Published originally on www.stalatube.com September 5, 2017
Times are busy in the Norwegian North Sea. A large oil drilling facility consisting of four platforms is being erected in Johan Sverdrup, which is one of the largest oil fields in the North Sea and, as of yet, untapped. Set for completion in 2019, the facility is estimated to have a peak output of up to 650,000 barrels a day.
Times are also busy at the Stalatube plant in Lahti, where new parts and components for the topsides of the four platforms – Drilling, Process, Riser and Living Quarters – are being produced.
“This is a considerable project for us. At the same time, the Johan Sverdrup account is typical nowadays: the delivery includes a variety of different products made from special steel grades,” says Markus Pirkkalainen, Export Manager at Stalatube.
To withstand the aggressive North Sea marine environment, the hollow sections delivered by Stalatube are made from lean duplex, which provides excellent corrosion resistance and substantial weight savings due to its higher strength.
“Now we are able to make products from special materials and to the exact dimensions required by each specific application,” Pirkkalainen says.
Last year, Stalatube commissioned a new technology, substantially increasing its production capacity. It has freed sales from the bounds of standard product dimensions. The technological advancements also enabled the launch of a new service called Stalafit, which allows the customers to tailor the outer dimensions of hollow sections exactly according to the specific application. Stalafit hollow section optimization tool is available also as a mobile application for Android, Windows and IOS mobile devices - enabling use where ever needed.
This new service was one of the main factors which allowed Stalatube to offer competitive, special products in the highly competitive international market and to win the Johan Sverdrup contract, a large-scale international project. “The increased capacity and flexibility resulting from the new production line has given us a competitive advantage on large, demanding projects.”
In the last few years, Stalatube has invested heavily on expanding its product and service portfolio, which means that complex orders are easier to handle. New technology allows tailored sections to be made quickly and cost-effectively, and the laser-cutting line allows them to be finished, cut and perforated exactly to the customer's drawings. In addition to welded profiles and I-beams, Stalatube is able to deliver ready-to-install parts and components when required, which is already utilised by various customers in the transportation industry.
“In the future, this kind of customership will also gain traction in our other customer segments. The ongoing trend is that components should be delivered as close to the completion of the final product as possible,” Pirkkalainen says.
This is also one of Stalatube’s main goals. Even though the bulk of the company’s business is based on standard hollow section deliveries, the goal is that prefabricated, or so-called solution business products would represent half of the company's turnover.
“In this regard, we are no longer competing with other tube manufacturers directly, instead, we aim to function as a service provider,” Pirkkalainen says. “None of the other stainless steel hollow section manufacturers are known to have such a wide range of products and services. Our product range of stainless hollow sections is the widest in the world.”
Moreover, the philosophy of the solution business is the exact opposite of the volume business, which is based on providing big volumes with a small staff and achieving economies of scale.
“For many operators in the industry, staying in the highly cost-effective volume business is the more rational and profitable way to go, but we at Stalatube also want to provide more tailored products for our customers and enable them to discover enhanced solutions.”
However, the initiative for expanding the selection and introducing more specific products was driven by customer needs, which has always been the case at Stalatube.
“The customer sets the standards,” Pirkkalainen says, meaning it both figuratively and literally. “In the oil & gas business, for example, environmental matters and occupational safety are key issues. These must be addressed before the products can even be offered, which means we need to prepare by acquiring the required quality demands.”
Stalatube’s customer industries are highly regulated and their products are used in highly demanding applications, which means achieving certification often requires major changes and reorganisation.
“Adjusting our operations to the requirements of the latest welding standard meant an entire year’s work for us. In principle, everything was at a world-class level even before we received the certificate, but now the bar is set even higher as everything is fully documented to the highest level required by the standard.”
The CE marking for structural steel, which Stalatube was the world’s first stainless steel hollow section manufacturer to achieve, was also acquired due to a requirement in a customer project.
“In some cases, there are no standards in existence. This means we have to challenge ourselves, find the path and create our own standards,” Pirkkalainen says. However, Stalatube is first and foremost about providing increasingly valuable service for its customers.
“Bulk products may provide a good basis for profitable business, but ever since its conception, Stalatube has also been interested in the end user and how we can deliver added value through the entire chain. That’s why the customer’s standards are also our standards,” Pirkkalainen concludes.