Tag Archives: working in the oil field in North Dakota

Criticism Of Local Companies In Dickinson, Failure To Properly Delegate

Ever since I first came to Dickinson, North Dakota in 2011 to work in the oil field, I noticed that the local Dickinson companies had a strange and different way of doing things.  I will start out by giving the following brief example.

During my first month of working for an oil field service company in Dickinson, the manager of the company would come out to the job site to operate a crane.  During the rigging, lifting, positioning, and connecting of very heavy steel, the manager would routinely answer his telephone and talk on the telephone while operating the crane.  This should have never, ever happened.

When I was about 27 years old working for a tunneling company, it was explained to me that I could not talk to the tunneling machine operator while he was working. This was explained to me by the crane operator, who was in charge.  The crane operator explained other operator positions where the operator could not talk while working, sometimes mandated by law, such as the elevator operator in mining, because of the loss of life that could occur if the operator was distracted.

This oil field service company that I was working for in Dickinson, had one of the highest injury rates.  And, while I was working there, this manager did have an “at-fault” operator error while operating the crane that caused a significant injury.  Then my co-workers discussed aloud, “Maybe we should hire a crane operator, to just operate the crane.”

Although the manager of this oil field service company was knowledgeable, hardworking, honest, and fair, he wasn’t “managing” very well.  Prior to the oil boom that began in 2007 in North Dakota, this oil field service company had much less work, and fewer employees.  Prior to the oil boom, this company did not have enough calls for work, to require this manager to stay in the office all day.  To maintain profitability, this manager also performed work in the oil field.

Now in 2011, this manager needed to stay in the office all day, and deal with the customer calls that came in.  No more going out into the oil field and working.  There was a wait list or backlog of work, where work requests that were called in, could not be gotten to for six to eight weeks.  This company needed to expand, but it didn’t.

One of the reasons why this oil field service company did not expand was because the company owners and the manager did not see or understand how to delegate work properly.  The manager could no longer receive from the workers every request they had for a tire, wrench, hydraulic hose, grease fitting, leaf spring, lifting strap, bolt, belt, etcetera; go look up every one of these parts in a catalog; place the order for every one of these parts; receive telephone calls from the work crews explaining and describing their problems;  think about, solve, and explain problem solutions to the work crews; and receive telephone call work requests from every customer describing their problems and what they want done.  This was too much work for one person to do, and too much work for one person to do well and handle completely.

The manager needed to have someone serve as “field superintendent”, “project manager” or “operations manager”.  The easiest way to do this in the case of this oil field service company, would have been to appoint one of the most knowledgeable and competent workers that they already had working there.  Out of several possible candidates, the decision might have come down to how easily that particular person could be replaced on their work crew.

The “field superintendent” could then take over the responsibility of assigning work orders to the work crews, making sure that they had proper instructions, material, and equipment, and receiving all the telephone calls about problems from the work crews.  The manager then could have handled all calls from customers requesting work, discussions with the company owners, purchasing additional or new equipment, hiring, counseling, and firing workers.

This particular oil field service company never expanded, and its wait list and backlog of work increased.  The oil companies like Continental, Marathon, Occidental, and Whiting needed to have their work done more quickly than this.  Other existing oil field service companies had similar problems to the ones that I just described above.

In Dickinson, out of nowhere and overnight, the two oil field service companies Titan Oil Field Service and SM Fencing & Energy Services were formed by owners in their twenties, and they quickly grew to where they each had over fifty employees and millions of dollars in equipment.  The reason for their creation and their rapid growth was that the existing oil field service companies in Dickinson could not keep up with the demand for work.


Living A Life That You Don’t Want In North Dakota

At the apartment where I live in Watford City, I have gotten to know some of my neighbors. In the parking lot, the license plates read: Florida, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming,Texas. I know that these people don’t want to be here, I don’t want to be here.

I am in my late 40s now, and in Watford City, I often say to myself, “Where has my life gone?”. I am not senile yet, I know how I got here. It all started with me wanting to try to live a happier and better life. I had graduated from a university with a degree in engineering. I had lived in a large city and worked my way up, earning more and more money.  I had saved up enough money to not have to work for three years, I hated the city, and I wanted to move.

I did not want to live in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, or Mississippi, because I thought of those states as being “ignorant and backwards”. Every one of those states looks like paradise to me right now. I messed up, I messed up. There was no one telling me and explaining to me that that is my culture, that is where you belong, you won’t fit in or be happy anyplace else. Most of this blog consists of me trying to figure out why the people in North Dakota are so unfriendly, inhospitable, unhelpful, uncooperative, and why the women try to look and act unattractive. Rather than me having to explain it in blog post after blog post, somebody from the South my age would just say, “Well, yeah.”, meaning, you’re not telling us anything we didn’t already know.

When I moved, I moved out West. Some small towns in Colorado were O.K., but there was no place to work. Colorado Springs was too much like the Rat Race that I had left. I lived in some small towns in Arizona, enjoyed them very much, but few places to work. Did not like Phoenix. Lived a few places in Idaho, was ready to settle down, and did. The Mormons in Idaho have a preference for Mormons, and they made it seem to me like I had made a mistake in moving there. I wished that I would have tried living in Montana and Wyoming.

Looking back at my life, it wasn’t a mistake for me to ty to live out West. It seems that I spent too much time in Idaho, when I wonder where the years went, they’re there, wasted amongst the Mormons. The bad economy in Idaho, caused me to go to work in North Dakota. For the past four years, whether in Dickinson, Utah, Texas, or Watford City, it has been small oil field towns where it is hard to find a place to stay or a place to eat. I can’t believe my life has turned out like this.

It is kind of like finding yourself in prison. You do things during the day. You go to eat. You read the newspaper. You watch TV. You read your mail. You exercise. You take a shower. But you’re not going anywhere, you’re not getting out. The people around you are mostly a reminder of your confinement. In Watford City, like prison, you can only dream about the life you once had: Waking up to a warm clear sky, looking out at harbor full of boats, people of different nationalities chattering while walking to the store, red and yellow hibiscus flowers, fig trees, sea grapes, palms, walking to a white sand beach, dogs playing, everyone smiling, everyone happy…. Here in Watford City, the best thing you have is the CENEX Gas Station: Waking up to the sound of trucks idling, the smell of diesel in the air, dirty oil field workers in a hurry to get to a location in order to smash their hand…

Somebody, please go ahead write the comment, “Well if you don’t like it, you can leave!”