The secret to happy customers

A culture of continuous improvement has emerged at Maersk Drilling, saving its customers millions in operations and making the company more profitable. Data has helped drive the change, and the customers are delighted.

Head of Performance and Process at Maersk Drilling Lars Østergaard: “We have seen correlations between the objective performance data that we collect on the rigs and the subjective data we have collected from customers for several years."

Drilling is not just a straight-down job. You drill down, do flat-spot operations and then drill further down. Step by step. One type of flat-spot operation is ‘tripping’. Here, the driller pulls the drilling string out of the wellbore and then runs it back in. This could be done to replace a worn-out drill bit.

When Maersk Drilling began working with structured performance data four years ago, they discovered that better flat-spot operations could actually reduce the number of days that customers would need to complete drilling programmes costing USD 1 million a day.

“Improving flat-spot operations and reducing non-productive time by 10% could save our customers more than USD 100 million a year,” Senior Director, Head of Performance and Processes at Maersk Drilling, Lars Østergaard, recalls. “And we did not need new records to do this, only more consistent operations.”

Continuous learning
Østergaard and his team worked in four steps. One, define measurable KPIs on key-value drivers and allow crews to see how they perform. Two, analyse the numbers and find potential. Three, design and implement improvement tools across the fleet. Four, follow up on improvements and make them visible to customers.

“Looking at the numbers, we found a strong link between the performance of a rig and the question in the employee engagement survey that says ‘my team learns from successes and mistakes’. Therefore, one of the things we implemented was after-action reviews, which is a structured way to learn from successes and mistakes,” Østergaard says.

Initially, the change was pushed by KPIs, but it quickly became embedded in the crews, who then took it to the next level. So far, more than 2,000 ‘lessons learnt’ have been submitted.

“The guys on the rigs are doing this because it makes sense to them. They track the lessons learnt and assign actions to improve. We make best practice available across the fleet,” Lars Østergaard says.

Thus, Maersk Drilling has reduced the time needed to drill wells and unproductive time, saving its customers between USD 100-150 million in 2013. Maersk Drilling’s uptime has also improved, inching up to 97% in 2013.

A clear direction
In the drilling business, value drivers are quite straightforward, and continuous improvement, not drastic change, unlocks the value in a controlled and safe manner.
“Data does not always reveal anything new to experienced people in operations, but it makes issues visible in a factual way. They would probably reach the same conclusions without the support of data, but data makes for faster and more precise decision-making,” Lars Østergaard says.

Maersk Drilling is venturing into the next step of the project, making value and cost-cutting initiatives visible to customers. As Østergaard says, this is “early days” as far as specific results are concerned, but the efforts fit hand in glove with Maersk Drilling’s ambition to become a preferred supplier in the industry, already being a strategic partner of oil majors such as BP and ConocoPhillips.

Customers have, however, begun acknowledging the improvements through another channel. Customer satisfaction, measured on a scale from one to seven, is at an all-time high, turning high scores of seven into a common rating. Moreover, the perception on the rigs has changed.

“When we began, I had discussions with operations managers about the limits of performance and customer satisfaction. Some said that 2,400 feet/hour on tripping speed was impossible. Now they are doing 2,900 feet/hour. Others said that a customer satisfaction rating of seven was unreachable, because the business just doesn’t work that way. Now they have scores of seven across the board. These talks are all behind us,” Østergaard says.

Today, Maersk Drilling has the best customer satisfaction in the history of the company, and examples of scores of seven across the board in Norway, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, West Africa, Australia and Brunei prompt a modest conclusion from Østergaard:

“We have seen correlations between the very objective performance data that we collect on the rigs and the very subjective data we have collected from customers for several years. That gives us an idea that we are on the right track.”