Fasten your seatbelts
Within the oil and gas industry, fasteners are required on a range of equipment and installations used in offshore environments.
Appro AB, emanating from Sweden, is a leading light in this market area, providing operators with fasteners designed for every requirement, and a range of unique surface finishes.
Appro’s founder and managing director Peter Fjordman is keen to elaborate on the services his company provides: “We pride ourselves on not only being a reliable business that can guarantee rapid delivery times, but also for the high quality of the products we manufacture. The fasteners that we manufacture are available in standard varieties, and in some cases, we can offer clients surface treatment options. As well as this factor, we can supply them with technical advice regarding logistics to help customers operate in a more efficient manner. Appro goes to its clients and sees how they work, and this allows us to understand and offer knowledge as to how our products can improve their facilities. Optimisation is a key factor in this area – instead of using three or four fasteners, we can advise the use of one specific fastener that can do the job on an equal basis.”
Peter takes a step back to focus on the origins of the company, and its initial business premise: “Appro started in 1986, and over the first ten years of the company’s existence, we primarily worked with our production unit in the UK, and helped with its export process. From 1996 onwards, Appro focused on doing its own business in Sweden, and we are now in the process of developing the first custom-made export for the Norwegian market. We are also turning our attention further east, to potential markets in Russia. The company has a small production unit located in the UK, manufacturing hexagon nuts. Indeed, Appro has a number of suppliers across the world, as well as having a business purchasing office located in China. The main business sector we work in is the energy industry, specifically the oil and gas markets. We work extensively with companies that manufacture heat exchanging technology.
“In Sweden, we work with Preem, as well as Shell, Nynas and many other operators in the oil and gas sector,” Peter continues. “We mainly supply our B7 range of studbolts, which are available in natural finishes, or with other surface treatments pre-applied. Equally, we manufacture related studbolts that are applicable in the offshore environment. We also make studbolts that can be used alongside more exotic materials such as duplex and super duplex, according to the designs provided to us by customers. Appro stocks many different studbolts, manufactured using a range of materials, which can be cut to any preferred length. For example, should a client require a specific studbolt, we are able to provide this for them within a matter of hours, as well as blanks and balls that can be developed to a specific length.”
As previously stated, the organisation operates by understanding a client’s working process, to see where its fastening solutions would be most beneficial. Peter explains the fundamentals of this approach: “Working closely with customers is a vital part of how we operate at Appro, and communication is important in the successful application of any project. It is our responsibility to understand the challenges that face clients on a daily basis, and try to offer them viable solutions. We want to be a supplier that oil and gas companies can rely on, and the only way to do this is to foster close working relationships with everyone that we work with. Being on site with a customer is the first step in understanding how our products can make their life easier.”
Operating in the offshore sector has confronted the company with a number of unique challenges, as Peter acknowledges: “With respect to the oil and gas industry, the big difference in regards to other sectors is the short delivery times that are required, as occasionally companies are faced with breakdown emergencies. In this situation, Appro must be flexible enough to work round the clock to provide the relevant fastener solution, and deliver it quickly to the customer. Oil and gas operators are always concerned with reducing the costs associated with shutdowns and downtimes, as they cannot be tolerated extensively within the industry. Appro is therefore faced with the challenge of responding to their needs as and when they arise.”
To smooth out the design and delivery process, the business has developed a programme that will aid its operational efficiency. As Peter outlines: “Appro has its own system to track the efficiency of its supply chain, but the most important factor within the business is the relationships that we have with customers. If we don’t hear from them, we assume they are satisfied, but daily contact is fundamental to our manner of working. The company has a computerised monitoring system that allows us to measure the ordering and delivery process, which means we can respond quickly to issues should they arise.”
Emerging deepwater fields in Northern Europe have created a number of oil and gas companies that require fastening solutions. Appro is in a position to deal with a large degree of requests in this market area, as Peter suggests: “I think that Norway and Russia will be emerging market locations for the company in the future, and when we look at the forecast, the flow of demand in the market, and the amount of investment in this area, then we see many potential opportunities for our business. Despite the global financial insecurity that has shadowed recent times, I still think there will be many future projects in the oil and gas industry, and it will be a strong market over the years to come. We are going to concentrate on exporting studbolts into the market, and this should start to gather momentum within the second business quarter this year. By September 2008, we expect our rate of export to be at close to full pace.”
Peter concludes by describing his aspirations for the company: “Appro has recently completed its business plan, and this focuses on maintaining demand within the industry. We plan to expand the company over the coming years, so completing this will be our main area of concentration in the near future. The business must increase its presence in the market, and make itself more recognisable. One way of encouraging this process is to attend more conferences and fairs, which we intend on doing in the future. It is important for customers to see how well we have worked with clients in the past, and this support is vital for our continued success.”