When to expand

April 13th, 2012 | Posted by in Features | gray-four

Atlas Copco distributor adds location: a model for others to follow

Venture Drilling Supply is one of Atlas Copco’s largest independent dealers covering six states from three locations in Oklahoma and Texas. It sells everything from geotechnical equipment to waterwell drills. In addition to supporting the drill and blasthole quarry markets, where sister company Venture Drilling Inc. first got its start in 1977, it has growing business in construction and oil and gas. Deep Hole Driller spoke with the company’s management to discuss the recent decision to expand their Texas operation and how others around the world could use this as a model for growth.

Originally the expansion discussion started because servicing the West Texas market was logistically difficult from Venture’s existing offices. Travel to the oil and gas hub of the Permian Basin, Midland-Odessa, creates nearly a 1,000 mile, 20-hour round trip in a service truck depending on the servicing branch and rig location. “Our customers simply didn’t want to pay, nor did they have time to wait, for us to drive to take care of their equipment,” said Venture Drilling Supply’s President George Gummere.

The foundation of Venture’s success is service. To remedy the driving issue, they knew a service team in the Midland-Odessa area was critical. Before they made a move, Gummere and the company’s owners enlisted the opinion of all Venture’s employees who would do the work and their families.

“We couldn’t make this decision without the shared commitment of our people. We talked to everyone—mechanics to secretaries,” said Gummere. He was particularly concerned with technicians and the extra time that would be asked of them. Making good technicians happy on the job is important to keeping them on staff, and Venture has some of the best.

Management decided that rotating service technicians weekly to the new area was the best way to start the expansion process. Venture wanted to move conservatively while continuing to offer technical service with quality people. Today the responsibility for parts and service is shared by Garland Laird, five additional technicians, and three service managers who rotate in for a week at a time, each possessing an oilfield 24/7 mentality.

On his rotation, Laird notes, “It’s not a bad thing working away from the home office.” He spends each day on the road in the region, much as he would do anyway in a different area. And it’s only for a week at a time. Then he returns to his home in Texas. Gummere shared a lesson others can learn: “We thought we knew everyone in the area, but a good half of our business is from new customers.”

He focused on good employees. “It would be very difficult to do this without people. We would not have moved forward with this expansion without knowing we had the personnel and their commitment necessary to the job right.”Although the new Service Center Manager Paul Vinson moved from East Texas to run the West Texas branch, he was originally from the area. Going to work for Venture has given him a chance to return to his roots.

Gummere thinks it’s very important when expanding a drilling-related service business to hire people who know the value of quick response. “Paul is a likeable West Texas native with a drilling background who knows what the customer needs and expects. Uptime is critical to our business and Paul gets that.”

The new service center has also helped Venture’s capital equipment business. Although the expansion was focused on the West Texas oil and gas customers, additional water well and construction-related businesses have surfaced that Venture didn’t foresee. Vinson said, “We’ve met a great new track drill customer right down the street who now stops in for coffee, conversation, and supplies. This is one small proof in management’s minds that the expansion has been a success.

Venture Drilling Service Center in Midland, Texas

The right manufacturer matters

Gummere also appreciates that Atlas Copco is a Texas-based supplier: “It’s great having an Atlas Copco factory in our backyard.” Vice President Marketing for Atlas Copco’s Mining and Rock Excavation Services John Carnall said, “With our new strategy of putting Distribution Centers around the world, supporting all products, it will be as if everyone has a support system in their backyard.”

Over a period of time, Atlas Copco plans to establish seven locations around the globe that will support regional shipping needs for parts as well as rebuild centers. Today there are locations in the U.S. and Sweden with service support hubs in Southeast Asia, South America, Australia, South Africa, India and China. Locations are targeted to benefit from logistics related to manufacturing. The new locations are also geographically located to place parts closer to large markets.

Having this kind of support is critical not only to growing businesses like Venture Drilling Supply but also to their customers’ growth and success. In conclusion, Gummere says, “With this unprecedented level of manufacture and distributor support, why would anyone choose any other product but Atlas Copco?”

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