When lives depend upon the quality of your products, their installation and maintenance, there is no margin for error. Oil and gas is one industry that depends upon attention to detail and know-how of experts, especially those supplying safety-critical equipment.
Middlesbrough-based Avenium Engineering is one of these trusted suppliers, the UK’s only agent and distributor for a market leading mechanical interlocking manufacturer. Avenium designs, supplies, installs and maintains interlocking systems in a full life cycle service to the offshore industry, mainly in Aberdeen but also on Teesside. The interlocking systems eliminate human error in valve operation, which, if it went wrong, could have catastrophic consequences for the environment and personnel.
Owner Greg Hynes trained as an engineer and it was while working offshore that he spotted an opportunity. “It’s an industry where there can be conflict between supply chain and end user, but because we have direct experience and understanding of the problems, we can find and apply better solutions.”
Consequently, Avenium grew quickly. “I couldn’t have imagined it taking off in the way it has,” says Greg. But, as many business owners know, success can create its own challenges. Greg, as owner and MD, found himself pulled away from staff management and business development and into order processing and fulfilment, quality assurance and operations, all set against the backdrop of a high-risk industry.
Help was offered by DigitalCity, initially to undertake a mapping exercise of Avenium’s processes. The subsequent four-metre long ‘artwork’ of scores of sticky notes running along their boardroom wall highlights the complexity of just a single order fulfilment.
The exercise resulted in a number of breakthroughs, says Greg. “Firstly, self-realisation; that it would be an impossible stretch for me to scale-up the business."
“Secondly, it helped bring clarity to all the elements of the business and helped us identify the viability of doubling in size in terms of the resources and number of people we’d need.”
From there, DigitalCity provided consultancy support to carry out a scoping exercise into how a new software system could support rigorous systems, meticulous processes and a standardised approach.
“It was really helpful. Without DigitalCity we might never have done it, or done it too late,” says Greg. “The business could have expanded but then overloaded, damaging our reputation, from which we might never have recovered.”
Having the software to support our highly effective operations and service levels will allow me to work more on the business, rather than in it, which means we can push forward to increase market share and create more jobs. I’m passionate about providing apprenticeships; we can nurture new starters and develop our existing team.
Not only will it help us to run the business more effectively and standardise the quality of our delivery, but it will also mean that everyone can focus on what they’re good at. It will create opportunities and be a catalyst for growth.
Greg's business had undergone extremely rapid and significant growth to the point where the business processes and infrastructure were not able to keep up. In an objective assessment we were able to show him this wasn’t sustainable. We shone a light on the risks and helped him focus on where technology could be the solution.
A local software company Sapere has now been engaged by Avenium to develop a bespoke order processing software package, to be implemented later in 2019. A new product range and acquisition will aid further expansion.