This article has been reproduced from HCB (www.hcblive.com) March 2016 issue.
Loading Arms • After 19 years in the business, Loadtec is branding out into marine loading arms with its Zip-Load brand. HCB finds out why
"By December 2016 Loadtec will have been in business for 20 years," says Alec Keeler, managing director of UK-based Loadtec Engineered Systems. We have represented other companies for most of that time and have been involved with marine arms and their sales but in that sector our role was purely as an agent, passing on leads and enquiries to our principals.
"Our development of the Zip-Load brand of land-based loading arms has been instrumental in increasing our global spread and profile," Keeler continues. "Since 2012 we have been able to work with marine clients directly on a small scale as we developed our skills and knowledge of the market. In thelast year, with the development of our manufacturing partner facility in Italy, we have seen a huge growth in enquiries coming to us for packages ranging from single manual river barge arms to multiple LNG transfer systems. We have worked hard to ensure that we can meet technical, commercial and quality needs."
To help that process along, Loadtec has hired experienced marine loading arm expert Martin Dicke-Künitz to take a strategic role in developing the brand. He explains how he sees the market: "I have recognised over the years that big corporations are not in a position to give the necessary support and service to the demands of customers in the oil and gas industry, especially when it comes to reacting to the challenges of a rapidly changing environment.
"Loadtec stands out as a company that is changing the rules of engagement with customers," he continues. "Loadtec's breadth of product range, which is totally focused on bulk fluid transfer, makes them a go-to company for best advice and for giving the customer what they want in the way they want it and when they want it. I wanted to be a part of a company that recognises the importance of that."
Finding the Business
"Martin joins us as a partner who will take his division of the business and develop it," Keeler says. "He knows more about marine loading systems than virtually anyone else in the business. His understanding of the market, its customers and their needs is second to none and his philosophy of customer service matches ours. But what is really key is that, as with our land-based systems, Martin doesn't just sell to customers. He is a subject matter expert who is there to guide and support a customer through a complicated process to find the best economic and practical solution to their problems."
That is reflected in Dicke-Künitz's job title. "One of the reasons I chose 'Marine Loading Arms, Ports and Technology' as a job description in lieu of a proper title, is that Ifeel it is crucial to give the customer the feeling that they are speaking to a key person in this business sector," he says. "My worldwide experience in technically and commercially challenging projects plus Loadtec's reputation in the industry as a fast, committed, flexible and reactive company, is what I believe makes us stand out from the rest of the marine arm suppliers."
What makes Loadtec think it can make headway in the marine loading arms business, a sector that is well supplied by experienced vendors? Dicke-Künitz says: "Our marine arms are the essence of loading technology, reflecting numerous discussions with contractors' engineers, operators and terminal owners, whereas most other systems on the market are a generic evolution of previous arms that carry the burden of old and dated
design details. We also have unique features that enhance the ownership experience and lifetime of the equipment, providing considerable savings over the lifetime of the arm."
Alec Keeler adds: "Of course we need to technically meet customer needs, which we are confident we can do. However, whether you are n individual or part of a huge corporation, the wants and needs are basically similar. You want to trust; you want to be heard ; you don't want to be let down; you want to feel valued; you don't want to feel that someone is getting the better of you. It's simple stuff.
"Loadtec works hard to give customers the assurance that their basic and (hopefully) complex needs will be met and exceeded. Loadtec and its manufacturing partners are private companies and decisions are made quickly to enhance customer satisfaction. There are no faceless shareholders, influencing policy to benefit quarterly dividends; this allows us to make decisions that positively impact projects and clients. We strongly believe that this is an advantage to us, our portfolio and, essentially, our clients."
Stand Out from the Crowd
What makes the Loadtec offering different to other arms on the market? "We have our marine arms made in northern Italy. It's an absolute powerhouse of engineering excellence in Europe," says Keeler. "The local resource for everything from major fabrication to electronics can be sourced from companies eager to demonstrate their capability in exacting environments. People of a certain generation (mine) can have a biased and outdated view that Italian electronics/electrics and engineering longevity are not as good as say, German quality. Well, I can confirm that this is a very outdated view. We have been in close association with Italian companies for quite a few years and I am always impressed at their quality and attention to detail. So quality is as good as the best in the market and the design is also markedly different."
"We are able to supply whatever clients want," adds Dicke-Künitz. "The market seems to have been influenced greatly in the past few years by hyper-sized projects where in excess of 50 marine arms can be ordered. These are irregular projects and profit can be won or lost within one line of a complex contractual document. Then there are the sensible sized packages of up to 10 or 12 arms. These are also complex in their contractual obligations, but manufacturing is manageable and timeframes are more reasonable. I see us in the latter category for now."
"The Zip-Load brand is gathering momentum quickly and we are pleased to say we have provided systems to all continents (except Antarctica!) in the short time the brand has been registered." says Keeler.
As to the future, much of it will be down to the oil price, Keeler believes. 'There are loading arm suppliers who have ramped up their manufacturing facilities and manpower to handle the major global projects. As these are cut back, and surely they will be, I think we will sadly see the demise of one or possibly two of the major marine arm suppliers. They are too big and committed to make strategic changes quickly enough or their corporate masters will attempt to sell them off, so that will create a void in the market."
"Customers will always want choice and so the smaller, specialist brands such as Zip-Load will grow in prominence," Dicke-Künitz predicts. "The 'one stop shop' will become in creasingly attractive to customers in developing countries without major engineering resource." HCB