At a time when many companies have moved their manufacturing operations outside of the United States, one manufacturer is relocating its operations to America to take advantage of the variety of opportunities available in the Americas. Austrian tool manufacturer Hotwell GmbH has been operating its Hotwell US LLC subsidiary since 2007. But as Hotwell US President and General Manager Phil Forbes explains, the past year has seen the parent company make a substantial commitment to serving customers in North and South America by moving all of its manufacturing operations to Hotwell US’s headquarters in Houston.
Hotwell US’s primary focus remains the design and manufacture of wireline logging tools for oil and gas customers. The company produces tools for open-hole and cased-hole wells, as well as services including petrophysical analysis, repair and training. With the recent decision by its parent company to relocate all of its manufacturing operations from Austria to the United States, Forbes says Hotwell US anticipates an even greater rate of growth in the future than it already has experienced.
One of the primary advantages Hotwell US has over many of its competitors is the specialized nature of its business. Forbes says many of the company’s competitors focus on wireline logging tools as commoditized products in a larger product line, but Hotwell US concentrates its energies on that specific portion of the marketplace and therefore can give customers more of what they need. “We’re more of a specialty-type company that develops specialty logging tools,” Forbes says. “We like to concentrate on the more specialty logging tools, and that’s where our niche is.”
What also sets Hotwell US apart from the competition is the fact that the company is highly service-driven, according to Forbes. While some competitors look at logging tools as a commodity that they stop thinking about the moment the sale is made, Hotwell US provides additional support in the form of training and after-market service. Forbes says the company has a test well on site in Houston and can provide full training to customers at its headquarters. Hotwell US wants its customers to be completely comfortable with its products before putting them to use in the field.
“We don’t just deliver a piece of iron to them,” Forbes says, adding that the company will send technicians out into the field to help customers with its products. “If our customers are successful, then they’ll come back and buy more tools, and then we’ll be successful.”
In light of the substantial growth the company has gone through in the last few years, Forbes says Hotwell US’s greatest challenge at the moment is finding the right people to help maintain that growth and serve customers. Although there are a limited number of qualified and experienced engineers in the labor pool right now, Hotwell US is willing to train inexperienced people to bring them up to speed with the company’s standards. “As long as someone has a strong basic skill set, we can train them,” Forbes says, adding that the company’s training process usually takes about a year from start to finish.
The other force affecting the industry is the change to horizontal wells for shale oil and gas. Forbes says the industry has had to change because virtually everything about horizontal wells is different from vertical wells, from the methods of conveyance used to the type of instruments required. “It’s definitely a completely different market than going vertical,” Forbes says. “I think the industry is just trying to wrap their arms around what they’re doing to evaluate these shales.”