Broad Spectrum Engineering

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Bernard Simon talks to the Tyneside company that runs the engineering gamut, onshore and offshore, oil, gas and wind.

McNulty Offshore Construction has grown since it was founded in 1906 as a small stevedore supply company into today’s formidable pool of engineering talent with a turnover of about £58 million. For more than 25 years this talent was deployed on construction, maintenance and repair of oil and gas platforms, ensuring that they are still able to deliver their dwindling supply of ‘black gold’ and gas. During the last three years their immaculate engineering skills have been additionally devoted to the design of wind turbines, from manufacture including welding, to commissioning.

A Project Business: Using oil industry jargon, McNulty can be said to be expert across the spectrum of skills involved with Floating Production Storage (FPSO) and Floating Processsing Unit (FPU) applications. It has no competition across the gamut from UK companies. “There is increasing competition,” says Managing Director, Jim Masterton, “from overseas, particularly Germany and China. But few can match our longevity in the field or our track record which shows in an ability to get things right where they could so easily go wrong, and the ability to deliver on time and to budget.”

The point to remember is that this is a project business. You are only as good as the last project which can be to do with oil, gas, wind and even petrochemicals and construction of auxiliary buildings onshore. Handling each project is a bit like setting up a new company, hiring as many as, say, 75 extra staff, many
of them experienced project engineers, keeping them busy during the lifetime of the project. At any one time there are probably 200 permanent people, again most of them electrical and mechanical engineers to participate in multidisciplinary teams. “I sometimes wonder how our HR people get to sleep nights,” says Jim Masterton. “They are brilliant at knowing where the right people are and getting them in when we need
them. I suppose it’s a bit like the early days of the company when it was recruiting stevedores to handle the next cargo when a ship docked at Tyneside. Fortunately for us the universities in Scotland and the North East are still producing enough good engineers to train in our way of doing things, and we are
increasingly recruiting from the Middle East and SE Asia.”

Engineering and Diversity: Given the engineering skills, they still have to be planned into a commercial enterprise, and the company has to be able to ride the waves of private and governmental investment in new projects, particularly those involving offshore wind-farms. McNulty typically operates a series of five year plans which are revisited every year for adjustment to be made in the light of investment patterns and other market changes. When you think that diverse skills such as heavy lifts, loadout and transportation, primary steelwork, secondary steelwork and architectural outfitting, small bore pipework, fire and gas systems, HVAC and site routing of cables from block diagrams, and others involved with structural engineering, have to be kept busy, attracting new business seems at best problematic. On top of which all the other skills have to be involved in an enterprise which can sometimes seem to be dependent on national and regional government whim, however well intentioned.

Much of the work handled by McNulty is potentially dangerous. The company is aware of it and takes steps to cope with it. In fact, it can be said that Safety is McNulty’s Number 1 priority and always will be. Jim Masterton spells this out: “Safety is an essential component of our culture. Our reputation
has been built on our safety performance to such an extent that in 2007, we were awarded the British Safety Council Sword of Honour for the 10th consecutive year. To quote the Chief Executive of British Safety Council, ‘McNulty are only 1 of 40 organisations worldwide presented with a Sword of Honour, which is widely recognised as the pinnacle of safety achievement’.”

Client Feedback: A fitting conclusion is what this company calls ‘Client Feedback’: ‘A key factor in succeeding is that McNulty have been able to contribute to create an outstanding working relationship within the project in general and with the Statoil representatives in particular.’ ... Statoil

‘This Delivery was achieved by McNulty's through committed and strong experienced leadership and an excellent workforce.’ ...BP

‘McNulty's have done a superb job in record time. Our partners and ourselves are delighted and we would certainly recommend anyone to go there.’ ...Kerr McGee Corporation

‘I very much enjoyed the opportunity to see our FPSO in the dry dock and to meet the people driving the project. The personal enthusiasm and commitment was greatly appreciated.’ ...MAERSK
All adding up to an excellent reputation with which to greet the future.

Author: Bernard Simon
Courtesy of: Inside Industry November 2011 and McNulty Offshore Construction.