War Stories: Where in the World is Jim Langley?
May 1, 2017
by Jessica Loomis
For this edition of War Stories, we interviewed Senior Associate Jim Langley about one of his international projects. Several years ago, Jim was retained by a Latin American oil and refining company to evaluate two environmentally driven process technologies. One was the old, proven technology that accomplished 95% of the client’s objectives, the other a new, rather exotic approach that would accomplish 98%.
They arranged for him to travel to several operating locations in Canada, Scandinavia, and northern and southern Europe to observe the two processes and meet with operating personnel. The owners of both processes were very pleased with their decisions, answered all of Jim’s questions and offered insights about their experiences. There was clear support for the new, more effective process.
However, over the course of his investigations he learned that the new process (at that stage in its development) was very dependent on precise calibration and maintenance of the sensors and other instrumentation involved. Inaccurate information and loss of control of the reactor could damage the catalyst, and possibly the reactor itself. The older, less productive process was much more “forgiving”.
Later meetings with the client confirmed that in the remote location planned, it was difficult to train and retain staff, and spare parts tended to disappear. Despite evidence that the newer process would accomplish the client’s objective more efficiently, Jim’s final recommendation was for the older process.
At Stillwater, we strive to answer the questions we are asked by our clients, and must help them make decisions knowing the impact our recommendations have on their overall business. We have learned that certain cutting edge ideas may not be ready for “prime time”, and that all circumstances must be weighed carefully before making a decision that could impact the quality and effectiveness of the client’s objective. Zooming out and looking at the big picture is important. Call us before you invest, and benefit from our hard-won experience.