Ioan Simion: Confind to increase quality level in the heavy equipment production for the oil & gas industry

Confind Campina, one of the most important producers of oil equipment and oil outfit in Romania, is getting prepared to cover the empty space left behind by the former national producers in the field during the latest years. Romanian equipments produced by Confind reach international markets as well, while the beneficiaries acknowledge their quality, robustness and reliability. The company’s president Mr. Ioan Simion recounted how is it like to start an activity ‘from scratch’, what high quality means and how to achieve success in a dynamic field such as the one of oil and gas, without doing business with the state!

Petroleum Industry Review: Your life has been linked to oil for some time, for 43 years to be more precise. How did the Confind story start and what piece de resistance does the company founded by you more than 20 years ago have?

Ioan Simion:Ioan Simion: In 1968 I graduated the Polytechnic Institute in Bucharest – Faculty of Mechanics. Until 1971 I worked as researcher with ICPET Bucharest. I joined the ‘oil field’ when I started working with Poiana Campina plant and, starting 1986, with the Ministry of Oil and Gas. 43 years have passed and I’ve remained anchored within this field. Confind accompanied me and is related for good to this field and will remain the same.

Petroleum Industry Review: Years ago Romanian oil equipment producing industry was placed high in the world standings, nowadays national producers have vanished from traditional markets. Is Confind ready to fill in the empty spaces?

Ioan Simion: It is true that until 1989 Romania was exporting a lot of oil equipments (drilling equipment, pumping equipment, tubing, pipes, pumping drill pipes), however the quality level was rather low due to the lack of completion equipment – engines, hydraulics, instrumentation and control equipments, etc. Today, none of these products are exported – some of the plants were closed down, others were sold and the new owners changed their working field. Others, even if they did survive, are not able anymore to export the equipments that were produced 20-30 years ago.

Confind was set up in 1991, therefore it is 23 years old. We started ‘from scratch’; we had nothing; we didn’t have land, nor buildings or machines or people! Today 1,400 employees work with us, we have hectares of land and industrial buildings, machine tools with numerical control, labs, testing and grinding stands, we have all the endowment to tackle numerous products and services. Our beneficiaries have continuously raised the quality standards. It was hard to meet all the ‘demands’ but I would like to thank them for helping us to indirectly reach higher and higher standards of quality and safety! Thus, now we are confident our Confind produced equipment can be exported to: Russia, India, Kazakhstan, Israel, Italy, the Czech Republic, Germany, France – without any hesitation. In a few years’ time we’ll be almost the only plant in Romania to produce heavy equipment for the oil industry! (unfortunately!).

Petroleum Industry Review: What is the ratio of production for export and the one for the domestic market?

Ioan Simion: Until 2008 Confind export ratio was of about 70-80 percent. Due to the economic crisis the ratio fell to 15 percent. Gladdening, we are noticing the markets revival in 2014 – in Russia and France.

Petroleum Industry Review: We know you have a good relationship with the oil companies in the Russian Federation, which very much value the equipments produced in Romania. Are there other regions you target and want to extend your activity to?

Ioan Simion: Every year we attend about ten fairs, with our own stands, in Russia and in the former Soviet countries! Oil companies know us, they acknowledge that Romanian equipments are robust and reliable but, as they lack funds, the orders are scarce. We have noticed some improvement in this regard during the latest years.

In 2014 we have started a series of collaborations with big companies in France and Germany – Gaz de France and Bentec. We are convinced that in the following years the export volume to these beneficiaries will grow and diversify (subset for drilling equipment, stainless steel equipments for agri-food industry, spare parts for nuclear plants, while teams of workers/locksmiths/welders are going to work on sites in France).

Petroleum Industry Review: During the latest years the oil and gas field has been the target of important investments, the best example being OMV Petrom. Did this trend have effects on Confind activity?

Ioan Simion: OMV Petrom is our biggest client. The Confind-OMV Petrom relationship is going on exclusively based on auctions, on correctness on both sides, on seriousness and mainly on our wish to prove we are a real partner and we meet the OMV expectations.

The more complex the auctions, the more we are interested. We have put into practice: LTS, MPS, transportable calibration skids, a large range of progressive cavity pumps (up to 110 bar), we are producing 40 and 50 tons intervention equipments, milling equipment for cement plugs, hydraulic heads and, for almost three years, we have taken over the maintenance activity for one asset! We are continuously being audited, we observe the beneficiaries’ demands, we are trying to meet their wishes and we succeed every time to finalize the works on schedule and to secure the equipments’ functioning.

Petroleum Industry Review: You are an oil-man and a successful businessman. As the service market in the oil industry is developing, so is the competition. How do you intend to manage the situation and what ways to consolidate Confind’s position do you envisage?

Ioan Simion: As I have told you, although I am a mechanical engineer, I’ve spent all my life alongside the oil-men that run this industry during 1971 - 2003. I’ve had the opportunity to witness oil well blowouts, to assimilate new equipments, to carry on imports, to put into practice new technologies. I’ve been directly involved in lots of technical problems, before and after 1989. In other words, I’ve had the chance to see and better understand the oil engineers’ wishes, I’ve had the opportunity to solve lots of issues and that is why now Confind is able to meet the demands, anticipating their thoughts and helping them every time they are in need.

As far as competition is concerned, I’d say OMV Petrom is a fair company and we take pride every time we win an auction. Confind is able to carry complex works – EPCC, it has developed its own designing sectors (mechanical, electrical, civilian, automation, service, etc.), it has a building-assembly line with specific endowment, but most of all it could boast for carrying everything it needs to finalize the works achieved by auction. Confind buys only metal, engines, hydraulic, instrumentation and control equipments, fittings, cables, pipes and paint. We depend on very few suppliers and we are able to meet the deadlines.

Petroleum Industry Review: In numbers and letters Confind Campina means: (you can choose the numbers and the key words that reveal the essence of your business)...

Ioan Simion: Confind started from scratch and managed to become the biggest Romanian company in Campina.

• Confind never carried businesses with the state and will never do.

• No politician ever came to Confind to ask for something (he wouldn’t have got it anyway!).

• In 23 years Confind was never late in paying its taxes and dues to the state.

• Confind was never late to pay the suppliers’ invoices.

• Confind has built a church within the Voila Psychiatry Hospital courtyard (for the hundreds of patients hospitalized).

• Confind is supplying free meals for its employees.

• Confind is carrying qualification courses for the specialists it needs.

• Confind pays attention to the developments and it adapts to the market; the legal framework, good or bad, is strictly observed.

• Confind sued the state institutions every time they fined the company and has always won the actions at law.

Petroleum Industry Review: During the latest ten years you’ve registered growths and decreases of the turnover. In 2008 you registered the peak, but how do you anticipate 2014 for Confind?

Ioan Simion: 2008 was the peak for Confind in regard of turnover – we reached EUR 71 million. Then came the years of crisis during which exports fell dramatically and, together with it, so did the production. Year by year, with huge efforts, Confind managed to straighten out, and reached again the 2008 turnover in 2013, the equivalent in lei. I see 2014 has good perspectives, nevertheless I don’t think it will be a very good year. Yet, I don’t want to anticipate.

Petroleum Industry Review: What are Confind’s main directions for development in the future? Do you have new projects in mind for the upcoming period?

Ioan Simion: OMV Petrom is going on in externalizing some activities – the mechanical-energy department for example. Confind took part to the public auction and is hoping to undertake at least one or two assets. This is not a very profitable ‘business’ but 200 - 500 people will have works for five years! This is not a minor achievement!

Even more, we have won several auctions and we are waiting for OMV Petrom to place the orders. We are going to take part to other big auctions and we hope to win them.

We are intensifying the collaboration with Bentec/Germany and Cofeli Endel/France.

We have harvested several hundreds of tons of wheat with AgroservConfind - our company set up in 2013. The results are encouraging.

Petroleum Industry Review: You have entered the health system market. How does this activity connect with the challenges you face in the oil and gas field?

Ioan Simion: Some three years ago, our company set up the SanConfind Medical Centre, entering the health system market. The first step was made by setting up a dentistry cabinet to be accessed with priority by the Confind employees, but any other patient is welcome. The second step will be the setting up of a private hospital in Poiana Campina. Works for the hospital are already going on for two years. We hope to inaugurate in October 2014 the ‘Balneology base for treatment, Kino physical therapy and medical recuperation’ – this is about 15 percent of the entire hospital. By the end of the year we hope to finalize the ‘imagistic department’ (MRI, CT, X-Ray, Ecography) and the ‘Analysis Laboratory’ department. When finished in 2016, the SanConfind hospital is going to have 10,000 square metres, 100 beds, 230 employees, two surgery rooms, ATI, sterilization department, maternity department, paediatric department, 17 consulting rooms, pharmacy, laundry.

The hospital is being build to the highest standards, will be endowed with the most modern and performing equipments and, we hope, will have an exceptional medical team. In this way Confind will contribute to the solving of lots of health problems for the people in the Prahova Valley area.

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