2017 - A Year to Remember

November 27, 2017

Sometimes true greatness causes us to pause and take notice. (Who didn’t stop and watch when Michael Jordon had the basketball in his hands?) More often though, it can be difficult to recognize when we are in the midst of greatness. At Gardner Denver Petroleum & Industrial Pumps (P&IP), we tend to keep our heads down and our sleeves rolled up – we’re too busy taking care of business to notice the impact we’re making – but before 2017 comes to an end, we need to take a minute and look up, because P&IP is in the middle of a truly great year.

Out of the Block
Right out of the block, something felt different about 2017.  The industry had begun to shake off the dust of this latest downturn and operators started to reestablish their drilling operations. In fact, in the first half of 2017, the U.S. drilling market experienced a phenomenal comeback as the year-over-year rig count doubled in size with over 500 rigs going back to work! While drilling contractors and pressure pumping companies were finally ready to reengage, after having drastically scaled back purchases and upgrades for several years, their equipment demanded attention.

P&IP saw a notable uptick in orders almost immediately in the first quarter, and by the end of 2017, it is anticipated P&IP will see a three-fold increase in sales over 2016. However, if the company were producing a 2017 highlight reel, topping the list would be having P&IP perfectly positioned to provide operators with aftermarket products and services just as the industry emerged from this recession.

Experience 360
“Several years ago we devised a strategy to transition P&IP from being a pure pump company to being a pump company with purpose – that purpose was to provide our customers with superior aftermarket service,” says Kerr, Vice President of Petroleum & Industrial Pumps.

Experience 360, P&IP’s around-the-clock full circle of service and support, means P&IP doesn’t just care for the customer on the day of a sale, but every day, 24/7.  That’s important, because with so many pumps being put back to work and crude oil prices still hovering at $50 per barrel, equipment reliability and efficiency is more critical than ever.  That is exactly what P&IP’s Experience 360 program delivers. P&IP’s aftermarket parts and service programs, like Parts on Demand, Core Exchange and Pump University, help ensure our customers’ pumps continue to operate at peak performance. In turn, our commitment to service helps to mitigate the risks customers incur from costly downtime.

“Experience 360 provides us the presence, products and programs so P&IP can be immediately responsive to our customers,” says Jeremy Holberg, Director of Aftermarket. “After a two year lull in the market, this strategy was finally able to prove its true value in 2017 – P&IP was prepared to react and we’re seeing the reward in our numbers.”  

Holberg is not willing to guesstimate year-end tallies just yet, but with sales of replacement fluid ends, modules and consumables remaining robust throughout the entire year and P&IP managing to capture significant market share from many of its competitors, it is safe to say 2017 Aftermarket sales will exceed the previous high.

Lessons Learned
With multiple divisions setting performance records, 2017 is indeed proving to be a truly great year. For Kerr, the success of 2017 becomes especially poignant when he contrasts it with where the company was just three years ago. In November of 2014, OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) failed to agree to cut oil production, accelerating what had already been a steady decline in oil prices that year and prompting a severe slowdown in drilling operations.

Kerr acknowledges that the adversity P&IP faced during the downturn tested the company’s resilience and resolve, but he believes the lessons learned over the past few years have better enabled P&IP to respond proactively to the reviving energy market in 2017. “Instead of retreating from the market, we ran to it,” says Kerr. “We invested, we innovated and we improved!”


Game Changer

Gardner Denver experienced another spotlight moment in 2017 when on the morning of May 12, company executives stood on the platform of the New York Stock Exchange and rang the opening bell. What made a more resounding ring to the ears of the 6,000 Gardner Denver employees, though, was the news that shares of the newly minted stock, worth a total of $100 million, were being granted to employees as part of the company's initial public offering.  

“Making employees owners in the company was an absolute game changer,” says Kerr. “At P&IP, we have always had a tremendous work ethic and worked hard because it was the right thing to do. Now that our employees have a stake in game, their sense of purpose is heightened to a new level. We all have a vested interest in making sure the company is successful.”

Kerr admits he has seen a difference in the attitudes of employees since the announcement, but says he likes the swagger displayed by the company’s new proprietors. “When I walk the plant floor and say, ‘I’m looking for the owner!’ someone is sure to respond with, ‘You’re looking at him!’”

Hurricane Harvey
While this has been a remarkable year for Gardner Denver, given that P&IP is headquartered in Houston, it would be difficult to talk about 2017 without acknowledging the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. Despite an estimated 136,000 homes flooded in the Houston area, thankfully only a few P&IP employees had their homes flooded by Harvey’s record-setting rainfall.

In the days following the storm, like so many Houstonians, P&IP employees felt heartbroken for friends and neighbors and compelled to help. However, area roads remained impassable, so community officials called on Houstonians to focus their efforts in their neighborhoods and do what they could to help the people closest to them.

“We told our employees, ‘Don’t try to come to work – go to work,’” recalls Kerr. “That’s what Houston needed and Gardner Denver employees responded.”

In the same way an unprecedented storm can take a toll on a city, a significant market downturn can take a toll on a company. It gave us its worst and it did its damage, but just as Houston will come through Harvey stronger than before, P&IP is emerging as a smarter, more resilient company for having withstood the recession. And if 2017 is any indication – and we have every reason to believe it is – the future looks bright. In fact, we should stop and look up for a minute, because we’re witnessing something truly great.

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