Eric Duvekot, director of North American operations at Integrated Global Services (IGS), recently joined our podcast series to discuss challenges and opportunities for IGS in 2020. Topics include how IGS has overcome the difficulties of COVID-19; examples of projects, clients, and thermal spray solutions; how industry clients are balancing cost pressures with staying on top of maintenance needs; and expectations for 2021. See below for a full transcript.
Source: Integrated Global Services, www.integratedglobal.com.
[This podcast was recorded in October 2020.]
Ben DuBose: Eric, good afternoon. How are you?
Eric Duvekot: I’m wonderful. Thank you so much, Ben.
BD: We’re glad to have you on. To start with, tell us a little bit about your role at IGS. For anyone that’s unfamiliar with you or the company, give us some background about the types of services that you all provide, particularly as it pertains to corrosion.
ED: Absolutely. As you mentioned, I’m the director of North American operations here at IGS. My responsibility is for all of our field service operations and project execution in North America region. IGS is a global leader in field service surface protection solutions. We specialize in and have decades of experience in high-velocity thermal spray metal coatings for the inside of mission-critical equipment in the power industry, in the oil and gas industry, pulp and paper, petrochemical, and mining.
Our surface protection solutions, while thermal spray is at the core of those, we do offer a number of other surface protection solutions, including some ceramic offerings out of our Cetek division. We specialize in going on site to client facilities and applying the solution that meets their metal wastage needs — whether that be corrosion, which is very common, or erosion issues, based on whatever the client equipment needs are.
BD: How different has 2020 been for you guys than a lot of other recent years? If you could, give us some background info as far as the types of impacts that you guys have seen from COVID, both from the perspective of how you all are executing your projects — as you mentioned, I know you do a lot of on-site work — but also what the economics have been for many of your clients.
ED: Sure. 2020, obviously, it’s been a year for the record books in a lot of ways. It has challenged our field service organization significantly. Whether that be from client expectations that have shifted or changed, client schedules. As I’m sure you’re aware, a lot of in-field protection solutions have to be implemented during downtime. Outages and turnaround schedules have been significantly impacted by the COVID pandemic throughout our global reach. That has meant things from travel restrictions to site access restrictions to just the daily routine of our team when they’re on site performing their work.
With that said, we have been performing work actively throughout the year. There has really not been a time when IGS hasn’t been performing work. We just had to adapt rapidly and in a really, I’d say, industry-leading way to get out in front of the COVID issues. To date, IGS has been able to execute projects throughout the globe with no COVID cases on any of our team, which has been exceptional. We’ve been able to deliver for our clients throughout this time.
BD: That’s really impressive. If you could, give us some specifics, maybe an example or two of the types of projects that you guys have pulled off this year. I know, in many cases, you might not be able to identify the client by name, but if you could, give us an example or two, to our audience, as far as the types of projects that IGS typically undertakes, as well as, of course, some of your solutions.
ED: We performed a project earlier in the year, a very large project for an oil and gas client on the West Coast of the United States. That was a multi-vessel oil and gas turnaround project where we actually implemented solutions in over a dozen vessels on that client’s facility. We did that with a crew of about 60 folks that mobilized from all around the country to perform that work. A good example of one of the challenges around that was, at the time, finding the necessary flights and hotel accommodations for our team and ensuring that those accommodations were up to the standards that we required for COVID safety of our team and the team at the facility where we were working.
BD: What are some of the solutions? Are we talking typically cladding or — I know you don’t want to go into specific details on all of these. But what are some of the technologies that you’re typically doing if you go out to a jobsite like that?
ED: That particular facility, we were applying high-velocity thermal spray. Our high-velocity thermal spray, in this case, was a high-alloy protective coating. We were applying that inside process vessels that had been experiencing corrosion issues. Oftentimes, it’s going to be in high metal wastage areas. We may not coat the entire interior of a vessel, but we’re going to be applying areas to extend turnaround times. Obviously, for a client to be able to push a vessel maintenance schedule by years can really make a big difference in cost and downtime.
We like to get in and apply those solutions so that we can work with the client, especially when compared to more traditional metal wastage and coating solutions that are going to be things like your epoxy-based coatings. We can go in and apply one of our high-velocity thermal spray coating systems, and that coating is going to far outlast a solution that is more traditional epoxy based — without some of the downtime issues that maybe are associated with weld overlay or some of those more intrusive metal wastage solutions.
BD: Looking ahead, what feedback have you heard from some of these industry clients? I think our audience would particularly be curious about how a lot of these operators that you work with are trying to balance the obvious cost pressures, given the economics of 2020, the current environment, with staying on top of maintenance needs so that these assets are in appropriate shape for the eventual turnaround. What’s the balance like with the clients that you speak with?
ED: I would say that there is — 2020 has generated an even more focused look at maintenance costs, specifically around vessel lifetimes. Perhaps where a facility was looking to consider replacement of equipment, they no longer have the budget for that replacement, so they’re looking at maintenance options to extend the life of the equipment. Life extension is really something that we can support.
I can think of a project that we performed with a piece of new build equipment, and we were able to go in and apply cladding to this new build equipment in an effort to extend lifetime on that particular vessel. That’s something that clients, as they are focused on more of a cost-conscious approach to their maintenance cycles — if we can go from a three-year turnaround cycle to a six-year or something of that neighborhood on a given vessel, then that ROI is definitely there.
BD: Anecdotally, I’ve heard some stories of operators that are idling some units during 2020, with a plan to pick things back up when the market improves. What sort of maintenance needs or programs should a client like that be thinking about during any downtime for economic reasons?
ED: Just the understanding that the surface protection solutions that IGS offers, from our perspective, if we can put together a plan for when a vessel will be, for instance, coming back online after an extended period of time. One of the things that IGS specializes in is rapid mobilization, so we can solve problems quickly. If a piece of equipment or a particular facility or unit has been shut down for some time, and right before the restart of that equipment there is extensive evaluation of material wall thicknesses and just the viability of those vessels to re-enter service — IGS can partner there to offer solutions quickly and to mobilize quickly to solve issues as vessels and equipment are looking at coming back online.
BD: What’s the outlook for you all for 2021? I would guess that, as a services provider, it might be a very good year for you, because if assets come back onstream after a pretty challenging economic year in 2020, then conceivably there could be a lot more issues related to corrosion, erosion, whatever it may be, that might need to be addressed. What are you guys thinking from a business perspective in 2021? Is that a reasonable assessment?
ED: That is absolutely a reasonable assessment. We plan on a very large 2021. We definitely have lots of opportunity there. 2020 results in some deferred turnaround work or outage work, some deferred project work. There is obviously that backlog. But then there is also a large degree of adoption of IGS surface protection solutions. We’re anticipating a very strong 2021, and we have a plan to get there. Our team is ever growing. We have the strongest field service thermal spray team in the world, without a doubt.
We are really looking to continue to grow into that world-class provider of surface protection solutions in a wide array of industries for a wide array of clients’ needs. We have bolstered our field service team, and IGS has been on that growth trajectory, so we’re ready for that 2021. It is going to be filled with a lot of new opportunities for work, just as you mentioned.
BD: When you talk about expanding your team, has there been any challenge with regard to your clients? You’re not able — I would assume, or at least at various points in 2020 — to do the in-person meetings. I’m sure some of those have shifted to phone, to Zoom, all these other methods of communication. In many ways, it sounds like IGS — we’re talking about a year, in 2020, where you're seeing a lot of contractions. Certainly, the traditional model has been challenged, yet you talk about you guys expanding.
Obviously, in-person is at the heart of what you guys do because you do these site visits for a lot of your applications. What’s the balance been like with regard to some of your clients? Have there been any challenges in terms of getting out there? I know you mentioned hotels being an issue at one point earlier in the podcast. If you could, talk about the balance of — you are expanding, and that’s sort of your niche, but at the same time, it’s a year that’s been very challenging on that front. How have you all been able to overcome that?
ED: A good example of one of the challenges that we face — I’ve got a team on a project right now in Florida, and that client is not hosting any in-person interactions. Any meetings that take place are virtual, and any interactions where we would have previously sat in an office or a conference room to discuss solutions is now happening in that digital space. What we’ve done is we’ve expanded the training and expanded the availability of our technological solutions, so our team have better tools in their toolbelt to interface with the client.
And we’ve done a lot to turn this digital space into a space where we can have a lot of back and forth, a lot of discussion. One of the ways that we’ve done that as a business is we’ve hosted a lot of webinars. We’ve done a lot of really good video content, and we’ve moved to a lot of digital platform discussions with our client. Obviously, at the end of the day, the work we do is physical, in-person, and on site. We manage that in accordance with whatever our clients’ regulations are and industry best practices when it comes to COVID risk mitigation. We’ve been able to do that very successfully.
BD: As we wrap up the podcast, for anyone who wants more information from you, Eric, or from IGS, what’s the best way that they can get that and either reach out to you guys or just get further background information?
ED: Our website, www.integratedglobal.com, is an excellent resource. I would highly encourage that to be your first port of call for finding more out about IGS. It is also an opportunity to — through our chat feature, you can speak with an expert from IGS in real time. We also have a lot of good — as I mentioned — video content that’s available through the website, for those who want to find out more about all the services that IGS offers to our clients.
BD: Sounds great.