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Swire Oilfield Services meets the challenge of expansion

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

While rapid growth is good news for any business, success doesn’t come without its challenges. As sales figures rise, so does the need to improve productivity to remain competitive. The faster the workforce expands, the more urgent it becomes to streamline and carefully manage processes - and to ensure that all investment in developing the company is optimised.

Swire Oilfield Services is a case in point. Part of the well-known Swire Group, the company has expanded significantly over the past few years and now has over 50 bases worldwide including Houston, Stavanger, Rio de Janeiro and Perth, Australia, in addition to its two sites in Aberdeen, at the heart of the UK’s oil and gas industry.

It has the largest fleet of offshore cargo carrying units in the world and is a leading supplier of specialist modular systems, offshore aviation services and fluid management. Its products range from containers and cargo baskets to modular offices and helicopter refuelling systems for oil rigs. Its cargo carrying solutions division alone offers over 150 standard designs, numerous customer-specific designs and adds up to 60,000 different units available for hire worldwide.

As the volume of work has grown, the company has taken on more engineering staff in several of its sites. So, when Fleet Engineering Manager Neil Moir considered how Swire Oilfield Services’ design teams across the globe could work together in a more synergetic way, rather than duplicating their efforts, addressing the challenge of managing and sharing data was at the top of his agenda.

He also recognised that the engineering design side of the business could only continue to be successful if it constantly reviewed the way it operated, investing in new technologies, methods and training to remain highly competitive.

Moir didn’t have to look far to find guidance. Swire Oilfield Services was already working with Symetri, an Autodesk Platinum Partner and Autodesk Consulting Services Partner, which has offices and training facilities in Aberdeen. Symetri holds the prestigious Autodesk Specialisation status in no less than three areas; engineering simulation, product lifecycle management and product support. But perhaps more importantly, it also has long-term experience of helping customers in the oil and gas business.

Moir and his team worked with Symetri to implement design and data collaboration software and establish new workflows surrounding its use. Autodesk Vault Collaboration stores and manages design data, models and documents in a secure, central hub, which can be accessed across the company’s different sites at any time by authorised personnel.

This gives design teams flexibility when working from the company’s different sites and enables far greater cross-fertilisation of ideas and re-use of data, in turn helping to reduce time to market.  Importantly, it does this while still ensuring rigorous version control and providing audit trails to help maintain data integrity. The software also enables the design team to share design data with other departments more easily, ensuring that its value is optimised across the organisation.

Training and best practice

Moir and his team have also been taking further steps to help enhance design productivity. One area where they have already made great progress is engineering simulation and analysis, replacing their previous Ansys software used for FEA testing with the equivalent tools integrated into Autodesk Inventor, their main design software.

To ensure best practice and that they get the best return from the software, the team are also taking advantage of Symetri’s expertise in this area.

Using the simulation tools within Inventor saves time because it eliminates the need to keep re-creating and re-entering data. However, no engineer would want to put speed above reliability in carrying out FEA testing tasks, especially in an area as safety conscious as the oil and gas industry.

To ensure the design teams were totally confident in their new solution, Symetri worked with them on a project to compare results using different methods to verify the reliability of the Autodesk simulation tools. To do this they carried out the same analysis using traditional physical methods, the older Ansys software and the simulation and analysis tools within Inventor. All the results were identical, despite the fact that using Inventor, the process took only a fraction of the time.

Moir believes that his team really benefits from working with a third party consultant such as Symetri: “It’s all too easy to do things in the same way they’ve always been done,” he says. “However, we recognised that for the company to continue to grow, this wasn’t an option.”

It is clear that being open to change has enabled Swire Oilfield Services to turn the challenges of expansion to their advantage. Autodesk Vault is enabling its design teams across the globe work together in a far more straightforward and efficient way, centralising all information so that it can be easily shared and so ensuring that more data means more value – and not more work.

At the same time, its investment in training means that the team are getting the best from the latest simulation technology, confident in the knowledge that the results are reliable and accurate, even though the testing takes minutes rather than hours or even days.

Written by Amy Scott on behalf of Symetri

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