Schlumberger’s robust planningJuly 2, 2020
Ziad Jeha, Schlumberger’s president for Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, talks to The Energy Year about how the company has dealt with the challenges of Covid-19 and the latest on its work with Saudi Aramco on digitalisation and local manufacturing. Schlumberger provides technology for oil and gas reservoir characterisation, drilling, production and processing.
This interview is featured The Oil & Gas Year Saudi Arabia 2020
How has Schlumberger dealt with the challenges of the pandemic?
We have a big organisation in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, but even with the challenges of managing a big team, we acted proactively at the beginning of the pandemic. We applied protective standards to protect our employees and workforce from the early days of the crisis, including advising all employees that can work from home to do so, and have provided the necessary tools to telework safely and productively. Teams supporting business-critical functions have remained in place, but we have implemented a number of measures – practicing social distancing and enhanced hygienic measures – to ensure we limit potential exposure. We were one of the first organisations to make the use of face masks mandatory before it was required broadly by the authorities and devised smart apps used to track Covid-19 statistics. We also anticipated effectively the scarcity of PPE and secured enough supplies for the safety of our employees and contractors. This approach is also applied to our business normalisation planning, all of which is in line with health authority protocols and driven specifically on data rather than fixed dates and milestones.
We have managed to sustain our operations following a robust business continuity plan. With the dedicated work from the strong and experienced crisis management team that I am leading in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, we have been able to react fast and with agility to the challenges of the outbreak – not by taking shortcuts or by implementing opportunistic measures, but by anticipating with responsibility the restrictions that could have affected our business and applying our internal standards for HSE, financial controls, supply chain and integrity.
Many unprecedented challenges have arisen, and the dynamics of the crisis are still evolving so our crisis management team meets regularly to update our actions accordingly. One of the main elements of our strategy was the establishment of an effective communications plan for keeping all our employees and their families aware of the measures developed by the company in collaboration with the local authorities and our international advisers. I am leading regular webcasts addressing all our employees, updating them on the latest developments of the crisis and communicating the instructions that must be followed by all. The webcasts have been acknowledged by our employees as a means to give them confidence. We have a good number of expat families in Saudi Arabia and these webcasts have become an effective tool for answering their questions and addressing their day-to-day concerns.
We will not run out of equipment, tools or any material from our supply chain. Our success in our business continuity will mainly depend upon how our team can sustain the operations while dealing with personal concerns like being away from their families or not been able to enjoy a proper leave. We are closely monitoring the wellbeing of our employees and their families through the implementation of tools and providing professional support as it may be required.
How well has Saudi Arabia confronted the Covid-19 challenges?
The government of Saudi Arabia has invested a lot of financial and organisational resources into acting fast and anticipating matters better than many other countries. More importantly, the country has invested a lot in providing proper medical care to whoever was infected by the virus. Free medical services to all citizens and residents have been provided by the authorities. Also, the efforts to support companies and employers in order to protect local talent and job security in the private and public sectors have been a very positive signal of governmental responsibility and care.
We are lucky to be here, in a country with such high potential in oil resources where we can develop a consistent, reliable and sustainable business. Saudi Arabia has a robust economy supported by a strong industrial sector and a growing local production and distribution supply chain of food and basic supplies. It has local manufacturing of medical goods such as masks and medicines. Saudi Arabia is a self-sustaining nation.
This crisis has been the best demonstration of the value of local content and the In-Kingdom Total Value Add (IKTVA) programme, whether through local manufacturing or developing talent. With the shutdown of international flights, we had many of our people who could not return to their jobs in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, but we were able to sustain our business continuity with the formidable support of our well-trained local staff.
What is the level of dialogue between you and Saudi Aramco on digitalisation and local manufacturing?
Schlumberger has remained as the performance partner of choice for our main customers based on our strong leadership in the development of unparalleled technologies and solutions. We are the leader in innovation in the oilfield industry.
Saudi Aramco has been encouraging companies to invest locally through incentives to capture market share based on local manufacturing and local talent development. In fact, we became the first company to establish a facility in the King Salman Energy Park (SPARK), where we inaugurated our manufacturing centre in February 2020. We did not hesitate in investing to bring this centre to where it is now, and we managed to complete it while facing the challenges of the pandemic.
The opening of the centre was important for Saudi Aramco to prove to other members of the oilfield service industry that they are serious about their local content goals. Based on personal experience, when Saudi Aramco embarks on something, they are serious about it and they drive it to the end. From our side, we have been investing locally for almost 80 years. As long as we see the local value proposition translating into sustainable returns for the company and our shareholders, we will continue investing locally.
When it comes to digitalisation, the country is investing a lot as part of the 2030 Vision. This crisis has accelerated the need to have digital solutions and widely spread the use of remote operations. Our senior technical experts have been running many components of our operations remotely, executing jobs from locations that are thousands of kilometres away from the wellsite.
Are local companies resilient enough to emerge stronger from this crisis?
Whether in Saudi Arabia or any other country in the region, the governmental push for developing local content has been present for many years and there are a lot of local and regional players. We are convinced that investing in local talent is an important part of our future. I sit on the board of the Saudi Petroleum Services Polytechnic (SPSP) and the Saudi Arabian Drilling Academy, where we train young students to graduate as field specialists and operators in our operations. This is not only about strengthening our local footprint, but is one of the main pillars of our local social responsibility programme.
In general, the trend is clear, and we will continue to localise as much as we can. This is the way forward. It brings stability and security of resources and contributes to the growth of the local economy.
We have established entrepreneurship initiatives during this crisis with local players and in collaboration with the Entrepreneurship Institute at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia to develop innovative personal protective equipment (PPE) products and technological solutions to support local communities. A good number of plastic face shields were donated to local public medical facilities.
As you can see, Schlumberger continues to work hard to remain the performance partner of choice for our customers through working safely, ensuring a superior service quality and reliability. We have been able to sustain our operations and support our customers in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain during this crisis and we will continue to do so.
By keeping our team focused on continuing to provide reliable services during these challenging times, we have been recognised by our customers. This is the result of our personnel’s commitment, experience, professionalism and resilience. As in previous crises, I am confident we will emerge from this one better, stronger and faster than others.
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