President’s Corner: 60 Years of Billy Pugh Co.

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President’s Corner: 60 Years of Billy Pugh Co.

2017 marks the 60 year of Billy Pugh Co.  Billy actually built the first personnel basket in 1955 and then incorporated the company in 1957.  As the story goes, Billy was a deck hand on a work boat working in the Gulf of Mexico supporting the “Mr. Gus” (a 16 leg drilling platform).  Billy became concerned that moving the workers from the boat to the rig was a dangerous activity and thought he had a better idea than just having them hang on to a cargo net and be lifted off the deck holding on “the best they could”.  When he suggested to the rig manager that he had a better idea, he was told to get back to work.  A few days later, a serious accident occurred and Billy was summoned by the same rig manager to see what his safer idea was.  Billy then built the first personnel basket for the “Mr. Gus” and the beginnings of Billy Pugh Company were established.  He patented the idea and the company grew exponentially as did the offshore oil and gas business.

In all of the 60 years of business there have only been two Presidents of the company, Billy from 1957 until 1989 and from 1989 to the present, myself.   The company has seen many ups and downs -not only in our products but also the cyclic behavior of the offshore oil and gas industry.  It’s just part of working in the oil and gas business and anyone who has… can relate!

In 1990 shortly after I took over from Billy, I brought my brother Frank on as General Manager and he had a tremendous influence on the culture of the company.   As with many small companies, things had been done a certain way for many years and with Frank’s new management style and vision, we made major changes to the production/quality side of the company.  First and foremost, cleanliness and organization were job one.  Right off the bat we became a better, more efficient company.   We did lots of small things like providing uniforms for the production personnel and generally created more of a positive work environment.   Through all of these years, we always feel that our employees are our greatest asset and we do our best to treat them as we would want to be treated.  Our compensation and benefits have reflected this culture.

From the sales and marketing side, we also began to “thin out” the number of companies that were representing us.  This allowed us to work with strong/well established distribution that had similar values to ourselves.  It also allowed us to have distributors stocking our products.  Stocking orders provided them better volume pricing and economies of scale for us.  Having “stockists” also created better deliveries for the contractors and operators using our products.  Instead of waiting for a personnel net to be built, one of our “Master Distributors” would now have it ready to deliver to the shore base that within just a few days.

The single biggest change to the scope of the company occurred with the development of the X-904 personnel transfer device.  Our company spent two years in the development phase of the X-904 with many focus groups, group meetings as well as countless discussions of what was needed with offshore industry experts.  We studied accident data and concentrated on the highest risk aspects of the transfer process.  We took input from upper management to roustabouts.  Starting with drawings, then small scale models and finally prototypes, the process was arduous but worth the effort.  Testing was supported by both drillers and operators who were kind enough to participate in this long term effort. The end result was the best, safest and most successful product in our company history.  I think it’s a testament to the safety of the industry when you have companies willing to help in the development of a product for the sole reason to create a safer environment for not only their workers but the offshore industry at large.

The recent downturn has been the most difficult time in our history all the way back to the inception of the company, only the early 80’s can compare and (from what I am told) this downturn is worse.   Even with the necessary cutbacks in staff and expenses, we continue to keep our same corporate culture.
Thank you to all of the men and women who have made Billy Pugh Company an industry standard.  Billy Pugh Co is a name synonymous with the offshore oil and gas industry and we take pride in that fact.    We hope to be around for another sixty years- still listening to our customers’ needs and providing them peace of mind. They know that they are supplying their employees offshore with the best available safety and personnel transfer equipment in the world.