The Hi/Lo's of listening to customers
Written by Tim Clarke FInstPhys
Over ten years ago, a customer requested a product that they needed. We listened and then we made it, refined it and have now sold more than 100 units in a three and a half year period. More importantly, this relatively simple tool is now seen as the
de-facto standard around the world, which further enhances our status as market leader in this area.
So why did we do this and how long did it take, would we do it again?
OMS works in very small field in the oil and gas sector where there are barely 10 major oil companies and fewer than 10 major sub-contractors. We are traditionally positioned as a sub-contractor to the sub-contractor or even a sub-contractor to their sub-contractor. Because of this narrow field, the company took a strategic decision to ensure that we fully inhabited the opportunities within our sector before moving on to others. This product came out of that commitment.
We listened to one enthusiastic engineer and he said I want a gadget to measure the high and low mismatch between our pipes. He said what he thought the tool should look like and we added in what we thought it needed in order to work. There were two variants. We made some prototypes up and took them out for him to look at and try out. We then took these around to our various clients and also got them to have a look and comment. It turned out that what we designed was OK but needed some improvement by the inclusion of a magnetic base. The redesign incorporated that feature and we made some more.
The competitor tools were not digital, could not easily be calibrated and were not all that easy to use. The following example is a Vernier system which are notoriously difficult to use on for repetitive tasks.
This tool will never win any prizes for aesthetic design. It will not ever be cheap due to the small numbers and will never make OMS much money for the same reason. However, in terms of what it has allows our customers to do by measuring the HiLo of their pipes prior to welding it is truly a world beating product.
You may have noted by now that the title is a play on the measurement of Highs and Lows of pipe mismatch. From my point of view there have only been mostly highs from listening to the customer in this case. In other cases, we have listened, and the customer has spoken but it has taken much longer to establish the financial benefits to the client ourselves of the particular product.