Shipshaped: Kongsberg industry and innovations in deepwater technology, 1975-2007
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Shipshaped is a thesis on the emergence of an innovative offshore supplier industry. Multiple influences combined to the success of various techniques to extract oil and gas without fixed platforms; this thesis put particular emphasis on the relaxation of hierarchies in fostering innovation. Such disintegration occurred within firms in which empowered employees took on larger responsibilities and between firms. The pace of innovation accelerated where people were allowed to sort out things themselves rather than conforming to directions from above. Initially these conditions were more evident in offshore support services serviced by shipping companies, but practices pioneered in shipping eventually spread to the proper offshore oil industry. Two business units at Kongsberg, Albatross and Kongsberg Offshore, serves as a vantage point for this thesis. Kongsberg Offshore pioneered production systems that help oil companies control the flow of petroleum from a valve tree on the seabed rather than on fixed platforms. Albatross pioneered dynamic positioning, a technique that helps shipping companies maintain their position using propellers rather than mooring lines and anchors. In the 1970s, dynamic positioning rapidly gained a market whereas the oil industry hesitated to introduce subsea production systems. In each case, qualities related to demand for technology as opposed to supply of technology, are central to the conclusions in the thesis. Eventually, oil companies went through a number of changes that aligned the practices of shipping and the practices of oil. These changes in procurement practices, management and institutional framework helped develop an innovative Norwegian supplier industry. The effects showed in profitability, global expansion and the development of advanced capabilities. As of 2007, this thesis argues, supplier industries can combine to handle most tasks associated with an oil company. Their growing capabilities permit innovative and entrepreneurial ways of exploiting oil offshore.
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