Marc Groenendijk – General Manager, KCI – Netherlands
Marc Groenendijk discusses KCI’s smart solutions for special projects thanks to its in-house design team, the motivation for continuous innovation present in the company and how he will focus on maintaining KCI’s flexible size while pushing for novel engineering solutions in both oil and gas and offshore wind projects.
What is the focus of your current personal leadership directives, and where does KCI stand today?
KCI exists now for 28 years. We started strictly in the oil and gas industry where we experienced some fluctuations in that market. In 2003 we decided to expand our activities and to become more flexible between different markets. We expanded quite rapidly into the offshore wind market as well as within the oil and gas market itself. Instead of only focusing on offshore, we also now do onshore work mostly upstream.
What we are focusing on today are projects where we can provide additional value to our clients. It’s not the huge detailed design engineering services where we can make the most difference, but rather the smaller projects with smart solutions or something different from what was done before is where we put our added value. We have a nice team of engineers—140 people—and our focus is on providing smart solutions throughout the various stages of the projects.
The Netherlands is positioned as Europe’s energy hub and boasts a multitude of capabilities across many sectors that collectively embodies the Dutch innovative spirit. To this end, how instrumental has the country been in KCI’s development?
In the Netherlands there is a real motivation for innovation. It is within the people as well as motivated by the country itself. Smart solutions and innovation is what we in the Netherlands are very strong at. Of course, we have many different nationalities working within KCI, but they are able to maintain the Dutch way of working.
What are the primary concerns faced by companies today, and how have you adapted the company’s product portfolio to reflect these changes in market demands?
Most of the time our clients are asking for an overall solution. The overall project is what is important for our clients. We have to understand this in order to provide an added value during the entire lifecycle of the project. Having this understanding we can transfer it to the company and provide something within the needs of our clients. Most of the innovations we did were actually in the offshore wind market, because this is a market still in the earlier stages and there are many things still to do.
KCI has been involved in the design of over 15 offshore wind farms in Northwestern Europe. What are the crucial designs factors in ensuring the long-term success of these wind farms?
What we have seen is that the quality of the work, and the ability to deliver it on time, are the two keys factors for the success of these projects. For example, we developed some new tools and alternative foundations. With this principal, the installation is faster and there is lower risk involved, which is very important for our clients.
One of the services we also provide is consultancy services. So, in the early stages of a project we try to give our clients some tools and feedback to make the right decisions. The TILT was a software tool we developed that will allow you to make a smart decision from the logistic point of view.
What portion of your overall portfolio is attributed to your offshore wind projects?
It was always around 40 percent, but over the last year it has been steadily increasing. This has a lot to do with the lowering of investments in the oil and gas industry. Because we do more smaller projects and brownfield projects, the dip in oil prices has not affected KCI that much.
Extensive technical, financial, and environmental risks are generally associated with the increasingly complex projects for marginal fields. With KCI’s expertise, how can EP operators effectively optimize the lifetime of their well assets here in the North Sea?
This can be done through lifetime extension, which is one of our key activities, and with other platform modifications like booster compressors. If you can provide a solution for lower cost lifetime extensions, there is a basis for continuous work, even with these low oil and gas prices that we are facing now.
How do these companies stand to benefit from choosing KCI as their partner of choice?
The number of peers we have are limited, to be honest. What we explain to our clients is that we are the right sized company to provide good service. Good service is not only the quality of the work and timely delivery, but is also being flexible.
In the absence of easily accessible of greenfield projects, companies have started going into far deeper and far more remote types of waters. Will this dynamic impact the company’s strategic focus?
Yes, we are affected in that we have expanded our focus on the North Sea into medium to deep waters as well, but our main focus is still on shallow waters. We are currently expanding geographically as well into the south of America, into Brazil and Argentina, and into the Middle East. Due to local requirements and local content, it’s often very complex to expand geographically, however.
Innovation is a fundamental domain in chartering the success of a company. To this extent, what sort of R&D initiatives are you currently pursuing to effectively enhance your value added operations?
We are now working on a software tool for the smooth installation of partially complete platforms and skids. We have a hydrodynamic department that has the ability to increase weather windows, and to make use of smaller installation vessels, which is very interesting for our clients. Most of the R&D abilities are now performed in offshore wind where there are more gains.
Looking at your revenues each year, what percentage of the revenue is re-invested in R&D each year?
I don’t know the exact number, but I do know that we have three employees continuously working on R&D projects. For a company of only 140 people this is significant considering we can’t use these same people on other paid projects. It’s an investment in the future, which we believe is essentially for us to secure our position.
What is the significance of having your own in-house design team for the company’s overall operations?
Well, by having the strategy of having one single office with everyone sitting under one roof, we are able to exchange knowledge and ideas. It’s not only about what is on paper; it’s also about the knowledge and experience of the people themselves. Even for our clients there is a big advantage. When they come here, they are paying for four engineers while receiving the input of 100!
The key component of a company’s success is its people. How does KCI go about attracting and retaining the best talent? Where do you see KCI in the next five years?
First of all, I fully agree that the most important asset for us are our people. It’s already difficult to attract the right people so maintaining them is important for our success. This is why we have a significant human resources department. We believe that we have to take care of our people and we have to invest in them. One reason why we have such loyal people here is the combination of people that forms the group as a whole. Furthermore, we have interesting work here. It’s a circle really: by having good people we get interesting jobs, and by having interesting jobs we get good people. Our strategy for the next five years is to keep the size of the company as it is now, otherwise I feel that we might lose the focus and drive on the projects we are currently looking at.