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Interview

Diego Berazategui – Managing Director, Akrom, Australia

Incorporating both human expertise and know-how along with technological prowess, Akrom is a boutique consultancy firm specialized in resources and energy, helping partners identify opportunities to optimize the utilization of existing assets. MD Diego Berazategui links his aptitude for establishing an extensive network throughout the local market in Perth with how Akrom has built its reputation as a leading service provider, particularly in the realm of supply chain and procurement.

What are the primary services that Akrom provides?

We believe that better data can lead to better analytics, which then leads to better decision making.

Akrom is a boutique consulting company with two areas of focus. On the strategic side, we work with local content and supply chain management. On the consulting side, we work on procurement and analytic supply chain data. All of our services are enhanced with technology to help partners identify opportunities and optimize existing asset utilization. Data analytics has become increasingly important, and we have established expertise related to handling administrative data.

The Australian LNG industry is currently shifting from construction to the production and maintenance phase. What sets apart the Australian transition phase from other similar transitions that could have occurred in other geographies?

It is true that most projects throughout Australia are reaching a state of completion, and there are very few projects slated for the future. Nonetheless, Australia is well on its way to becoming the world’s largest supplier of LNG. This will certainly position Australia, and Perth in particular, as a major technological hub in the global oil and gas sector. With the oil and gas sector as a starting point, this should promote the growth of many ancillary businesses throughout Australia as well.

In 2014, you released the report: “SME OPPORTUNITY GUIDE FOR AUSTRALIAN LNG OPERATIONS AND MAINTENANCE CONTRACTING ACTIVITIES”. Since publication, Gorgon has already started production and Wheatstone and Prelude should follow within the next eighteen months. What have been the main areas in which the local industry has most effectively prepared for, and adapted to this transition?

When Australia began implementing the major projects that we see today, there was a scarcity of high calibre expertise throughout the local market. Only later did more knowledge and expertise from abroad begin to trickle in to the country. Through this report, one of our primary objectives was to demonstrate that there would be many opportunities to come during the inevitable operations and maintenance phase of the mega-projects. Our concluding statements emphasized that it was an important time to train personnel to fully understand the maintenance needs of these various projects.

Through this report, we sought to emphasize these opportunities and share this information with various small and medium sized enterprises. This was notably with regard to the equipping of knowledge to industry SMEs to strategies being contemplated by LNG operators, and on the flip-side, the equipping of LNG providers with knowledge of market preparedness of SMEs. As there are now many diverse players within the market, the transition appears to have been progressing smoothly.

How has the situation evolved since the release of the report?

We have found that many large oil and gas companies have come to Australia, and they have a particular, standardized way of procuring their own data. Despite this, there is a reality that SMEs may not share the same savvy when it comes to understanding and following these procedures. In this regard, there have perhaps been some missed opportunities for smaller entities throughout the market. As some smaller companies may not have been aware of the qualifications to work with leading companies, our company noted a market imperative to establish necessary requirements to serve as vendors in operation and maintenance initiatives throughout the industry.

At present, we see that many large oil and gas companies are giving their maintenance and operations contracts to much larger service providers. These large service providers then turn and source their specific services from local SMEs. One good factor out of this symbiotic relationship is that many of these opportunities are long term, and therefore have positive repercussions for the local industry environment.

Considering your company’s LNG and gas market expertise, what are the main obstacles that you see on Australia’s path to becoming a world leading LNG producer?

There have definitely been unique challenges in regards to the fact that there have been a select few projects of dramatic size, initiated nearly simultaneously. Looking at other established markets, such as Norway, there is a systematic process where one project becomes the focus at a time, and they are developed in sequence. This may not have been the way things have been handled in Australia, but one thing is for certain: Australia is well on its way to becoming the world’s leading supplier of LNG. In a way, this is thanks to the unprecedented growth attributed to such large projects being commissioned and developed at the same time. The Australian brand will only improve thanks to a positive reputation affiliated with the country’s success as a supplier of LNG.

Embracing digital technology and developing real-time data analytics stands as one of the most promising options to move the industry toward world-class performance. In this regard, could you elaborate on your services pertaining to Master Data Governance for LNG operations?

As one of our key focus areas in our service offerings, we provide consultancy on supply chain procurement. What we have found is that today, companies do not dedicate appropriate attention to the need to review their logistics or reduce the cost of transportation. The problem faced by companies today is that are conducting their business with inefficient data. In terms of our work assisting with data analytics and optimization, we often find significant faults in regards to our client’s data. Compared to other industries, where major strategic decisions are directly attributed to findings derived from data, this still appears to be an oversight of the oil and gas industry. In this capacity, through our services, we are striving to help companies procure accurate and effective data.

We believe that better data can lead to better analytics, which then leads to better decision making. As there are many variables involved, however, it is difficult to express to clients from where true value can be derived. In addition to this, in the event that good data is procured, oftentimes quality analysis is not available for two or three years’ time. Vouching for the value of such practices is difficult when it is inherently tied to long term strategy, without much visible short term benefits. In terms of supply chain procurement, through our research and reports for clients, we work to demonstrate where losses can be curtailed, particularly in regards to warehouse surpluses and oversight of available stock. It is our hope that our services and insights can help our clients reach higher productivity, efficiency and success.

Akrom offers a wide portfolio of service offerings. What have been some of your most demanded services in this market? What are your strategic priorities to continue the growth of the company?

Data management is certainly one of our most demanded services at the moment. Supply chain consulting and review of processes is another area of demand. Over the years, Akrom has continued to expand its offering of services. Initially, we were exclusively focused on the oil and gas sector, but we have since expanded to review industries such as the mining sector, rounding out our approach to be a comprehensive resources-focused consulting company. Looking toward the future, we are also considering opportunities in the renewables sector. We like to think with a global mind-set, but act locally. Our company is also positioned in Argentina, and we look forward to further developing our presence in that market as well.

What key differentiators of Akrom will help you to strive and face the competition of other consultancies?

A few years ago, we were relatively unique in the market, but as the market in Perth has grown, there has also been an influx of competition. One way Akrom has responded to this has been to capitalize on our expertise in data management. What differentiates us here is the fact that we have established an extensive network, and we have garnered a very good reputation thanks to our quality results we are able to provide through our services. As we are a diverse team, with members coming from various places and industries, we believe at Akrom that we are able to add significant value to the local market.

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