Disruption Starts From Within
It’s 2013 and you’re in an industry that, since its very inception, has had the advantage of high demand – and it has gotten comfortable. Propped up on $100/barrel crude, mundane and great ideas alike flow through bureaucracies and often languish and die in the hot oilfield sun.
Customers are yours for life. Your company is successful. Why disrupt your position?
If there’s one thing the downturn in O&G taught our industry, it’s that comfort is not an option—if you don’t disrupt yourself, the market will.
Adding an IIoT and AI component to our offerings at Apergy (a spinoff of the energy holdings of Dover Corporation) was the start, but, we didn’t want to develop technology for technology’s sake. A methodical and culture-driven process of constant innovation has paid dividends both for our customers and our company.
Windrock Enterprise, a Case Study
Windrock Inc., an Apergy Company, began as a small, privately held organization, but has grown into a leading manufacturer of online and portable diagnostic equipment for the machinery monitoring industry.
One product in particular drove this growth. The Windrock Portable Analyzer is a hand-held diagnostic instrument that analyzes and monitors reciprocating compressors and engines, as well as rotating equipment. With it, Windrock effectively captured over 90% of market share in North America (other companies had developed high tech devices, but they were not meeting customer needs). We had the somewhat enviable option to simply rest on our laurels with the Portable Analyzer. Having put in place the culture of innovation and self-disruption, however, we chose to do more.
Windrock’s first task was to identify clients business needs. We saw that our customers had large install bases that needed to be monitored but only two options to do so. An analyzer with a portable device could asses an asset roughly once a quarter. Alternatively, certain critical assets could be monitored 24/7 for a significantly higher cost. The market was missing a solution in between these two extremes. That solution needed to be cost-effective, easy to install, and easy to use.
Yes, customers wanted a quick and easy monitoring solution, but what they really needed was a robust system that could predict and minimize failures. They needed to leverage predictive and analytical technology to help their businesses thrive.
Windrock then ran detailed assessment of the AI platforms available on the market that could deliver on our needs and allow us to focus on our expertise. We partnered with SparkCognition to bring an IIoT solution package to Windrock’s solutions suite. The package addresses the specific needs our customers have identified, and delivers analysis in a way that streamlines their operation and reduces their costs.
Using agile teams with the liberty to fail fast, we piloted and brought the solution (Windrock Enterprise) to market before our competitors.
Windrock Enterprise has been a game-changer. Instead of waiting for a failure to address an issue; the system uses AI to look for signs that might be a symptom of failure. This turns our customers’ scheduled-based maintenance routines to a proactive and predictive exception-based routines.
With Windrock Enterprise, our customers are able to pinpoint the root causes of failures, even before they happen. Operators can keep their assets running without disruption reduce the time and effort associated with collecting and analyzing data. It offers their business a chance to be analytical and strategic instead of simply reactive.
Our framework to develop a successful product is to identify customer needs, add expertise, find the right solution, and quick, effective field testing. Through this, Apergy was able to take Windrock out of a traditional, reactive industry model and truly put it on the technological edge of what a company can offer.
Instead of developing a simple X.0 solution—that is, the latest iteration in a long line of product versions—Windrock drove our customers to decrease operating costs and minimize unplanned failures so their growth was predictable rather than erratic. Apergy used technology as an enabler to unlock the potential of our clients’ businesses, but stuck to our core competencies to solve identified customer issues. For the customer, however, it’s one simple elegant solution—a smart product that measurably increases their bottom line.
No industry, especially one as cyclical as O&G, can afford to forget the bad times. Though the outlook seems positive once again, we never know when the next downturn might hit, and we need to innovate intelligently for the sake of our customers. In order to disrupt and revolutionize the industry and replicate our successes, we need to maintain the habit of disturbing our own sense of security. Once again in O&G, we’re being given the choice – become complacent, or stay disruptive. For Apergy, the choice is clear.