For Mike Crawford, an event on Monday was the realisation of a years-long dream.
There was Scottish minister Fergus Ewing, who showed up to open engineering service giant ABB’s new advanced learning centre. The facility is part of a £3.5million investment in the company’s new North East base at the Altens industrial estate.
Mr Crawford, ABB’s regional service manager for northern Europe and the head of the Aberdeen base, was pleased.
“It was an excellent day, it really was,” he said.
“This learning centre is a realisation of a vision.”
With local dignitaries on hand, it was a chance to show off the company’s new advanced services for the offshore market, which allows customers to service installations from its safe and warm but hi-tech office.
Plans have been in place to establish the “collaboration desk” for the last 12 months and the new technology has been installed only in recent weeks.
The system taps into monitoring capability already in place on the offshore facilities.
“What we do is replicate this onshore,” said Mr Crawford. “We have a full picture of a process status in an onshore environment.”
The Zurich-based firm’s investment in the Altens office has been driven by sheer demand in the region, which has been growing steadily on the back of both new North Sea investment as well as decommissioning.
Much of the infrastructure parked offshore is as old as the industry itself, prompting outages and a fall-off in production for some explorers that is providing a growth opportunity for ABB’s technology. Mr Crawford, too, has been working in the region since the discovery of the oil – albeit the 57-year-old is probably in better shape than much of the ageing North Sea infrastructure.
“You’ve got old equipment – some of it is now 40 years old,” he said. “And even getting parts to replace the defective item is difficult.
“If you have better insight into the behaviour of your equipment, you could do more preventative maintenance to avoid breakdowns.
“What we are targeting is managing obsolescence – in a very controlled and planned manner.”
He says his firm works with “most majors out there – Nexen, BP, Total, just to name a few”.
He said that he would also be keeping a sharp eye on Enquest, which last week announced plans to forge ahead with more than £4billion of investment into its Kraken oil field development.
“We will be monitoring them carefully,” Mr Crawford said with a chuckle.
One of the benefits of the new learning centre is that it can also be used to train its next generation of engineers. Helping young people into the industry has long been a passion for Mr Crawford, not least because his son has since established himself as a project manager.
In the last five years, the number of employees at ABB in Aberdeen has doubled to 140, and the company takes on eight graduate trainees each year.
From his new office at Altens, Mr Crawford is feeling optimistic about the north-east. “We’ve got a vibrant economy,” he said.
“Maybe I am biased because I’m local. I think it is a wonderful environment to live and work in. And it presents a great opportunity for the next generation. We should talk it up.”
MIKE CRAWFORD: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Who helped you get where you are today?
My apprenticeship at a local paper mill. I had a great journeyman and supervisor, who both interested and motivated me from day one. ABB has been a great learning environment, structured succession plans with opportunities and space for personal growth. Support of a dedicated and loyal team that are equally motivated and prepared to challenge the status quo. It is understood that nobody has the monopoly of ideas, therefore listening to employees, customers and others enables solutions to be formed.
What do you still hope to achieve in business?
Develop new growth and customer value from advanced services. With our extensive R&D in service, we now have many advanced services, including remote services and collaborative networks that can enhance the value we can deliver to our customers. These advanced services will help our customers overcome many of the challenges associated with ageing assets, resource and reliability issues.
If you were in power in government, what would you change?
Most probably the education minister. Helping our schools better prepare for employment. I would like to see more employers engage with schools in practical projects. That will better prepare our youngsters for the challenges they will experience in employment.
What are you reading, listening or glued to on TV?
Countryfile and any-thing connected with nature
If you were a character in a TV series or movie, who would you be?
I’m a great fan of Robin Williams, particularly in serious roles.
What do you drive and dream of driving?
I drive a Jaguar but I still love the character of the old Morris Minor, which was my first car.
What would your children or partner say about you?
Determined, stubborn at times but considerate.
Which charity do you support and why?
Cancer research. Cancer affects so many and I have personal experience within my family.