The Pokemon experience to win new business

In a first for the drilling industry, Maersk Drilling has teamed up with Danish tech start-up Kanda to create a virtual reality rig, allowing customers to take a tour without ever leaving the boardroom.

Will Mcbeath
Will McBeath, Senior Technical Account Manager, Global Sales at Maersk Drilling and Ana Zambelli, Chief Commercial Officer at Maersk Drilling.

Anyone who has come across the rather surreal sight of a Pokémon hunter glued to their smartphone chasing a virtual reality creature down the street, will attest to the fact that technologies such as augmented and virtual reality are changing our view of the world today.

Applications for these immersive technologies – which blur the line between the real world and the virtual one – are now spreading far beyond the gaming industry. In an unusual partnership, Maersk Drilling has teamed up with Kanda, a young Danish tech start-up, to explore how they could be used to enhance the sales experience.

“Virtual reality has been around since the '90s, but it died out as it was too expensive and computers weren’t powerful enough to support it back then,” says Kristian Andreasen, Director at Kanda.

Kristian
“Virtual reality has been around since the 90’s but it died out as it was too expensive and computers weren’t powerful enough to support it back then,” says Kristian Andreasen, Director at Kanda.

Andreasen – who describes himself as a “gadget freak” – bought a virtual reality headset when they first re-emerged around three years ago and became hooked on what the technology could do.

“We started looking at how we could commercialise its use. The interest has been huge, as many companies today want to understand how they can apply the digital world to their workplace.”

Kanda aims to tackle one of Maersk Drilling’s biggest challenges – how to help customers truly understand the vast capabilities of their rigs in a way that a power-point presentation never could.

Take the Virtual Rig Tour
“It’s long been a dream of mine, to step into a client’s office and instead of opening up a powerpoint presentation to try and explain what we do, to be able to take them on a tour and really show them what it is we do. Today, virtual reality has made that possible,” explains Ana Zambelli, Chief Commercial Officer at Maersk Drilling.

Logistics, cost and safety issues often make it impossible for Maersk Drilling to provide customers with a first-hand experience of the rig.

It’s long been a dream of mine, to step into a client’s office and instead of opening up a power point to try and explain what we do, to be able to take them on a tour and really show them what it is we do. Today, virtual reality has made that possible.

Zambelli

ANA ZAMBELLI, CHIEF COMMERCIAL OFFICER, MAERSK DRILLING

 

Through virtual reality, the rig is brought to them instead. Using a special camera, Kanda filmed a 360-degree shoot of the drill floor on the Maersk Resolute rig in Esbjerg. Viewing this through a virtual reality headset transports the user onto the rig, allowing them to move around it as if they were actually there without ever leaving the comfort of the boardroom.

Another product uses an augmented reality app to transform a flat image of a rig into a 3D model that users can explore by zooming in and out of certain features.

Standing out in a tough market
It is hoped that such experiences will help bring Maersk Drilling a lot closer to their customers, not just on the sales front, but long before.

“We are in a very difficult market situation. Today, there are about 500 vessels out there and jobs for 200, so drilling rigs to a certain extent have become a commodity. There is a perception that they are all the same and that choosing between them comes down to price – but that just isn’t the case,” says Zambelli.

“Our rigs have the technology to drill down into thousands of metres of water and earth while withstanding incredible pressures and adverse weather conditions. We needed to find a better way to demonstrate these incredible capabilities.”

Huge potential
So far, the technologies have proved so impressive that Maersk Drilling is already imagining other applications.

“Moving forward, we see ourselves using these technologies to lower maintenance costs and for training and rig familiarisation programmes. They are opening up a whole new world, in terms of how we qualify people for the job which at present involves moving them around the globe,” says Will McBeath, Senior Technical Account Manager, Global Sales at Maersk Drilling.

For Zambelli, the litmus test was a thumbs-up from her 10-year old son.

“It’s a fact that the oil industry is perceived as being a traditional and old fashioned one and we haven’t always been able to convey how exciting and technically advanced we are. When I showed this to my son, even he agreed it was cool, and I knew immediately that we were onto something.”

More pioneering projects in Maersk Drilling

Remote drilling

  • This involves a demonstration project in which a driller’s cabin will be built inside a container that can be placed anywhere on the rig, or even on an onshore location several hundred kilometres away from the rig.
  • The project takes advantage of live pictures from cameras and broadband data technology. As more and more operations on the drill floor have become automated, this removes the need for the driller’s cabin to be situated next to the drill floor.
  • It is the first step towards a fully automated rig, which in the long-term could significantly reduce costs and improve safety

Cruise control for drilling

  • Real-time drilling is a groundbreaking technology, in which data streams from a wide variety of sensors placed in and around the drill bit are analysed in real time.
  • This in turn allows the equipment control system to carry out adjustments automatically.
  • This could lead to lower well construction cost, and improved well quality.

Predictive maintenance

  • In an attempt to move away from the traditional, calendar-based, maintenance scheme, Maersk Drilling is exploring a sensor-triggered regime, whereby one only replaces a particular part when a sensor provides a warning that it is wearing out.
  • This would reduce the financial burden associated with annual maintenance significantly.