goals and as a result, we decided to go the custom route instead.

So at this point, we’ve spent $25,000. We purchased a small rig and modified it with two motors. One that’s high-speed, low-torque for coring and another that’s low-speed, high-torque for augering. The rig comes in at 14 feet so we’re well within parameters.

Are you limited by your budget or is it simply a reality of the current market and the economy?

I don’t think we’re limited, we just need to be comfortable with the projects we commit to. If something doesn’t suit us then we’re not going to waste our time or a customer. People in this industry need to help each other out, and part of that is being honest and upfront about your capabilities. So, saying that, we’ve been around a long time and we’re refined in our approach. These days it’s about paying close attention to all your details.

We won’t be drilling into the ground inside a commercial building or an existing mine or anything any time soon, so we were satisfied with the height of this rig.

So, now that we had the rig in place, we bought the Viking Auto Hammer and outfitted the machine. We used a local fab shop to attach the hammer to the mast. We also made other modifications to the water drill that we noticed were important as we were going through this process.

So at this point we were excited to take the rig out for a test drive, except we discovered one small problem that could, potentially, have an enormous impact.

Next up in Part 2 in our Case Study with Thoroughbred:

“There are some challenges to overcome, sure, but part of why we’re in this business is to solve problems. We’re building a brand new custom rig and we want it to work perfectly to our specifications.”

Why The Drilling Industry Needs To Plan For Failure

A contract ain’t what it used to be.

In the late 1990’s and the beginning of this century, oil prices began a steady climb that would see them reach historic levels. In 2008, the cost of a barrel of oil was as high as it had been since 1979.

So as the oil flowed more freely (while, not free, but you get the idea), every energy-producing corner of the planet committed to new projects, new contracts, and new anticipation of a lucrative market for years to come.

Unfortunately, the industry didn’t plan for all of that to disappear.

“Yet despite their vast importance, few experts seem able to reliably predict where oil prices will go next. Financial markets and policymakers are perpetually surprised by large swings.”

That’s Brad Plumer, senior editor at vox.com. For Brad, large swings in oil prices like those we experienced in the mid-2000’s is just one example of shattered expectations. Conditions that lead to a surprise in oil prices include:

  • the difficulty predicting demand
  • unexpected technological advances
  • politics

For instance, with the growing popularity of electric motors in vehicles such as the Tesla, does this represent a boon or a bane for the oil industry?

Many would argue it does, however many others would argue the distinction between what types of energy we use isn’t a priority, only that we have energy to use at all.

With so many intangibles influencing the economy and the state of the industry, it’s little wonder that corporations large and small have a difficult time planning for a decrease in the budgets of their customers.

That’s why we have to plan for the worst while hoping for the best.

How Can You Lose Money?

During the design process we work through together with our customers, we always make sure to expose any potential situations that would result in lost funds. These examples range from common best practices to the all-but unforeseen circumstances that are difficult to plan for, which is precisely why we have to try.

  • unqualified operators
  • imbalance between purchase price and sales price
  • supply outpacing demand (for machines, equipment, and parts)
  • being outperformed by the competition

Losing to the Competition

Naturally, we’re focused on our own work and our own products, and we create solutions to the best of our abilities. It’s human nature to believe in yourself when you invest your life in your career, and that’s why it’s often unthinkable that our competition might actually be competent.

However, it’s right there in the word. If your competition wasn’t competent, then they wouldn’t be your competition, right?

Right. Well, the market is forcing the strong, progressive companies to improve and it’s offering the new up and comer’s a chance to prove themselves in a, wait for it: competitive market. 

Lost Time

In addition to losing money to a range of factors like competition, the best way to pre-emptively strike against failure is to pinpoint as many potential instances of lost time as you can. This is why, before building a new attachment or fabricating a custom head or other tooling product, we spend as much time as it takes to get it done right. In the past, when a customer’s budget wasn’t nearly as tight as it is today, companies were working with new products as fast as they could be produced, because losing time later wasn’t as detrimental.

Well, those days are over. Certainly in the here and now and hopefully into the future as well if the economy straightens out, our industry can maintain processes that place value on time, energy, and of course, our investments.

The closer we scrutinize potential failures now, the less likely they’ll be to cause problems in the future.

And a future with fewer problems is one we can all get behind.

3 Time-Saving Questions to Ask Customers Before The Work Begins

For the past few weeks we’ve been talking about the realities of oil prices and the important actions you can take to alleviate some of the pressure your company might be feeling. From gloomy reports in Canada to optimistic predictions in North America to  tempered expectations in the UK, quarter one oil prices provided plenty of fuel for debate in the first three months of 2016.

…Which is an ironic statement, I know.

While we may be low on fuel as an industry (actually, we’ve got plenty of fuel, that’s part of the problem), on the front lines, in the shops and on the job-site, we’ve got plenty of reasons to keep working hard and providing solutions for customers whether you’re working in the drilling industry or the engineering and manufacturing sectors.

One tactic we’ve found helps us deal with tightened budgets is to focus on saving time, which will always lead to saving money. Before you make a sale or you commit to a new relationship with a customer, it’s helpful to build a detailed understanding of expectations. This might involve spending more time not working at the beginning, but you’ll avoid wasted time later on.

Here are three questions to answer before the work begins.

1. What will success look like for the project?

In order to establish clear metrics for every project, it’s important for both buyer and manufacturer to gain a clear picture of the desired end result. That way when obstacles present themselves, and they will, it will be a lot easier to find a solution in short order. The metrics by which every project is measured are completion deadlines and budget, but what about the actual performance of the project? Once the machine is up and running and doing its job, what will that job look like once it’s successfully been completed?

2. What are the 3 main responsibilities for this product?

We’ve found a lot of success designing attachments that go above and beyond the call of duty. Drillers who can put a machine to work on multiple tasks save a lot of time and effort that would normally be devoted to set-up, teardowns and transportation of equipment. For example, what type of trees will our grapple be grappling? What sizes of pipes will our Scorpion Pipe Handler be handling? Into what type of earth will our tooling products be drilling? These days it’s beneficial to use versatile equipment, but it’s important to find the proper balance between versatility and productivity.

3. Who will be using this product?

If safety rules the day, then productivity is its loyal commander. We all want to go home safe every day, but we also want to get a lot of work done while we’re on the job. Before you sell an attachment or a machine, paint a clear picture of the operator who will actually be rolling up his or sleeves on location. Will they be working in difficult conditions, like the side of a mountain? Deep in the jungle? What does their level of experience look like? These questions will also help you decide on the level of customization required.

Asking the tough questions before a project begins might seem like an extra effort for which you don’t have time, but it’s an effort that’s necessary if you want to ensure the job is done right.

And getting the job done right is valuable no matter how much a barrel of oil costs.