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Interview

Bill Bayliss, Chief Executive Officer, Viking Seatech, UK

29.05.2014 / Energyboardroom

Bill Bayliss, group chief executive describes Viking Seatech’s growth since its purchase by Actuant. He describes the rebranding that the business went through to reflect its wide range of services provided to the oil and gas industry and reflects on his experience with the company.

You joined Viking Seatech two years, seven months ago. In that time, the company has undergone a restructuring and a sale to a USA trade buyer (Actuant). What was the mission you were given on starting day?

When I first joined the business it was in the throes of being refinanced and restructured. My core objective was to reshape and reorganize the business, which was at that stage owned by a bank. Owning an oil and gas company was not in any way the bank’s core expertise. Preparing the business for growth involved not just refinancing but also new policies, health and safety guidelines and a code of business conduct. As part of our efforts to professionalize the business, we introduced SAP as our core management system, and a new IT architecture. This was to ensure that management decisions were primarily directed by data, as opposed to intuition. We have over 15,000 assets that have been incorporated into the SAP system which allows tracking and maintenance to occur with greater ease.

As a business, we also wanted to establish a position at the forefront of technology, and so we brought in consultants and upgraded the 32 machines we owned as assets at that time. This was aimed at improving our health and safety and performance across the business. The bank placed a great deal of money into the business to refinance it. This investment created a foundation for the business to move forward.

A core task was ensuring that this business had the right people in the organization, with the right experience. We were also keen to facilitate ongoing development for our 160 staff. A business of this size, generating a great deal of revenue, must insure that its staff have opportunities to grow.

These changes were enacted through a 100 day plan. In my view, there should always be a 100 day plan to effect changes.

What attracted you to work for Viking Seatech?

Working with the bank, through the restructuring of the business positioned me as the only oil and gas industry representative on the board. Beyond that, the challenge of building up a business was fantastic. It  and expanded the experience I had already gained working previously for Petrofac, Topaz and Brown and Root.

Petrofac was a great learning experience. I am still connected with my peers, and I am very proud to have worked with them. The business offered me the ability to do something fresh. When I joined it was in the early 2000’s, Petrofac were undertaking projects in the region of 50-100 million. I was brought into Aberdeen to develop their brownfields business. The empowerment and flexibility I was given in creating this business was excellent. Starting with just over 20 personnel, the business moved to within six years having 1,800 staff receiving a turnover of £300 million across five different business lines. Petrofac has a story which encompasses that entrepreneurial spirit; a key take-away from this period of employment for me was that there is no formula. One must think for themselves. I am an engineer by trade with a Master’s Degree in Engineering, grown in the world of Halliburton and Brown and Root. This was a fantastic background, but building up to my current position, Petrofac taught me that it is not solely about process and procedure, but it is also about lateral thinking.

With regard to Viking SeaTech, this appears now to be the ‘end of the beginning’ but what will Viking SeaTech’s plans for growth consist of?

The company is looking to diversify in new products and services. One of the reasons for the repositioning of the business, from Viking Mooring to Viking SeaTech is that the previous terminology was felt to exclude the potential for diversification. Viking Moorings gives a clear indication of the business’ original specialty.

We have, organically, achieved some of this diversification and are actively looking for the opportunity to make further acquisitions. The company will not stand still, and the base business will be a platform for other services to be added. One example of this is for a survey business, started over a year ago, which has been very successful. This was grown through internal support and investment under the right business leader, who had previous experience in Subsea 7. This business has developed particularly strongly in Australia.

Whilst the backbone of the core business is certainly in the North Sea, there are handsome prospects for business abroad, such as Western Australia. Indeed, the entire Asian sphere has high growth rates – four, five percent or even higher. The business has initiated a great deal of investment in this area, opening offices in Indonesia, and Singapore. In Australia, offices have been opened in Perth and Karratha. The focus on this has been because in other areas of the world exploration drilling has been tight, with opportunities limited. In that region, a great deal of development drilling is taking place because of Chinese demand for energy.

The North Sea is also very mature, and less willing to adopt to new technologies. The appetite for risk is far lower in Australia, Indonesia – these countries will take a little more commercial risk, and our business is seeing dividends derived from this willingness to embrace new opportunities and service lines. In the survey business, for example it has been difficult to gain traction in Norway and in the UK, but in Australia we have already worked with major blue chip operators.

A second example of where the company is diversifying is in riser design. The business has developed a way of contributing to marine riser design. We have now completed  two analysis projects. . It is not essential to buy every company to gain every aspect of a business: internal growth has been, and will continue to be, a key part of our strategy.

Viking SeaTech has also brought innovation in service- in the terms of the ‘mooring schools’ program from Australia to the UK. This was in part an effort to showcase the value of Viking SeaTech products to the market. To what extent is it possible to encourage adoption of new technologies in this manner?

The ‘mooring schools’ scheme was spontaneous. It started when one client expressed that they did not fully understand how Viking SeaTech’s services worked, and asked our company representatives to detail fully Viking SeaTech’s services offer full benefit for their company over a meeting. Following this another client heard of the interest that had been generated by the meeting, and asked us to repeat this process. This simply evolved into a full education programme by which we could deliver to clients.

Technology offers a route to put ones’ company at a competitive advantage. You have already mentioned your riser design- are there any other offerings that you consider particularly advantageous?

We have developed two products, Tug-pack and Rig-pack, both of which are survey software products developed in-house. However, often the best technological solutions in the market are ones which take existing technologies repackage them, or package them together as a new product.

Having bought proprietary software, we have customized this to create a more manageable software product. In terms of finance and asset management, our business has delivered some particularly useful software packages. Whilst this business is about big equipment, it is the moving around of this equipment, the logistics are often at the heart of the challenge.

We also have an internal ideas scheme running within Viking SeaTech. This means our company will never stand still. If an employee initiative is deemed to have sufficient merit, this idea will be pursued to deliver the very best for our customers.

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