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.