I've Been Everywhere Man!
Updated: Nov 24, 2022
I did not start my career as a consultant, I was initially a software developer. I enjoyed sitting at my desk each day developing interfaces into CMMS systems. These would usually involve interfaces to financial systems and we did develop a fleet management system that was integrated back into a CMMS. It was fun but was not meant to be according to my Boss. He would come into my office which I shared with three other programmers, and he would make statements like something is not right in this room. Maybe it was the fact that back then I could not grow a decent beard so I did not fit in with the other guys that clearly could. The day finally came when my Boss looked me in the eye and said, you are not a programmer, you have the personality of a consultant, and I was pulled from behind the desk and became a consultant. My technical skills were still put to good use as the software we were selling at the time was highly customizable, so I was running design sessions to develop customizable solutions and then performing the customizations in the software. It was a great gig, and I really had been put into a good place. The biggest problem was I was living in Calgary the headquarters for all the oil and gas companies in Canada, but none of them were interested in our solution. I think back at how well this particular Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system would have worked for this industry. But we just could not get a seat at their table. I spent most of my early career working in steel, forest, power, and shipping.
This meant I was never home. I've been everywhere man!
I found that in oil and gas there was such a copycat mentality. One organization would select an EAM system and the rest would jump in as well. A friend of mine at the time was an SAP consultant and he was working in Calgary the majority of the time. He did get a couple of US deployments, but these were opportunity-based for him and his family. His wife and kids were sent with him, to places like Boston and Seattle. But for me, I was shipping out on Mondays and coming home on Fridays. It was a weekly conversation for us in our company as to why couldn’t we land an oil and gas deal. We did not have too much to show for oil and gas experience, and we did not bear the name SAP, Oracle or JD Edwards. We decided that we would push hard on an Expert Maintenance Management module and make it so that it was easily integrated into these bigger systems. It was the approach of, "if we can’t compete with them, then let's join them".
This approach worked, and we were finally able to land a deal in Houston; again, not home, but at least we could establish ourselves as a contributor in the oil and gas market. We found that the bulk of the benefits we were able to provide was in the purchasing and inventory side of the business. It ended up getting all the attention and focus, but on the asset management, maintenance and reliability side we found it very difficult to gain any traction. I was starting to believe it had a lot to do with maturity. Other industries like steel, pulp and paper were light years ahead of oil and gas in the reliability world. All of our initial experiences were based in those industries, so maybe we developed something that the oil and gas companies were just not ready for. We continued to implement within these other industries, and we were actually showing some great success. We managed to get online condition-based monitoring working that would use thresholds to tell operators that maintenance work is coming due; this was all integrated within the maintenance management system, so planning work became so much easier and the "right work at the right time" was starting to become a norm. It was amazing to see this major transition of maintenance management occur, and we saw some great benefits to the organization as a result.
It was only a matter of time before the bigger systems would catch on and develop more modules to accommodate an expert maintenance approach. As good as our software was it just could not keep up with the larger companies that the oil and gas had spent millions on; it was truly millions and millions of dollars that were invested into companies like SAP, Oracle and JD Edwards from these oil and gas companies. I could spend weeks picking it all apart and explain just how wrong they were, but unfortunately the investments were made and there was no going back. I always wonder if we could have gotten in with one large oil and gas company and showcased what we could do if things would have changed in my career path. If I would have spent much more time at home instead of places like Bemidji Minnesota, Gillette Wyoming, Guntown Mississippi, and 100 Mile House. Don’t get me wrong, they were all great places and I worked with incredible people, I just think I could have been better off back in those days and I know that if we had that chance, there would have been some oil and gas companies that would have been better off as well. Sometimes following the crowd only brings you the same grief that they experienced. I say go out on a limb occasionally and take a chance with something that has so much industrial experience. We might not be big, but we are mighty!
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