2020 has certainly presented challenges for businesses as well as individuals and we have all had to adjust, get creative and embrace a new way of working. Marketing Manager Carey Aiken caught up with Managing Director Andy Marwood to reflect on how Online Electronics have adapted whilst continuing to release new, innovative products into the market. They also look ahead to the company's plans for 2021.
Tell us a little about your background and role at Online Electronics.
Originally from the UK hotspot of pigging, Yorkshire/NE England, I came to Online in 2015 from a pigging & pipelines background. This was mainly in sales and business development, spending a lot of time overseas customer facing and in particular becoming familiar with pigging, pressure vessels, EPC contracting & pipeline operations. I was privileged to give a paper on wax remediation pigging on behalf of BP PLC at OTC in 2015.
I'm presently thoroughly enjoying my role as MD at Online Electronics, seeking to make the most of our technological capabilities in our current niche and of course outside of that. These are challenging times but I firmly believe as a business with our level of work ethic and innovation we have a great future.
In my free time I'm a keen mountain biker with a couple of misshapen body parts as evidence!
With the outbreak of COVID-19, it is fair to say that 2020 has been a very difficult year. Can you outline some of the biggest challenges Online has faced this year and how you have tackled them?
Supply chain was the first challenge. As the majority of the equipment we manufacture is ATEX / CSA certified this required a lot of additional time and resources to fix – we had to find and qualify other vendors which sometimes impacted product certification requirements. This is now resolved but was a challenge.
Shortly after that we were physically impacted by the lockdown / advice and of course our own moral compass in terms of what to do for the best of the employees and then the business. We were fortunate that we had a sound IT infrastructure that meant we could ask employees to work from home. We split the production teams into two bubbles and they never worked together through the first lockdown – this meant if one bubble was impacted by COVID in some way, we made safe the other bubble and of course could carry on working. We were creative with policies to ensure reporting of COVID-19 in the business was honest & speedy.
It has been a particularly busy year for Online's R&D department - can you tell us about some of the product launches we have seen this year?
Yes it has been busy. We have been working very hard to ensure our existing contracts could be met despite having to change some critical component suppliers – this required unplanned R & D input. Despite that we have managed to release the EM Tx50 to the market which we firmly believe to be the most powerful EM Transmitter globally. There are many more technologies pre-prepared within the EM Tx50 which we are yet to release.
In addition, we released the EM Rx Subsea & EM Rx Topside receivers. We are very proud of the stride forward we have taken with this – we will host a webinar early in the New Year to talk in a rounded manner about the improvements made and the capabilities in these instruments. Obviously we have brought the range up to date in terms of Bluetooth programming, programming via App on tablet/phone and likewise for the receiver interfaces. Within this there has been a substantial amount of development and learning that we are confident will make a material change to our customers operations & experience.
What is next for Online Electronics? How is 2021 shaping up for the company and what can we expect to see in the coming months?
There are two sides to this. On the one hand, now that the EM tracking equipment fleet has been modernised we are seeking to take the developments we have to a back to basics level – whereby the emphasis is on the confidence and time to detection – very much feels like the ‘sizzle’ has to an extent overtaken what really matters lately.
One the other hand – stepping out – we have lots of capabilities which can be applied to other solutions and we have an active program to develop new ideas and engage customers & partners in that process. It is an exciting time for us as an organisation as we seek out new homes for our skills.