This week’s Pipeliners Podcast episode features Chris Alexander discussing the importance of technology commercialization, understanding the client, and making sure new technology is well-rounded.
In this episode, you will learn what it takes to develop a new technology as well as how to ensure the technology is properly maturing with technology readiness, regulatory acceptance, commercial readiness and operational readiness.
Commercializing New Pipeline Technology Show Notes, Links, and Insider Terms:
- Chris Alexander is the President of ADV Integrity, Inc.. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn.
- ADV Integrity, Inc. (ADV) is an engineering consulting firm focused on providing custom engineered solutions for asset integrity assessment and management of onshore and offshore oil and gas equipment. We serve clients in the upstream, midstream, and downstream sectors.
- API (American Petroleum Institute) represents all segments of America’s natural gas and oil industry. API has developed more than 700 standards to enhance operational and environmental safety, efficiency, and sustainability.
- The Pipeline Research Council International (PRCI) opened its Technology Development Center (TDC) in Houston, Texas in 2015. The facility sits on eight acres and is a major commitment by the energy pipeline industry to address the key issues that it faces to ensure the safety of the national and international pipeline system. Having a single location able to accumulate former in-service pipe materials with real-world pipeline features/flaws is invaluable to PRCI’s R&D Program and the industry, and provides a central point for hosting industry-sponsored training and workshops.
- Midstream is the processing, storing, transporting and marketing of oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids.
- Capital expenditures, also known as CapEx, are costs that often yield long-term benefits to a company. CapEx assets often have a useful life of more than one year.
- Operating expenses (or OpEx) are costs that often have a much shorter-term benefit.
- SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) is a system of software and technology that allows pipeliners to control processes locally or at remote locations.
- Fiber Optic is used to monitor well production, determine producing zones, and measure fracture performance.
- Leak Detection is the process of monitoring, diagnosing, and addressing a leak in a pipeline to mitigate risks.
- Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) are a method for understanding the technical maturity of a technology during its acquisition phase.
- The Commercial Readiness Level (CRL) framework assesses various indicators which influence the commercial and market conditions beyond just the technology maturity. This enables key barriers to be addressed to support the commercialisation of a technology.
- IDT EXPO exists to help reduce operational costs, minimize risks, increase safety, and maximize connections, as theyy are committed to bringing people and businesses together, with technology as the focal point.
- ERW (Electric Resistance Welded) pipes are welded longitudinally, manufactured from Strip / Coil and can be manufactured upto 24” OD. ERW pipe cold formed from a ribbon of steel pulled through a series of rollers and formed into a tube which is fused through a electric charge.
- Operational Readiness (OR) is a process used in commissioning to identify all systems, assets, and processes needed for the facility to operate safely.
Commercializing New Pipeline Technology Full Episode Transcript:
Russel Treat: Welcome to the “Pipeliners Podcast,” Episode 291, sponsored by EnerSys Corporation, providers of POEMS, the Pipeline Operations Excellence Management System, compliance and operations software for the pipeline control center to address control room management, SCADA, and audit readiness. Find out more about POEMS at EnersysCorp.com.
Announcer: The Pipeliners Podcast, where professionals, Bubba geeks, and industry insiders share their knowledge and experience about technology, projects, and pipeline operations. Now your host, Russel Treat.
Russel: Thanks for listening to the Pipeliners Podcast. I appreciate you taking the time, and to show that appreciation, we give away a customized YETI tumbler to one listener every episode. This week, our winner is Joshua Bleicken with National Grid. To learn how you can win this signature prize, stick around till the end of the episode.
This week, we spoke to Chris Alexander with ADV Integrity about commercializing new pipeline technology.
Hey, Chris, welcome back to the Pipeliners Podcast.
Chris Alexander: Thanks, Russel. It’s good to be with you.
Russel: You’re becoming one of the regulars, dude.
Chris: I’m not complaining about that. We always have a good time when we get together, so now everybody gets to hear our good times.
Russel: There you go. Look, we did the thing at the API Demo Day where we did the panel. We talked about product commercialization. I’ve gotten a fair amount of good feedback about that.
Russel: I wanted to follow up and really take a deep dive into the presentation you did at the API Pipeline Conference, because I thought it was fascinating.
Chris: Thank you. I appreciate you doing it.
Russel: I thought you did a great job. I think a really good question to start with is, why is technology adoption or technology commercialization such an important topic for our industry?
Chris: A couple of things. I think one thing is so dang hard. You and I built business. It’s just not easy. If it was easy, it may be less interesting. We talked about this a little bit at the PRCI’s TDC, our industry needs to advance, and technology plays a central role.
You turn on the TV or you open a newspaper up. I mean, everybody’s talking about technology. It means different things to different people, and not to get overly hallmarked, but our industry drives so much of our economy.
You think about the pipelines. You and I know that because we’re pipeline people. You and I are both sitting in houses. We got the AC blaring because it’s 103 degrees in the shade outside. If it wasn’t for natural gas, our power plants wouldn’t run and we wouldn’t have electricity, so…
Russel: We wouldn’t live in the south.
Chris: Yes, exactly. We’d be in Maine right now if I’m…
Russel: At least we wouldn’t do it during the summertime, because that’d just be crazy.
Chris: We would move north in the summer. Really, our way of life as Americans, we really depend on the energy industry and the backbone and the highways of the energy industry are the pipelines. I think part of it, too, is because the pipelines are getting older, in order to maintain the integrity, we’re just having to use some technologies that 50 years ago weren’t required.
I would say, too, that public expectation is evolving as well because what the public is exposed to by way of technology just through their use of their smartphones and what their expectation is about applications and so forth. It’s just that they have a very high level of expectation of what people ought to be able to do.
Russel: Sometimes that might be unrealistic or unreasonable. Sometimes, it might not. It’s just we’re slow to adopt. That’s one of the big challenges, I think, with technology adoption or commercialization is we as an industry because we’re so safety focused. We’re slow or methodical. We’re careful.
Chris: Like I said, I think sometimes, to a fault, but once again, the technical element of the pipeline industry is run by engineers. You and I are both engineers. We’re talking about safety factors very early on in our educational career, our natural personalities.
You and I run businesses, but most engineers tend to be risk averse. In order to do new things, you have to control that risk, that’s called risk management or risk toleration. I think that that’s why it’s difficult.
For me, personally, I love it. You and I are both outgoing. We like talking to people who are called galvanizers, so we’re naturally drawn to this topic because we like new ideas and we want to help industry advance it so that everybody benefits in the process.
Russel: I would say at least, from my standpoint, that I’ve been doing product commercialization most of my career. I’m probably pretty slow and methodical, too. I’m probably the slow guy in our company on a lot of issues, because I want to think it through, I want to understand the impacts, and I’m thinking beyond just having some new tool. I’m thinking about what are all the things necessary for that tool to really add value. That’s part of what we’re going to talk about in this conversation.
The other thing you talked about in your presentation is API was the technology adoption curve. You laid out the spectrum of enthusiasts and visionaries and pragmatists and conservatives and skeptics, showing about 15 percent of people are enthusiasts or visionaries. I would argue, at least in the pipeline space, you have that number a little high.
It’s probably more like five percent in total.
Chris: I pulled this off the Internet. This is a general population. With the pipeline industry being a subset of the general population, that part of the curve is squeezed even more. I agree 100 percent.
Russel: You show it as a normal distribution. This is more of a chi distribution…
Chris: It’s shifted more and more to that side.
Russel: …with a propensity on the “I’m very skeptic and conservative” side.
Chris: I’m not trying that. I know in my last podcast I did with you, we talked about composite repairs. I remember when I first started doing this, close to 25 years ago. I’d walk into a room full of guys about our age. They’d be like, “College boy, I’m not putting that glue and string on my pipeline.” That was the mindset.
Here we are today. People don’t question a lot of that technology like they used to. Fortunately, there were some early adopters. They made it easier for the laggards on the back side.
Russel: You’ve got to have early adopters. It’s part of what’s required. What do you think people miss about product commercialization? What do they fail to consider?
Chris: It’s a balance of risk and reward. If you don’t focus enough on what are the benefits, what are the rewards…The first thing you naturally think about is what’s the risk. Even your question, if this doesn’t work, what’s the downside for the pipeline? What’s the downside for me?
Even a subset of that, what’s the downside for my career if this doesn’t work, if I’m going to push all my poker chips in the middle? The problem is you need to weigh the risk and the reward as much as you can. The problem is we’re not doing that. We focus too much on the risk side. I’m not saying that’s not important.
One of the reasons I love what we’re doing at ADV, the full scale testing, is we go out to the lab. Yeah, there’s a risk, but I would say 99 out of 100 tests that we run…I’m not making this number up. It’s at least 97 out of 100 tests. The results are great.
Every now and then, we’ll get an adverse result. We’ll go back and talk to the manufacturer. They tweak something. Then they come back. It’s better. It’s self correcting. What I love about destructive testing is we really prove that stuff works. We worked for 50 technology companies last year, proving their technologies work. The vast majority of them do very well.
I started working in the oil industry 30 years ago. I’ve seen so much good technology that I tend to naturally have a…I’m favorably disposed to new technologies. I’ve seen enough bad technologies, but I can spot them pretty quickly. The vast majority of what we see coming out is really good.
Russel: One of the things that’s different about your experience and mine, you have been more on the physical, mechanical new product, where I’ve been more on the software or automation new product.
What I find is a lot of the software innovation, a lot of the automation innovation comes from very, very small engineering centric companies that do not understand or value all the marketing types of things that you have to do to be successful.
One of the big challenges for anybody trying to commercialize any technology – it’s not just in pipelining – is understanding that getting to the point you have a working prototype, you’re about 10 percent done.
Chris: Exactly. Part of it too, because there’s the technology – we’ll talk about a wide range of things today – I also think it’s very important to understand your client base and really to understand their pain points.
My observation, Russel, is that sometimes people come into industry with a new technology. They’re excited about how the technology works and all those things, but they don’t spend enough time really visiting with the end user, which in this case usually is the pipeline company, and finding out what they really need.
Russel: You talked about this in your presentation, but you talked about the stakeholders. The pipeliners, the operators, they are the key stakeholder. There’s also state and federal regulatory agencies. They’re a stakeholder.
You’ve got service companies and companies that are going to take this technology, apply it, use it, deploy it, and so forth. They’re stakeholders. Construction companies often are stakeholders.
You’ve got to really understand the landscape. You need to know what are each of those stakeholders looking for, what are their wind components, and what risks are they trying to manage. You’ve got to be able to have that conversation effectively in all those stakeholders’ domains.
Chris: I had a guy flying to see me today from Dallas. He does primarily work in the defense industry. We’re talking about doing some stuff together. One of the things I told him, and he’s a technology guy, I said, “The key coming into the pipeline industry is, in some regards, you need to know who are the companies who are most likely to adopt technology.”
I’ve got a Rolodex. We worked for about 25 pipeline companies last year. Some companies tend to be more forward thinking. I’m not going to list them out, but you and I could list who those companies are.
Anytime I have somebody that comes in and has a new idea, I’m going to naturally gravitate toward those companies. Then once they adopt the technology and they start using it, it’s very easy for those to follow it. You can almost make a bell curve of the pipeline companies and just talk about those that are most likely to adopt the technologies. They tend to advance everything for the industry.
I just wish there were more people that do that. It boils down to the culture of the company. It also boils down to the leadership. If you’ve got senior leadership that are very forward thinking, they think about the benefits. I’ve got a couple of guys I’m just envisioning.
I can pick up the phone, we can go to lunch next week, and I can introduce a new idea to them, and they’re going to receive it very favorably. They have a consistent pattern of thinking that way.
Russel: Some people are just more disposed to that. Some people view their role in their company as to improve operations, to improve safety performance, to improve profitability. Other people think their role is more about keeping the train on the rails. Really, you need both of those roles.
Chris: You do.
Russel: The trick is knowing who to go talk to. The other thing I would say about that, too, is when we talk about pipelining, there’s not just one pipeline industry. There’s actually a handful of sub-niches. The big liquid transmission guys sub-niche, the specialty liquids transmission guys sub-niche, the gas utilities sub-niche, the gas transmission guys sub-niche.
Then all of the private equity backed midstream companies, it’s another sub-niche. All of those guys have different considerations about their individual business models, how they manage their risks, and how they manage their profitability.
Again, knowing that landscape is super important.
Chris: What are the drivers for each of those subsets? Then the two new ones that nobody was really talking about 10 years ago are CO2 and hydrogen. Those are two very important subsets. We’re doing a lot of work and a lot of discussion in that space. Their needs are very different. If you’re transporting CO2, your needs are very different than if you’re transporting methane.
It’s complicated and you’ve got to work for a while. I’ll be honest, you’ve got to work for probably 20 years to really understand the landscape and know the key people and to have credibility…
Russel: It’s the 10,000 hour problem.
Chris: Exactly. I’d say it’s almost 20,000 to do what we’re talking about.
Russel: In our world, this is something that’s really interesting. You have to have 10,000 in each discipline that you’re going to master. For me, I have 10,000 hours in measurement. I have 10,000 hours in SCADA and leak detection. I have 10,000 hours in business development and business growth. Getting 10,000 hours three times takes a little time.
Chris: It does.
Russel: You got to run a little bit off. You measure that in calendars. You don’t measure that in clocks.
Chris: Exactly. It’s moons.
Russel: I want to get more specific because I want to create some content here that’d be helpful to people that are trying to commercialize. I want to talk about the maturity model that you talk about first at a high level and then we can parse it out a bit.
You talked about technology readiness, regulatory readiness, and commercial readiness. Those being things that all need to come together for a product to actually start moving to market. There’s another piece that I might call that operational readiness and it has to do with the pipeline operator’s ability to operationalize the technology.
Chris: I’ll go with that. I will not disagree.
Russel: You will not disagree. How do you best navigate that? There’s a sequence that works best when you try to get through those things. What comes first? It’s a bit of an iterative process, I’ll grant you that. Also, at a strategic level, there’s appropriate sequencing.
Chris: It’s super hard. If you and I could figure out how to do it perfectly, we’d be billionaires. We both know that. It involves a couple of things. You mentioned you got technology readiness, regulatory acceptance, commercial readiness. We’ll throw a fourth element. My Venn diagram just got a little more complicated. Now we have a fourth element, that’s operational readiness.
Some of it starts off depending on how complicated the technology is. If the technology is relatively easy to understand, you always go back to composite repairs, it’s not super complicated. It’s glue and string at the end of the day. It’s got some cool mechanics and I got my PhD in it. At the end of the day, it’s not overly complicated mechanics.
Your world with software and automation, super complicated technology. There’s a lot of moving parts. That sets the landscape, if you will, for what’s going to happen next. Still, regardless, you’re going to have to spend probably three to five hours. Let’s say that’s a 10,000 hour rule. It’s 2,000 hours a year.
You’re going to probably have to spend somewhere between three and five years just getting people even willing to talk about your technology if it’s new. The mistake a lot of people make is they just focus on the technology. They don’t think about regulations. You’ve got to have conversations.
It doesn’t hurt to have a conversation back when Bob Smith was head of R&D or Steve Nanney, some of these guys who are regulators, Alan Mayberry. Just pick up the phone and say, “Hey, Alan, I’m thinking about doing this. What are your thoughts?”
They’re hard to get hold of because they’re super busy, but the sooner you can get them involved in the discussion, those two things you’ve got to be thinking about.
Then your third element, which I’m probably going to modify my diagram, you’ve got to start talking to the pipeline companies about how they’re going to deploy the technology. Those three things have got to be in place. Then you focus on the commercial readiness.
Here’s the reason commercial readiness is very important. It probably ties more into OpEx and CapEx, but if you have a technology that’s so expensive that nobody’s going to be willing to use it, you’re going to have a really hard time getting people to adopt it. You got to think there’s a lot of little levers there that you have to think through. It’s not just one lever.
My observation, Russel, the companies that we work with sometimes that really struggle with adoption, they’re too myopic and focusing on one aspect. Sometimes it’s the job of guys, like you and me, to bring a conversation, if you will, to the discussion and help people understand, “You’ve got to be cognizant of all of these levers.”
Russel: Yeah, I agree with that. I think you had a neat little diagram in your presentation, and we’ll probably throw this out on the website in the show notes. Yeah, neat diagram and you showed, “Well, here’s the sequence for doing technology development. Then, here’s the sequence for regulatory review and acceptance. Then here’s the sequence for commercialization.” Then, I would put another stack there. There was a sequence of operationalization.
Chris: I like to do that, to be honest with you. I don’t know. Maybe you and I can write a white paper or something on that.
Russel: That’d be awesome. Enbridge did a really interesting presentation at API about some technology. They were commercializing using fiber optics for leak detection, and they laid out all of the steps they went through once they had validated that it would actually pick a leak up to actually get it to the point that they could deploy it in practice and support it and maintain it.
Chris: Wow, that’s awesome.
Russel: It was really interesting because they had more time in figuring out the policies and procedures and building those capabilities than they did in validating this technology work.
Chris: That’s the point. Right?
Russel: Right, exactly.
Chris: If you’re going in and you’re raising money to develop a new technology as well, we think it’s going to be good to go in three years. It might be five years. It might be eight or nine years.
Russel: If you’re going to try to accelerate the adoption of technology, what you’ve got to do is be working on all of these elements that we’re talking about in a sequence that makes the most sense so that as you’re ready to…
There’s overlap, but I really can’t be talking to regulators until some point in the technology development process, where I’m able to demonstrate the technology because if I can’t demonstrate the deck, and its value prop, I’m not ready to talk to operators. I might be ready to talk to pipeliners, because they might be able to help me to figure that out, right?
Chris: Yeah, it might.
Russel: I’m certainly not ready to commercialize yet because until I know what the regulator’s think about it, I might not understand what’s the full offering to actually deploy it and have it deliver the value prop.
Chris: 100 percent. That’s what I love about this graphic is that it just helps you understand until you get to a certain TRL. Don’t think about engaging the regulators because they’re super crazy.
Russel: You just used a TLR or TLA.
Chris: Yeah, yeah.
Russel: You said TRL. What is TRL?
Chris: Yes. Sorry, we use our acronyms, so we have the technology readiness level. There’s several versions of this. The one I like is there’s an API version that’s got nine steps.
Then, we transition, once you get to probably kind of a level, I’m sitting here, looking at the graphic, once you have kind of a technology deployment, you’re way past the bar napkin here, you’ve proven it works. You’ve probably got some funding. Once you’re ready to start developing and demonstrating it to industry, then you get the regulator’s engaged, but if you’re back on a bar napkin, don’t talk to anybody.
Sometimes, I mean, I had some guys talking to me today who were just getting some stuff out on a piece of paper and it was really cool, but were not ready to talk to anybody yet.
Then, the commercial readiness index, the CRI, which we pulled from another document, man, you got to be way far ahead in your TRL in our space because the regulators, they have to buy into a lot of the technology before you’re going to deploy it.
Then, at that point – I think we’ve got six scales on this commercial readiness index – once you get all the TRLs and the regulators are cool with it, we have the regulatory acceptance level, the RAL.
Then you can really focus on commercializing and generating revenue. It’s complicated. To be honest with you, if someone’s listening to this and they’re a technology company, you and I are not so naive to think that this is a magic bullet right, but it at least provides a framework as I’m talking to a new company about helping them understand the hurdles that are out there.
That’s a service that you and I are providing. We want to help people be successful.
Russel: It’s like Lewis and Clark, when they were departing to do their trip through the West. They had some maps. They had a compass.
Chris: They knew they needed to go west.
Russel: They had some ability to navigate and knew where they were going, but they had no idea what they were going to come up against. They had a plan. It’s similar to that. Having a plan and having a road map helps. To be able to evaluate where I am now versus what the road map is telling me, that’s really valuable. It accelerates things.
Chris: It does.
Russel: It helps you identify what is the obstacle I’m currently up against.
Chris: One of the reasons Mark Piazza and I co-authored this presentation – We co wrote it, and I presented it. It’s the reason he wanted you leading the podcast at the API event – is we need success. Success begets success.
I talked a little bit about this earlier. One of the concerns I had is if we are so change resistant and so slow to adopt technology, companies from the outside are not going to want to come in.
We need people who are like, “Man, we love those pipeline guys. They’re a profitable industry. They’re willing to adopt technologies and those kinds of things.” If that’s the buzz in the energy industry, it’s a win-win for us.
Russel: That’s right.
Chris: If we’re the last place people want to go, we do not benefit. That’s a psychological mindset we’ve got to be cognizant…I’ll get on my soapbox a little bit. We have not done ourselves any favors in the pipeline industry by not being proactive and marketing the value we bring to society.
Russel: I would say, likewise, we’ve not done ourselves any favors by holding a whole lot of information close inside of individual companies and not collaborating. We really need the tide to come up and lift all the boats.
Chris: Exactly. There’s a lot of good stuff going on. When we bring people out who don’t know a lot about the pipeline industry and they walk around, we say, “Hey, we’re using this technology in this.” People are like, “Man, we had no idea the pipeline industry has that much technology from the outside.”
Anyway, I don’t know. Maybe part of our crusade is that technology plays a central role in that conversation.
Russel: It’s all kinds of technology. People tend to hear technology, and they think computers and software. It’s not just that. It’s a lot of other things too.
Chris: It’s monitoring. It’s fiber optics. We’re doing a ton…
Russel: It’s metallurgy. It’s all kinds of stuff. It’s material science. It’s all kinds of stuff.
Chris: It’s one of those things it’s hard to appreciate from the outside. It’s hard to explain from the inside. That’s the art of marketing.
Russel: No doubt.
Chris: That’s the deep thought for the day.
Russel: We’ll put these models up. I do like the idea of working together to put some kind of white paper together. That would be really interesting. In my copious free time.
Chris: I tell you what. We’re having an IDT EXPO event on December 7th. We might even have a session where you and I talk about this. You and I have gone to a lot of these conferences. It’s been a while since I’ve been to API. This presentation, there was literally a standing room only.
It was crazy. I’m up there presenting. There’s people all on the back walls. To me, it’s very gratifying when you’re talking about stuff. The bottom line is people are really interested in this stuff.
Russel: They are. They want to know how to get better tools and how to get them more quickly. We’ll link some graphics up for people. I like the idea of adding an operational readiness index and lining it up with your other three. It would be very interesting to see if you could use all that to come up with a single number that was like your overall maturity.
Chris: Yeah, the overall maturity.
Russel: That would be interesting. The thing that I’m thinking about, because we have so much going on with our businesses right now. Hiring a lot of people. I’m changing roles. We’re reevaluating our software and where are the gaps and where the opportunities to improve. Got a lot going on in all those areas.
What I’m not really doing is I’m not doing that against any rubric. I love the idea of having a rubric of understanding in all these different areas where we’re trying to go to market, where we are and trying to figure out how to move through all of that more quickly.
Chris: It’d be very meaningful. I don’t know how we would ever do this, but wouldn’t it be great as an industry…It’s like Consumer Reports. You got a new technology and so you got some clearinghouse that you go through these qualification steps and you’re assigned an index number.
It just makes it easier for the operator to say, “OK. On a scale of 1 to 10, yeah, we’re at an 8.5. Well, our threshold is anything above a seven. We’re good.” Some company comes in and says, “Our score is a 6.5,” and the pipeline company is like, “Look, we want to use your technology, but here’s some things we need you to do to improve it.”
It’s very practical. Without some rubric like you’re talking about, you don’t know where you are. To me, it’s super complicated. If Piazza was on this call with us today…
Russel: Everything’s complicated until you figure out how to simplify it.
Chris: What was Einstein saying? It’s a scale of proportions which makes the bad difficult and the good easy. Once you get into it, when you and I first started driving a car, it’s white knuckled and you’re scared to death. Now I get my car…
Russel: It’s like a golf swing. It only looks easy when somebody does it that’s really good at it.
Chris: It’s true. You only make it look easy.
Russel: It only looks easy. That’s an interesting idea, Chris.
I would say that my advice to folks that are working to bring new technology to market is take a look at the stuff we’re going to put out on the website with the show notes and look at, “Well, where am I in terms of technical maturity? Where am I in terms of regulatory maturity? Where am I in terms of operational maturity?” and so forth.
What most people would find out is they’re more mature in some areas and they need to rethink where they’re investing their resources and efforts to get more mature in other areas.
Russel: All of us do that. All of us get focused on those things that we see that are right ahead of us. It’s usually the thing we’re not seeing that’s holding us up or slowing us down.
Chris: If you think about it, it’s like a ladder, the higher you are in the organization, the farther you need to see out. The guy whose day is in the ditch and all those things, he’s focused on today’s problems. As you get into the president, directors, and vice presidents of a pipeline company, you’ve got to be thinking farther out in order to do that.
One of the last slides I had in that presentation that I asked is, what can we improve? One of the main things if you’re at a very high level and you’re a decision maker is identifying areas where technology can impact your company.
Maybe you almost do a roadmap and you look at all the different facets of your company and are there some easy to deploy technologies that have an immediate impact or there’s some areas where you’re really struggling.
From an investment you say, let’s say you’ve got a bunch of low frequency ERW pipe, “We’ve really got to develop some technologies that help us identify where those features are so that it lowers the risk in our operations. We’re going to push our money over into that space and help companies partner with us to develop technology.”
I know companies are doing that. I don’t want to be presumptuous and say…
Russel: What this conversation’s bringing up to me, and I’ve been doing technology commercialization forever. What I’ve not done is technology adoption. Certainly, being a technology company, we’re constantly looking at new tools and things. What the operators do is they’re doing technology. What they’re interested in is adoption, not commercialization.
There’s certainly a correlation, but that would make for…Man, I don’t know what it would take to do it. If the industry was able to do a report and list various technologies by vertical domain, and if companies were willing to share information about these technologies and you could compare the commercialization maturity with the adoption maturity, that would be really interesting.
To do something like that, you’d have to have a sponsoring organization.
Chris: You would. API would be a good example. PRCI maybe. One of the other things, I can’t ever talk without recommending a book. There’s a book my wife, Tanya, got me probably 10 years ago. It’s called “Unleashing the Innovators.”
At Christmas, I usually get a stack of about 20 books from her. She goes to Barnes & Noble, goes to the business section, and she just throws them in the basket. I read every one of them. This one was really good. Then if it’s really good, I buy 50 copies and I give them away.
What was brilliant about the guy that wrote this book is he talked about very large organizations. He referenced Target and GE. He said, “Very large organizations stay nimble by partnering with smaller, innovative organizations.”
In the context of what we’re talking about today, if you’re a large pipeline company, there’s little technology companies out there that just need some money and they need some application opportunities. If you’re the big guy and you partner with those little guys, that’s the unleashing the innovators concept.
Russel: The guy who’s going to transform pipelining from a technology perspective is somebody who’s probably 25 to 40 years old and is working in their garage on some cool idea.
Chris: I think about Mr. Rosen and how he got started. That’s what he was doing. He was developing in-line inspection technologies and he got started. Most of the companies that we know well, it started with somebody working out of their garage and they had an idea. They were fortunate to find somebody who would champion it. Thank God they were willing to work out of the garage for a while.
Russel: I’ve certainly done that. It’s been part of my career path.
Chris: Now, at ADV, we’ve got a really big garage and we develop a lot of stuff. We help people do that, which is fun.
Russel: Exactly. This has been a great conversation, Chris. I appreciate your time. You and I need to continue leaning into this.
Chris: I agree.
Russel: Be very interested to hear from listeners to the podcast. Are they finding this kind of conversation valuable? If you’re finding it valuable, if you want to go to the pipelinepodcastnetwork.com website and just drop a note in the comments, that would be handy, be helpful to me as I’m trying to figure out who we need to be talking to and what we need to be talking about. This is a conversation I’m certainly very interested in.
Russel: I just don’t know how interested the listeners are.
Chris: It’s know your market, right?
Russel: Exactly. Well, sometimes you’ve got to ask the question, right?
Chris: You do, have to be vulnerable.
Russel: All right, Chris, great to talk to you.
Chris: You too, Russel. Thanks.
Russel: I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of the “Pipeliners Podcast” and our conversation with Chris. Just a reminder before you go, you should register to win our customized Pipeliners Podcast YETI tumbler. Simply visit PipelinePodcastNetwork.com/Win and enter yourself in the drawing.
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Transcription by CastingWords