Wireline - It's Good To Talk

January 15, 2018

Proactive engagement with clients and responding to them with creative solutions are the priorities for supply chain companies looking to sustain growth, particularly through the downturn. 

Maintaining a positive and proactive approach is proving to be a winning formula for Bilfinger Salamis UK.

Bilfinger a long-established provider of multi-disciplinary maintenance, modifications and operations (MMO) services in offshore oil and gas – has successfully extended several existing contracts and secured additional deals. This includes contracts on significant developments such as Culzean (creating 300 jobs) and with operators like Repsol Sinopec Resources UK for many of its assets (sustaining 200 jobs). 

“Rather than be negative, we’ve wanted to be a source of encouragement in the market,” asserts Bilfinger’s UK managing director Sandy Bonner.

“We’ve taken every opportunity to keep the dialogue going with clients and set out clearly how we can help them. It’s been tough for the sector but, equally, we believed that some supply chain companies would emerge stronger – and we’ve always planned to be one of them.”

He believes the nature of the relationship between client and contractor is changing for the better.

“We’re finding clients are more prepared to listen to us and are receptive to our ideas. It’s refreshing and encouraging to hear them talk about us as service partners instead of contractors or suppliers.”

Bilfinger Salamis UK invested in new Great Yarmouth facilities in 2015 to cater for its southern North Sea clients. It moved its operational staff from Lowestoft to the newly refurbished Havenbridge House, and its distribution and warehouse facility to Bressay House at the Outer Harbour. The moves put the business closer to both its customers’ offices and the East Anglian marine bases, significantly cutting down journeys for the company and their clients. 

The company has its origins in the Aberdeen-based service Salamis, established 40 years ago to provide fabric maintenance to offshore platforms. It was acquired by global industrial services provider Bilfinger nearly a decade ago and is today positioned as a specialist in MMO services, with around 200 onshore staff in Aberdeen and Great Yarmouth and 1,800 offshore personnel.

Heads Together

To drive the business forward and meet client goals, Bilfinger Salamis explored digitalisation and the business is now introducing handheld tablets to record data at the operational frontline, as well as using unmanned drones for some offshore inspection work.  The latter minimises manned activity and limits production downtime during inspections. 

Digitalisation is one of several areas in which the company is applying the principles of collaboration. It has partnered with Apollo Engineering to offer electronic work packs to offshore workers for the digital harvesting of inspection data from the site alongside real-time reporting.   

Mike Henderson, commercial and business development director, discusses the merits of this approach: “Collaboration for us means working with other progressive companies and taking the bold step to identify the synergies and then being determined enough to follow through and implement them jointly. 

“Our partnership with Apollo and investment in its data management product is just one example of that. The industry currently manages its asset integrity by collecting data manually, double typing inspection reports, and then manually inputting the resulting data into varied disparate management systems." 


Meanwhile, together with Maersk Oil, Amec Foster Wheeler and Scopus, Bilfinger also won the collaboration award in the 2017 SPE Offshore Achievement Awards. This recognised an integrated contracting strategy for Maersk Oil UK’s operating assets that combines construction support with brownfield modifications, fabric maintenance and personnel mobilisation. The bundled contract delivered a 51 per cent year-on-year reduction in related expenditure, illustrating the power of suppliers working together to come up with a cohesive response to a multi-faceted brief.  

And likewise, Bilfinger, and Semco have combined their respective strengths to create a cross-company, multi-skilled team to help operators upgrade their helidecks safely, quickly and cost effectively. This is in response to the Civil Aviation Authority’s new electrical and structural requirements that need to be met by March 2018.

Sandy comments: “We know that operators need to use the helideck for regular landings, and these upgrades can involve significant downtime so we wanted to maximise our productivity. By creating an integrated helideck team, we can cover all aspects of the required upgrades as well as deliver additional scopes such as upgrading perimeter netting, coatings, replacing tie-in points and carrying out inspections and fire suppression and deluge system certification.”

Going Dutch

Taking integration to heart, Bilfinger has also developed a one-stop shop option so that all inspection, repair and maintenance (IRM) work is performed as a single service in-house instead of through multiple vendors. 

“We can inspect, conduct repairs on the spot, provide all data and perform maintenance through our core crew,” explains Sandy.  “As a result, we are also now doing lots of work for operators on a pan-North Sea basis, working with our divisions in Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands.  We are also diversifying into renewables to grow the business further.”

He points to a contract award earlier this year to the UK business and its Dutch counterpart by Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij B.V. and Shell UK. The contract, which will create 30 jobs in the UK, involves the two Bilfinger companies working together to provide topside inspection engineering and non-destructive testing on the clients’ onshore and 53 offshore assets in the UK and Netherlands. 

Excerpt from feature originally published in Wireline magazine