EnerQuip – Look Who’s Torquing!

The middle of a global economic downturn in 2014/15 might not seem like the best time to start a business, but for EnerQuip it was the perfect opportunity.

“We got started in the heart of the downturn in 2015,” recalls Andrew Robins, Director of EnerQuip. “We’ve only been trading since June 2015 when we started with just five employees and we have, against all odds, managed to grow the business considerably since then. At this point, we now have around 65 employees across three continents.”

“EnerQuip exists to manufacture torque machines, a task they carry out across three manufacturing locations in Scotland. Fabrication and heavy steelwork are done at a facility in Lybster just outside of Wick, then everything goes to their Aberdeen headquarters for final assembly and testing, and the company also has a second location in Aberdeen for overspill fabrication. Their torque machines are primarily used onshore for the fast and accurate horizontal make-up and break out of threaded connections in oil and gas drilling and completions. They include completion tools, bottom hole assemblies, drilling jars, and couplings.

The business has succeeded and grown since it was founded, but the question remains, why establish a start-up during an oil price crash?

“We didn’t decide to create a company in this space during one of the worst downturns because we’re gluttons for punishment,” Robins points out. “We saw opportunities in this niche market. By our estimation, the service levels weren’t there. The price of capital equipment was going up and the service levels were going in the wrong direction.”

A Bespoke Solution

“Companies were saying, ‘We need someone nimbler and more responsive to our needs rather than big multinationals with cookie-cutter products.’ So we spotted a gap and set out to offer a bespoke product,” Robins recalls. “If we know a customer has a requirement, we want to be at the table with them, finding out how to add value.  Some customers want our opinion and ask what features or accessories they need, and we offer a tailored sales services, not a hard push on sales. Our goal is to sell the right product, not the most expensive product.”

This means that there are few lengths EnerQuip won’t go to in order to offer the product their customer needs.

“If someone wants a torque machine that’s pink and upside-down, we can do that!” Robins says. “We had a customer who needed a torque machine on a trailer, so we put a torque machine on a trailer. Another wants to execute on short- and medium-term contracts, not spend millions on a new facility somewhere remote, so we put the equipment in shipping containers. It can be set up and packed away in a day.”

Of course, this level of customisation would be impossible without an incredible wealth of knowledge and abilities among EnerQuip’s team.

“Collectively we’ve over 100 years of experience with this product, and that knowledge and understanding comes from team members who’ve worked for our competitors,” Robins says.

A Talent Windfall

Indeed, the company was founded during a severe downturn has proved to be a kind of blessing.

“We’re very lucky in that during the downturn there were some experienced people who were all of a sudden available through no fault of their own,” Robins points out. “We used our professional networks to get people, good people and as time’s gone on, we’ve continued along the same path. We’re getting people we already know within the space hoping they recognise it is a good and exciting place to work.” enerquip

At the same time as bringing seasoned experts into the company, EnerQuip is also working to nurture new talent, and develop the people they have.

“To invest in youth we’re taking on apprentices. We had a young lad studying an engineering degree last year who came to work with us every Friday,” says Robins. “We invest in external education but mainly we use in-house training. Our more experienced guys will dedicate time to sharing their knowledge and experience.”

Growing in the Downturn

However, while the downturn certainly benefited EnerQuip in some ways, it also meant that from the start the company faced some serious challenges as a start-up in a depressed market.

“When we started up, many companies in the space were still actively laying people off,” says Robins. “There was no money for new equipment and while we set about designing a torque machine that was best in class, we saw the way to open doors was through service. If you don’t service the customer, you’ll struggle to retain them.”

Even with great service and a great product, getting the door open with procurement departments was still a task.

“In the downturn, nobody had much money to spend and every penny was a prisoner. Everyone wanted to drive all the costs down,” Robins says matter-of-factly. “Procurement was a big barrier for us as their strategy was to minimise the number of vendors that they could give volume to those vendors and bring prices down. So getting approved by these companies took time.”

Overcoming these barriers required persistence, and a willingness to go the extra mile.

“Over an extended period you knock on the door enough to let the customer know you’re here,” Robins says simply. “They know we have the people, knowledge and parts and if there’s an issue we’re here to help. Gradually we got opportunities and we grasped them. For example, a customer we had been chasing for some time had an issue in Malaysia and we got someone on a plane to fly out and fix it just in time. That location recognised the value and publicised the help we gave them internally opening doors for us. So the trick is being patient, waiting for someone else to slip up and being reactive, fixing the problem.”

Now Robins is ready to look to the next stage of the company’s growth.

“We want to see continued growth and expansion. We’ve come a long way in the last few years. We had £2 million turnover in 2016, and have doubled that for several years in a row,” Robins reflects. “We don’t want to rest on our laurels but it will be difficult to continue this trajectory. We’re still in a depressed market and we’ve been eating into market share. The market hasn’t grown, so we need to focus on establishing ourselves. We’re supplying to and servicing all four corners of the globe. Our market is 95% export, we’re a global company based in Scotland and need to get closer to customers and decision-makers. We opened a service centre in Houston to service North and South America so that customers can get personnel and parts quicker. The next stage is to push on and have a similar setup in Abu Dhabi because that’s a huge market. Beyond that, we want to do something similar in the far east, Malaysia or Singapore.”

We look forward to seeing how far they go.

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