IN PLAY: Small Team Models Big Results

By The Bakken Magazine Staff | October 04, 2013

The idea that bigger is better in the oilfield doesn’t apply to a small engineering and manufacturing crew operating out of Kenmare, N.D. Although MW Industries runs a team of 50 or fewer people, the workover and service rig builder is able to produce massive rigs that are highly customizable. To date, the company has sent rigs throughout North America from Texas to Canada. After Tom Mau, operations manager and company co-founder, recruited Wyatt Goettle, an engineer and Kenmare native, who grew up 17 miles south of the town, to help design new rigs and tweak current rigs from in-house, in 2009, MW Industries truly learned the power of running a small, focused team.
“We are small enough so that we can make the quick changes,” Goettle says. “If we were too big, those changes become harder to do.”

The changes Goettle is referring to are the client requests for rig alterations, or the industry’s constantly evolving regulations that require a change to meet new on-road weight restrictions. Because Goettle, Mau and the rest of the crew can meet quickly in an office to discuss a rig alteration, Kelvin Faul, mechanical supervisor is often able to integrate those changes on the fly. “We can get our team leaders together and figure out how to incorporate a change from a customer and figure out how it will affect everyone. If it is feasible, we can do it,” Mau says.

Prior to Goettle's arrival, and the practice of in-house engineering, the company outsourced much of its design needs. In some cases, Faul says, a client or mechanics team would request a change to a rig and before Faul could get the new design specs back from the out-of-house engineering firm, another round of changes would have already been requested for it. 

Engineering isn’t the only aspect of the company that Mau has moved in-house. When the company first started building rigs in 2005, the team used freestanding jib cranes and large front-end loaders to lift certain equipment into place for build-out. Now, the team has installed overhead cranes built into the ceiling of its facility along with other shop improvements. Faul, who started with the company seven years ago, is now in charge of overseeing much of the manufacturing process and many of the bolts on each rig are usually tightened by Faul or his team.

The small-team atmosphere and operations model hasn’t stopped MW Industries from providing a quality product that many users prefer, Mau says. And, because the process of building a workover or service rig at MW Industries is such a collaborative, team-based procedure, Mau, Goettle and Faul all believe their rigs will only get better with each new model. “That whole team aspect in building each piece of equipment and then saying, ‘hey, we did that,’ is what I like,” Mau says, “and, knowing that tomorrow we are going to build and design another one and it is going to be better.”

Building a better rig in today’s industry means staying ahead of new safety requirements and keeping up with weight specifications. Because MW Industries is the only service and workover rig manufacturer in the northern half of the U.S., Goettle says that when new weight restrictions come out, “it is like they are pointing the finger at us.” Each state and country requires different safety features as well, but for the most part Mau says, the base model of each rig starts out the same before a client requests its customized portions. For Goettle the best part of his job is seeing the designs made in the office come to life on the manufacturing floor. “The guys are on the floor using my designs and it works, that is great,” he says. “With the outsourced product and design model, that hasn’t always been the way it works.”

For Faul, his best moment is when a rig comes out of the paint booth. After two to three days of building the rig, the team moves it to a pad modeled after real-field work conditions. The team will stand the rig up and test it. “I test the rig to make sure everything is working,” Faul says. “That is my moment, when I’m standing on the pad and I’m at the point where I can say this thing is ready to go to the customer.”