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Internationalisation through exporting skills and resources into foreign regions is often the best investment a business can make to ensure its products and services successfully reach global limits, says Hydro Group managing director Doug Whyte. Having an on-the-ground presence in an overseas region can help a company gain a competitive edge and significantly help with developing client relationships.
Earlier this year, as part of our strategic growth plan, Hydro Group opened a SE Asia office to offer its range of subsea optical cables, electrical cables and connectors to the wider energy and subsea engineering markets, and broaden the company’s global reach.
However, it is essential that when a company moves into foreign regions, it ensures business consistency and compliance over international borders, with the people employed to head up a new division proficient in company messaging and best practices from existing offices.
Hydro Group has already seen success in sharing skills across international borders by training a key member of the new Singapore office. Gabriel Tan was appointed, a highly competent and skilled local technical support supervisor, having spent 16 years in the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) as a highly qualified electronic technician and trainer.
To maintain and guarantee the level of knowledge and capabilities for which Hydro Group is known globally, Gabriel went from Singapore to the Group headquarters, in Aberdeen for intensive training over four months. Throughout this time he became proficient in Hydro Group’s manufacturing processes and technology, as well as the company’s machining methods, moulding procedures, electrical test and inspection procedures.
The process has enabled Gabriel to return to Singapore to establish operations with the confidence and experience that is essential in order to make the enterprise a success.
The transfer of skills is vitally important to the success of the Singapore office and Hydro Group as a whole, ensuring that the company delivers a consistent service and quality product globally.
Gabriel’s role will have great influence on the recruitment and training of local employees. His blend of technical and supervisory skills will enhance the service and support offered from the Hydro Group Singapore facility.
As the international export of skills, goods and services increases, global expansion is key to ensure a company grows and evolves with the times. As well as providing employment for locals, the training of regionally based teams helps to develop well equipped staff with Hydro Group’s skills and knowledge, to ensure company standards are retained, but they are also in tune with the language and culture of the region. An SME needs to ensure that its standards are maintained and that those employed understand the ethics and ethos of the company to guarantee successful results when moving into international regions.
The team at Hydro Group are being asked more and more for increasingly complex composite and physically demanding cable designs, the days have gone when we were simply asked to provide an underwater electrical connection. Today most subsea cables designed and manufactured at Hydro Group’s Aberdeen, Scotland facility incorporate numerous specialist elements such as fibre optics, twisted pairs, triples or quads, Coaxial, VHF and high frequency RF, components. As subsea equipment is becoming more complex with data management and collection systems transferring significantly higher volumes of information at faster rates the Transmission Characteristics, Low Loss and Shielding requirements need to be addressed in the design and composition of the cables. To ensure the performance of the designs, increasing use of complex software modelling and analysis tools are employed. Hydro Group engineers routinely utilise packages such as Comsol multiphysics software to model designs and provide virtual realisation of the cable characteristics under a variety of simulated conditions. Transmission characteristics and performance are also simulated with the use of Optem software tools.
Hydro Group regularly incorporates stainless steel tubes, rather than PBT tubes, for all of our Subsea Cable designs incorporating fibre optics. The benefits of utilising optical fibres contained within stainless steel tubes are primarily two fold –
• The elimination of increased attenuation (signal loss) seen in the fibre due to the compressive forces on the glass as the crushing action of the water pressure on the cable sheath is transferred through to the fibre itself.
• The addition of a hydrogen scavenging/absorbing gel is used within the St/St Tube to prevent the potential darkening of the optical fibers due to the natural ingression of small amounts of hydrogen which are present in these extreme conditions.
Both of these advantages over PBT Tubed fibre optics are deemed crucial in the demanding conditions seen by subsea optical cables.
Mechanical factors are extremely significant in the overall performance of subsea cable designs. Often these present a much higher risk in the reliability and durability of the design than all other constraints. The application of FEA design and modelling tools such as Comsol and Orcaflex allow simulation and analysis of the design to ensure construction and incorporation of components that will meet the dynamic application requirements. Understanding the static and dynamic forces that will be applied allow the incorporation of features and components such as Vectran braids and cords for tensile strength in light weight and more flexible applications and Contra Helical steel wire armouring packages where significantly higher mechanical forces will be experienced
Hydro Group services a global client base, with ocean environments varying significantly in different regions and therefore different risks to consider such as salinity, water temperatures and seabed conditions. As industry explores deeper sea depths, this affects the design and material selection of cables, with challenges such as UV stability, marine growth, microbial attack and even the burrowing Teredo Navalis Shipworm to be addressed.
With a full appreciation of all electrical, optical, mechanical and environmental requirements imposed on the application of the cable a robust and reliable cabling solution can be realised.
The combination of the above design factors and the fact that equipment demands are increasing rapidly are driving more customised solutions. In addition to the design approach employed, Hydro Group has invested heavily in new machinery, significantly increasing and improving in-house cable manufacturing capabilities, to compliment this rapidly evolving market.
With regards to future innovations, as part of Hydro Group’s research and development program, the R&D team is working on a number of cable design projects for specialised applications in energy, defence and renewables. Amongst these we are currently trialling various low smoke flame retardant materials to address single cable designs capable of operating between separate boundaries from topside to Subsea.
Hydro Group plc, an energy-service firm made up of Hydro Bond Engineering and Hydro Cable Systems. It is a major global supplier of harsh environment engineered products to the offshore oil and gas, defence, oceanographic, renewable energies, diving and ROV/AUV markets.
Earlier this year Hydro Group opened a new Singapore office to support the company’s increasing presence in South East Asia, and offer its range of subsea optical cables, electrical cables and connectors to the wider energy and defence markets in the region.
Doug Whyte, Hydro Group managing director, said: “Hydro Group has invested close to £300,000 in developing the South East Asia operation, with plans to invest further and increase staff numbers considerably. These significant developments mean we are on track for the Singapore office to become self-sufficient by the end of 2014.
“We are already moving onto the next phase of development ahead of schedule, appointing two new members of staff to the Singapore office, with the key appointment of Gabriel Tan as technical support supervisor.”
Gabriel spent 16 years in the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and as a result is a highly qualified electronic technician and trainer.
Currently based in Hydro Group’s headquarters in Aberdeen, Scotland, Gabriel has been brought to the UK for intensive and extensive training over four months. During this time he has been trained in Hydro Group’s manufacturing processes and technology, as well as the company’s machining methods, moulding procedures, electrical test and inspection procedures.
In addition, Gabriel has undertaken formal training and is now certified to J-STD-001 CIT soldering standard, and has his City & Guilds Certificate in Communications Cabling: Unit 2 Fibre Optic Cabling in an Internal Environment and Unit 3 Fibre Optic Cabling in an External Environment.
Following his time in the UK, Gabriel will be returning to the Singapore office where he will take up his new role of managing the technical support team and passing on his knowledge of Hydro Group’s technologies and products.
Mr Whyte continued: “The transfer of skills is vitally important to the success of the Singapore office and Hydro Group as a whole, ensuring that we deliver a consistent service and product quality globally.
“Gabriel’s role will have great influence on the recruitment and training of local employees. Gabriel is an experienced trainer and has worked regularly on offshore projects. His blend of technical and supervisory skills will enhance the service and support offering from our Singapore facility. An additional benefit Gabriel brings is that, a high percentage of our business is military related, meaning Gabriel will be able to make an educated contribution and understand better the needs of this market.”
Singapore currently represents Hydro Group’s second largest export market, with the Group identifying more than £1million of potential sales in the region per year.
Hydro Group currently employs 85 and saw turnover rise from over £5million in 2011 to over £6million 2012.
Hydro Group, an energy-service firm made up of Hydro Bond Engineering and HydroCable Systems Ltd, is a major national and international supplier of harsh environment engineered products to the offshore oil and gas, defence, oceanographic, renewable energies, diving and ROV/AUV markets.
On Wednesday 12 June, Hydro Group hosted an event to mark the first anniversary of Scotland’s Oil & Gas Strategy document, at which Energy Minister Fergus Ewing highlighted progress made in terms of delivery. The updated document - delivered by industry, Scottish Government, public sector partners and the Oil & Gas Industry Leadership Group (ILG) – features milestones in the industry over the past year and the opportunities ahead and was set up to help drive collaboration across the sector and support its future development.
Over 70 attended the event at Hydro Group’s Bridge of Don premises at which guests enjoyed a tour of the facilities, presentations from both Doug Whyte MD of Hydro group and David Rennie of Scottish Enterprise as well as the opportunity to network with peers and industry professionals.