– Stuart McConnell, UK Manager & Andrew Boddice, Area Sales Manager – United Kingdom
Stuart McConnell and Andrew Boddice of Imenco speak of the successes their ROV equipment has recently gained, winning accolades in cross-industry technology awards as well as their strategy for growth and how the business is capitalising on its presence in Aberdeen. Mr McConnell and Mr Boddice also highlight business partnerships which are forwarding their business and case studies of their activities in the North Sea.
In January 2014, Imenco beat seven other companies to have two of the company’s subsea cameras named ‘best in class’. What does this recognition mean for Imenco and what was it about your products that made them so stand out?
Stuart McConnell (SM): Imenco has rightly celebrated this achievement in particular because it arose through tests run by one of the major ROV companies, Schilling. The camera that was deemed to be a success was our wide angled, colour zoom camera- this is one of the main camera types in the ROV subsea market. To be top of the pile against ones’ competitors is a very nice feather in the Imenco cap- and was particularly important coming from one of the leading ROV manufacturers. The results were indicative that for many of the key considerations a customer gives to a camera prior to purchase, Imenco cameras came out on top. This includes their performance with regard to HD colour accuracy, HD SQF ranking, HD image distortion and HD SNR. These qualities and the fact that they are quick to deploy and easy to use, consequently saving the project time and money through better use of boat time.
This has also helped Imenco further develop business relations with Schilling- they can now in confidence view our cameras as top of the range and are looking at further products produced by our business. Given Schilling’s importance, this is excellent news for our business and a fitting tribute to the quality of our equipment.
How are your improving your products; what is your focus for research and development?
SM: The business is about to launch a new camera into the subsea market- a smart camera. The first will be due for trials imminently and is the fruition of two years of development. This will revolutionise how the subsea market is viewed. This is a ‘smart camera’ allowing the user do download information in the form of ‘apps’- it is the first all-digital subsea camera platform.
This technology is completely original and novel. Imeco has presented this technology to many of the key companies operating subsea and the interest is universal.
In terms of the wider portfolio of Imenco’s products and services, what is the source of your revenue proportionally across the business?
SM: Imenco is best known for its lifting and handling products such as guide-wire anchors and guide-wire posts. It is a market leader in these fields and the business has few competitors in this area. Ratio wise, 60 percent of Imenco’s revenue is derived from these products.
The business also offers an ROV shackle, which is the only shackle on the market with a double locking system. It is a premium product and subsea clients will pay for the safety and security this equipment will provide. The business receives a great deal of custom for this product due to these qualities.
You worked previously replacing a propulsion unit on the FPSO Alveheim. What further work might Imenco expect in the North Sea of this ilk?
Andrew Boddice (AB): Operations like this are a world-wide opportunity. Representatives from companies in the North Sea who have seen the results of this operation have become very excited at the skills and equipment demonstrated through this project. It is not a direct commercial opportunity for the business because it is not highly predictable as to how many FPSOs will require a thruster change. The fact that Imenco can undertake operations like this obviously secures a great deal of respect and attention from operators- the thruster change on the Alveheim saved our clients a great deal of time and money.
This procedure really demonstrated the capabilities of Imenco’s bespoke mechanical engineering division. This group can provide helicopter refuelling equipment, retrofit anodes and complete saturation diving systems. This department is used as either a resource where an engineer is embedded into a business to solve whatever issue the client is needing addressed, or Imenco is approached by clients who need the world-beating service that our enterprise can provide to solve a problem the client is struggling with.
SM: In Norway Imenco has access to some immensely experienced engineers, including one who has been in the Norwegian subsea industry for 40 years. Human resources such as these are a great strength of the company and allow the business not just to offer a standardised range of equipment but also custom built, flexible solutions.
In the wider context of aging assets in the North Sea; what implications does this context have for your bespoke engineering services?
AB: Imenco has spent thirty years helping businesses put equipment into the sea. Now with decommissioning coming along Imenco can help them get that equipment back out! This is a critical area of growth for the business, as an extension to the core part of our company. Bespoke solutions will be required because the equipment is unlikely to be removed the way it originally went in. The contractors who are engaging with this challenge are being encouraged to share their knowledge across the industry in an effort to reduce costs.
For the equipment that is not to be removed, Imenco can prolong use and life expectancy through provision of its retrofit anodes. Customers can fit these anodes wherever required- they are totally flexible.
SM: Some of the figures that are being discussed with regard to the expenditure on decommissioning over the next decade are enormous as well. Imenco is already looking for areas where it can claim a share of this market, and our lifting products will be of great use in this.
What is Imenco’s core strategy for growth?
SM: Imenco UK has only been active for four and a half years. A key objective, therefor is to continue to ‘spread the gospel’ and inform potential clients about what we offer. Many subsea contractors are aware of the Imenco brand, but associate it with singular products. This is something we hope to change.
In addition, the business is developing new and innovative products such as the smart camera and refining products already in market. One of Imenco’s strengths is that the company does not rest on its laurels but continues to redesign and improve its existing offerings. A perfect example is the business’ ‘digital stills’ product, which, despite being a market leader the company has continued to enhance.
Imenco has also had, historically an excellent laser product. However, following customer consultation, we produced a second, smaller laser. The intention is now to produce a medium scale laser to ensure that the market is covered, and customers have access to the products they need. Imenco is very careful to listen to the market.
Last year, you came to an arrangement with Oceanscan, who lease your products. What did this deliver for Imenco, and why were Oceanscan particularly attracted to your company?
SM: Oceanscan moved towards working with Imenco slowly, from originally buying a few items to becoming more and more regular customers. They recognised the quality our business delivered. Both companies picked up on the positive vibe between them and a time came when Oceanscan were not entirely happy with their former camera provider. Due to Imenco’s solid capabilities in terms of service and also our robust, reliable products, Oceanscan decided to work with Imenco.
As for what this partnership has brought to Imenco, it has meant that we are now able to lease equipment to clients who would avoid the outlay required to purchase a camera outright- because the equipment is only being required for a limited amount of work, for example.
The similar attributes, size and proximity of the two companies means that this is a good relationship already; as the companies work together it is getting ever stronger.
What does Aberdeen mean for Imenco?
SM: Aberdeen is a hub, where Imenco can feed into a tight, connected business network. If anything is happening, it happens in Aberdeen first and foremost. Prior to opening our Singapore office the business was still able to gain work in Australia and Malaysia simply because the Aberdeen network is so effectively connected to the global oil and gas supply chain. The subsea market is particularly connected to Aberdeen.
Do you feel there are any fundamentals which you feel Imenco has to hold onto to maintain growth?
SM: The quality of the product is first and foremost our priority. Imenco is the only subsea camera manufacturer which provides a three year warranty on its products. This is because Imenco is highly confident of its offering and does not envisage any problems being encountered by its cameras for at least three years, if not longer by clients.
This has opened more than a few people’s eyes in the industry to the quality of Imenco’s equipment.
AB: the cornerstones of the business are innovation, integrity, customer service, value for money and quality- the business will not retreat from these principle foundations. These are taken forward into Imenco’s long term value generation and day to day business, driving revenue, marketing and training. As long as Imenco continues to control its back office costs, the company will maintain its success.
SM: the business is still young and innovative- the only way is forwards and I fully expect the company to continue to grow and grow.