W&O Expands Repertoire
Insights on recent moves from Michael Hume, CEO
We have watched for years as W&O has transformed itself from a pipe and valve supply company to an engineered solutions provider. When you look at W&O today, what do you see … or perhaps more importantly, what do you want the industry to see?
W&O’s evolution during the past 40 years has been fun to watch. We have evolved from being a core supplier of pipe, valves and fittings, to dramatically expanding our product and service offerings as well as our geographic footprint. We now bring to market a variety of engineered and technologically advanced products and solutions that address the holistic needs of our customers, which has been the driving force of our growth. When I look at W&O, that is exactly what I see — a company that has evolved and grown to now more than 300 employees, each of whom is solely committed to the marine and upstream oil and gas industries. Customers recognize how our team identifies their specific needs and goes above and beyond to deliver to those requirements, in a timely manner. Another result of our targeted mission is that we are keenly aware of and understand the challenges and trends of the market today and tomorrow. Combining that knowledge with our employees’ forward thinking and innovative approach to problem solving results in solutions that help improve the profitability and safety of our customers.
We are like athletes, constantly pushing ourselves to grow and deliver beyond the expectations of our customers, and it is this approach and our passion to perform that will keep us leading and growing for 40 more years.
Recently W&O announced a number of key partnerships, specifically with Norway’s PG Marine and Bestobell. What is the significance of these deals from the W&O perspective?
During the past six months, W&O has engaged in partnerships with several leading OEMs, including PG Marine and Bestobell. The key to these partnerships for both W&O and PG/Bestobell was the common goal of seeking out industry leadership. We recognize the high quality products and the dedicated maritime teams that each of these OEMs possess, and that is why W&O is so excited to partner with them. Likewise, these OEMs recognize W&O’s large geographic footprint and long-standing customer relationships in the industries we serve, and identified us as the best partner to bring their solutions to market. PG Marine and Bestobell continue to invest in R&D and technological enhancements and, as a result, continue to roll out industry-leading products. Combined with W&O’s footprint, industry specialization, vision and close relationships, this sets the stage for a mutually beneficial partnership for everyone. We want every world-class OEM to identify W&O as the best partner to bring their solution to market given our capabilities: 70 dedicated marine and offshore sales people worldwide, 18 global branch/stocking locations, $45 million in inventory, and more than 33,000 product SKUs. It is because of our vision to provide long-term, lifecycle solutions to our customers that we are very judicial about what partnerships we pursue. We are confident based on the proven track record of both companies that these partnerships will flourish and provide tremendous value creation for all customers.
Specifically regarding the partnership with PG Marine, our focus is on bringing leading cargo-handling solutions for the offshore construction vessel market in North America. PG’s innovative solutions are well accepted and installed on vessels worldwide. The state-of-the-art products that PG Marine provides combined with W&O’s network and relationships creates an ideal opportunity for both of our companies to further support this demanding market. This partnership supports W&O’s strategy of continuing to expand our product and service capabilities to the offshore oil and gas industry.
Specifically regarding the partnership with Bestobell, the Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) trend that is steadily growing in shipbuilding and ship conversions in North America is demanding different solutions and valve requirements, and Bestobell is a leader in the cryogenic valve space. To participate in the LNG space, we recognized that we needed to partner with the best—and out of us seeking the best products, and Bestobell seeking the best partner to bring their cryogenic valves to the North American market, this partnership was born. LNG is going to be a game changer in the marine industry in the future, and Bestobell and W&O’s combined strength will be there to serve this growing segment of the industry.
As this is our Workboat show edition, can you give to us your overview of the U.S. maritime market today. When you look at the coming 12 months, are you happy, sad, and why?
When looking at the next 12 months, we at W&O are very bullish on the commercial marine marketplace and, in particular, our Gulf of Mexico branches from Houston to Mobile, AL. They are doing exceptionally well given the strength of the energy markets in that region and our close ties in serving those key industries. More specifically, the brown water segment of the tank barge industry is very strong, as is the offshore vessel market (PSVs, AHTS, OSVs). Backlogs in the shipyards are healthy and a steady workload is already forecasted, in many cases, through 2014. We are also seeing the blue water barge business start to pick up as well. Conversely, the commercial blue water market still has its challenges as does our military segment. New construction funding for the Navy/Government segments has continued, but repair schedules and availabilities have been significantly cut. Overall, we continue to see opportunities for growth; the key is to be in tune with industry trends, be a problem solver and create value through innovative solutions.
During your tenure at the top of W&O, what do you count as the top challenge to running and maintaining a profitable, efficient business?
As we continue to grow and evolve our business model to more of a complete systems provider, our ongoing key challenge is to find, recruit and develop key talent to support this mission. To accomplish our goals, we need more individuals who know a ship from bow to stern, who understand the mechanics of a vessel, and who have strong customer relations skills. This blend of talent is hard to find and we continue to seek out individuals who will thrive in our environment. It is all about our talented team, armed with the right skills and solutions, who are able to exceed our customer’s expectations. Pretty simple.
Looking at your tenure at the top of W&O, how has the company and its mission changed most significantly?
Our mission has always been the same: to be the market leader in supporting our customers in the marine and upstream oil and gas industries. The mission has evolved to expand our product and service offerings to more systems on board the vessel or rig. Our customers view us as a technical solutions provider and resource, which has been our goal. We have not nor will we change our mission; we are simply expanding on how we accomplish the mission for the benefit of our customers and this mindset continues to serve us well.
(As published in the September 2013 edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News - www.marinelink.com)