Andy Simpson, general manager at Weatherford Manufacturing & Services in the United Arab Emirates, part of the leading global network specialist supplier of components and services for the world's oil and gas industry, was faced with the prospect of moving a number of large machines from Dubai to a new site in Abu Dhabi.
He spent more than a year ''marshalling' the scheme – and, he says, the experience and expertise of the engineering and service team from T W Ward CNC Machinery of Sheffield proved a key ally in the five-month campaign to relocate Weatherford's Dubai plant to Abu Dhabi.
TRANSFER, RE-COMISSION, REBUILD
For its part of the project, T W Ward engineers not only carried out the transfer and re-commissioning of 67 machines from sites in Dubai and the United States to Abu Dhabi, but they also undertook the refurbishment and repair of two large Butler Elgamill bed-type machining centres. And one of the company's senior engineering technicians remained onsite for the duration of the project as the 'on the ground general'. He was complemented by a squad of service engineers flown in from Sheffield, and T W Ward also sent engineers from its South Yorkshire base to North America to de-commission 17 machines, then re-commission them upon their arrival in the Middle East.
In total, the project involved 38 CNC machines and 12 manual machines - moved from Dubai to Abu Dhabi – plus 15 CNC and two manual machines from North America to the UAE. The tally included a range of small to large-capacity lathes, machining centres and milling machines (some with bed capacities up to eight-ten metres)
Operating in over 100 countries and employing more than 50, 000 people worldwide, Weatherford is one of the largest global providers of advanced products and services that span the drilling, evaluation, completion, production and intervention cycles of oil and natural gas wells. Its business is focused on a number of core service lines – artificial lift, drilling services, well construction, drilling tools, completion, wireline, re-entry and finishing, stimulation and chemicals, integrated drilling, and pipeline and specialist services.
Now located in the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi, Weatherford's Abu Dhabi Manufacturing Facility manufactures a range of products that support its business demands in the Middle East and North Africa, and are supplied globally to oil and gas sector customers.
Mr Simpson explains the reason for the move: "In short, we decided to relocate to be closer to our customers. Abu Dhabi has a larger oil and gas industry than Dubai, and most of the larger companies have offices, workshops and bases in Abu Dhabi. The move has also enabled us to position our manufacturing processes closer to some of our other operational bases, so helping to reduce logistics between all sites."
Weatherford Manufacturing & Services new factory
An outside view of the new site
The move to the brand new factory in Abu Dhabi has also created an expansive facility where all Weatherford's production machines are sited alongside each other on one large shopfloor – and there's plenty of space for additional manufacturing capacity, if required.
Outlining how the project discussions started at the end of 2009, Mr Simpson says the first machines were moved from Dubai in the middle of July 2010 and the last machine from Dubai arrived in Abu Dhabi in the middle of December 2010. The remaining 15 machines – re-located from Weatherford's Houston site in North America - were installed in Abu Dhabi by the end of April 2011.
"We selected T W Ward CNC Machinery as our project 'partner' after a number of discussions involving local and other UK companies," he says. "T W Ward's senior engineering & service manager, Mario DeVito, travelled to Dubai initially to discuss the project. After talking to him and with prior knowledge of T W Ward's considerable expertise in the field of machine removal, re-commissioning and re-engineering, the company was selected - not only on price but, crucially, also on its expert ability to help us project-manage this enormous undertaking, as well as provide onsite breakdown support during the full transition period if required, which gave added peace of mind.
"Importantly, too, T W Ward's impressive track record [its origins stretch back over 130 years] and the team's extensive knowledge base – I understand that between them there is well in excess of 500 man-years' experience in the machine tool industry - also clearly demonstrated how they could not only apply the required skills to the required multitude of tasks, but also exercise a level of flexibility during what would be such a challenging time."
ONSITE; ON TAP
T W Ward's senior engineering technician, Alan Ledger, was located onsite at Weatherford for the full duration of the project, as project lead and consultant, liaising closely with the Sheffield-based Mr DeVito, and with Andy Simpson and the Weatherford Maintenance Team. Up to eight T W Ward service and application engineers, as well as technical support staff, were onsite (in Dubai and Abu Dhabi) at any one time. Another aspect of their role was also to help develop the local workforce (the maintenance team), providing them with the appropriate support, training and guidance.
While Weatherford and a local company co-ordinated and arranged the machine transport and craneage, T W Ward's team was heavily involved in the co-ordination and lifting of the machines on a day-to-day basis – for example, helping to ensure that machines were protected, loaded and transported safely.
Crucially, T W Ward's engineers methodically applied a proven and careful programme of skilful de-commisioning, transportation and re-commissioning of each machine. In addition to re-installation, this included, where appropriate, re-tooling, laser calibration and quality checks, process trials/capability tests and quality audits. This was followed up by any necessary 'refresher' training for operators, setters and maintenance staff.
"Another main benefit from the project management perspective was that the T W Ward team, through their extensive knowledge and experience, were able to remove problems, provide solutions and integrate quickly with the local workforce, which made the transition so much easier," adds Mr Simpson. "Indeed, the support from T W Ward has continued even after the move was completed, as some of our maintenance team remain in contact with the technicians in Sheffield."
From the outset, the strategy was to create and implement a machine relocation plan that would minimise machine downtime. "Some of the smaller machines were moved three or four at a time and were back in production within a couple of days," Mr Simpson offers. "On the other hand, the larger machines were moved and re-commissioned one at a time, so that the three/four weeks they spent out of action were effectively 'covered' by machines of similar capability."
Part of the creation of Weatherford's new-look manufacturing site involved the re-engineering of two large Butler Elgamill machining centres. And, again, T Ward's established reputation for successfully working with such machines came to the fore by applying tried and tested re-engineering procedures that, in every case, see such machines re-engineered to CE standards.
Weatherford also transferred 15 machines from its facility near Houston, and a team of T W Ward engineers travelled to the USA to de-commission four of the larger, more challenging milling machines. The remaining North American machines were de-commissioned by Weatherford's local team and, once all these had arrived in Abu Dhabi, the Ward engineers re-commissioned them.
Commenting on the project – the largest such project undertaken by T W Ward – Simon Whitworth, managing director of the Sheffield company, says: "It is obvious that an enormous amount of planning went into the project – the logistics are mind-boggling! But it is pleasing to record that all went well, such was the effectiveness of Weatherford's strategy and the high level of collaboration and professionalism and expertise between Andy Simpson, Weatherford's maintenance team and our engineers.
"As a company, T W Ward has many years' experience of machine relocation and re-engineering – the fact that this project was on the other side of the world didn't make any difference to the way we operate and the procedures we employ. Indeed, after the successful completion of the project, I'm glad to say that Weatherford share that view! "
First published online