Gary McLean, Group Business Development Director, Cape, Singapore
Gary McLean, group business development director for Cape, illustrates the company’s efforts to engage with clients, including the NOC market in Southeast Asia. McLean also details some of Cape’s experience in the LNG market globally.
When you arrived in Singapore, what were the key tasks you were charged with achieving?
The focus for Cape is to energize our activities in the region. The business has been in Singapore since 1991 and Thailand since 1992- a considerable period. Whilst the business had been focusing on projects the emphasis now is on achieving a balanced business across maintenance and projects; the latter obviously leading towards the former.
Key tasks therefore include raising the profile of the business and where necessary, re-establishing links with customers to enable us to re-enter some markets, such as Malaysia, (where Cape had worked with Petronas on the Petronas towers) where the business has become dormant.
Cape’s DNA typically involves entry into a country to set up a local office and to create a permanent presence delivering services locally. We have achieved this very successfully in the Middle East, where we are the leading maintenance contractor. Cape does not wish to bring in significant amounts of expatriates to its locations, but would rather source labor and senior staff locally.
The business has been less balanced in Asia Pacific (APAC) as some of the markets have favored particular elements of our services. What we are seeking is a business with more parity across our service range, offering a full range of all our services to clients. Our businesses in the rest of the group successfully operate on both onshore and offshore contracts; we would seek to replicate this in the APAC region.
Another aim is to become one of the largest players here in APAC. Our strategy is to become the leading provider in each of the countries the business operates in. The business has seen benefit in coming to Singapore especially because of the links and business connections available here, though there are some cost pressures involved with having a presence in the city state.
Cape has to reinvigorate working links with companies we have traditionally worked with in the region such as BP, Shell, Petronas and Exxon-Mobil. We want to improve our customer intimacy with all clients and ensure we fully understand their needs so that we can provide proactive account management and expert advice for our range of critical services and deliver to them the services they require.
Cape moved from a project focus to a relationship based focus after the restructuring effort. What are you doing to secure these relationships?
There are established competitors in many niches here in Singapore, but none of these represent an integrated service provider. Cape has to offer efficient and tailored solutions, but critically must understand the plants the business is working with and deliver a cost effective model.
Cape has traditionally entered new markets on the back of a new construction project. By performing well and establishing a reputation of operational excellence on that project we have then successfully moved onto the maintenance of the site. We aim to be flexible in that service offering and by having a small, multi-skilled team based permanently on site we can offer the client a reactive and efficient solution.
Our approach can significantly reduce overheads and increase multi-skilling. The latter factor is an area we can improve on in Asia thanks to willingness within the workforce here to learn more and to up-skill; because of this our workers can be combined into teams which work more efficiently and offer long term employment
There is an increasing focus on corrosion in the region as assets mature, which plays directly to Cape’s core strengths as the business has a great many preventative techniques which can reduce corrosion in the future. As assets age in the APAC region, the business is able to deploy vital experience learned in the North Sea towards addressing the maintenance needs of this region.
Cape seeks to balance four key factors: safe operational practices, the client’s interests, efficient operations and the necessity for maintenance at a later date. If Cape can offer and deliver innovative solution that addresses all these areas, the business will progress.
In seeking clients, does Cape approach any of the preponderance of NOCs in the region differently to how the business would pursue an IOC?
No, although IOCs are international, they buy locally. It is interesting that where Cape has a long term- relationship with a NOC it is easy to open doors to further contracts. The key issue is that NOCs, though focused on one country normally organise their operations plant by plant.
What works for one plant certainly does not work for another. What Cape seeks with NOCs, or an IOC, is the ability to demonstrate value on any one project. Once the cost savings Cape can offer are proven, it is easier to secure consecutive contracts. Small shutdowns allow Cape the opportunity to demonstrate the business’ competitive advantages that can be scaled up.
How is Cape preparing its business operationally to seize potential maintenance contracts as they arise?
Maintenance cycles are long-term contracts, generally three to five years in duration, and there has to be a commitment from both sides to make the relationship work. Cape considers that the market is seeking change in the way in which these contracts are approached and are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to run these contracts. Fortunately, companies in Asia tend to very supportive of innovation and are open to new ways of completing a project.
This mindset will allow Cape to offer novel approaches when maintenance contracts arise; offering ways to complete projects in a more efficient and timely manner and therefore minimise plant down time, a key driver for the client.
Cape has a global pool of capital assets that we are able to deploy as required; this enables us to service major projects and react to a clients need.
With regard to NOCs in particular, they buy locally. This is a reason that Cape hires staff locally- they can connect with the NOCs more effectively and culturally.
Given it’s quite an iconic project- indeed you yourself helped secure it in your previous position- how is Cape seeking to capitalize (in terms of reputation) on the work it has gained on the Wheatstone project in Australia?
Wheatstone has demonstrated Bechtel and Chevron’s faith in Cape. The business has been a small organisation within Australia, yet has received this prestigious project on merit. In the LNG market, Cape is the leading services provider, having worked on 29 of 56 projects built since 1986 in some capacity. Cape’s safety record throughout the time delivering this portfolio has been commendable.
The business has the knowledge and leverage to deliver.
Cape is focused on the APAC region following the restructuring rather than on individual projects. How has this manifested itself though your operations?
Cape was previously quite a siloed organisation. Now, we have a cohesive senior management team and this has allowed the business to move towards a more collective effort across our business footprint.
Cape can offer, across our footprint, a full range of critical services to support our key markets.