Aberdeenshire engineering firm responds to North Sea downturn
Read the below interview published in the Herald Scotland, Business Section with our Engineering Director Tom Murodch on all things Brimmond, how COVID-19 has impacted the business and the future plans.
Name: Tom Murdoch.
What is your business called?
Where is it based?
Kintore in Aberdeenshire.
What does it produce, what services does it offer?
We design, manufacture, rent and service a range of hydraulic, mechanical and electrical equipment. Our core equipment includes diesel and electric hydraulic power units (HPUs), marine cranes, umbilical reelers, spoolers, flushing units and pump units of all shapes and sizes.
To whom does it sell?
Our customer base is predominantly within the oil and gas, and decommissioning sectors, but in recent years we have taken advantage of opportunities to diversify through supporting a variety of projects within the marine and workboat, construction, and Navy and defence industries.
What is its turnover?
Despite a challenging year, we are projecting a turnover of £5-6 million similar to that of last year. We are extremely thankful to our entire team for enabling us to finish this year in a financially stable position.
The initial impact of the fallout from the Covid-19 crisis was by no means as severe or sudden for Brimmond as for other industries within the UK as working within the energy sector allowed us to always keep our workshop open and equipment out on hire.
We didn’t start to see the real impact until six-eight weeks after the initial lockdown when offshore installations started to down-man and non safety critical operations were postponed, with many of these projects being delayed upwards of eight months. This resulted in a far lower utilisation of our rental fleet throughout the summer months and a significant drop in revenue for this period. However, we’re starting to see an upturn in utilisation of our rental fleet as operators have adapted to new ways of keeping installations up manned and operational.
How many employees?
We have 25 full-time employees.
When was it formed?
Brimmond Group was formed in 1996 by my dad.
Why did you take the plunge?
It was always part of my long-term plan to work for the family business. Having first scooted about the workshop on a pallet truck at the age of four, to nearly losing my first summer placement after a rather shoddy paint job (and thinking I was going to get sacked in the first week of working for my dad), I have been involved in the business, on and off, almost my entire life.
The plan was to work within the industry and come back to Brimmond Group later in life. Sadly, in August 2016 my dad passed away after a battle with cancer. It wasn’t long after that I re-joined the Brimmond Group team.
What were you doing before you took the plunge?
My undergraduate degree was in Product Design Engineering and after university my first job was as a graduate engineer working for a subsea engineering company in Aberdeen. It was a brilliant experience, I was mainly involved in subsea tooling design, as well as spending some time offshore West of Shetland, in the workshop and across the engineering department. Alongside this, in the evenings and at weekends, I studied for a Master’s degree in Subsea Engineering.
I had envisaged being with that company for a number of years, before eventually coming back to work at Brimmond Group. I certainly didn’t think the move would happen within two years. I joined Brimmond Group in 2016 as a design engineer and in 2018 started in my role as Engineering Director.
What was your biggest break?
It might seem insignificant but looking back (over 10 years ago) my biggest break was my first university summer placement at Brimmond Group. Although it was only three months, the experience I gained both in the workshop and within the office was invaluable. It was also a stepping-stone to my next summer placement working as a trainee design engineer at a major subsea service provider. This meant that when applying for graduate engineer jobs, I had nine months of industry experience.
What was your worst moment?
We predominantly work in an industry that is subject to the cyclical nature of oil prices. The smaller, family company feel we have built over the years is great in allowing us to be agile and deliver a first-class service but can make it incredibly difficult when we have to make business decisions that affect people.
Unfortunately, we have had to make several positions redundant due to the impacts Covid-19 has had on the business.
What do you most enjoy about running the business:
Having the autonomy to influence and make decisions on the direction and future of the business. Being part of a small business also means that I still get the opportunity to indulge my inner engineer by being more hands on. From the excitement of running a newly designed unit for the first time to the technical and commercial negotiation involved with fast- paced tenders, every day is different.
What are your ambitions for the firm?
To grow Brimmond Group into new sectors and markets, and expand our international reach, whilst maintaining our reputation for high quality, reliable and user-friendly kit.
What are your top priorities?
1. The energy transition. Diversifying our portfolio out-with oil and gas is key to the company’s long-term success. Oil and gas will continue to be a significant income stream for Brimmond Group but over the next 25 years we are looking forward to working in more sustainable industries such as renewables, marine and aquaculture.
2. Recovery from Covid-19. After the oil and gas downturn in 2014, capital expenditure budgets were slashed, and the group transitioned from focusing primarily on manufacturing to rental. We expect a similar trend in budgets.
3. Formalising our company values. Our culture has organically grown over the years, with the team living and breathing Brimmond Group’s unwritten values. Their input will be integral to formalising these for the next 25 years of the business.
What is the most valuable lesson that you have learned?
As a business leader you don’t have to be an expert at everything. People and relationships are key. Trusting each team member to make the right decisions and having a team which is collectively invested in the vision of the business is a must for driving things forward.
How do you relax:
Exploring the hills and countryside with my wife, Lisa, and our Australian Labradoodle – Rowie (if you don’t know, a ‘rowie’ is Aberdeen’s answer to the croissant – but even less healthy!). I am also a keen mountain biker - Scotland has an incredible mountain bike scene which only seems to be growing.