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Vulcan: The Offshore Experience


Selling pile driving equiment--especially offshore--requires its own set of skills. Pile driving equipment is a "need-driven" product, i.e., a customer will not consider its purchase without a definite requirement for it. With this, a salesperson must have two attributes for success: a) a thorough knowledge of the product, its application and configuration, and b) a good working relationship with his or her customer base. Vulcan was blessed to have representation with both of these attributes.

As its main theatre of operations was the Gulf of Mexico, Vulcan had two principal customers: McDermott and Brown and Root (whose construction operation was first divested to OPI, then Horizon Offshore.) It also serviced the other offshore contractors in the region, including Santa Fe, Raymond International, Movible Offshore (first Teledyne, then Global), Ingram (which was purchased by McDermott) and Fluor.

But Vulcan also had a wide variety of customers outside of the U.S. These included some of the major platform contractors, such as Heerema, ETPM, Micoperi (whose assets were purchaed by Saipem,) Uglands, Jardine, Hyundai and Nippon Steel. But these also included state owned (full or partial) oil companies which were doing their own platform installation: Aramco (Saudi Arabia), NPCC (UAE), ENAP (Chile), PDVSA (Venezuela), CMM (PEMEX), Brunei Shell, and CNOOC (China). These latter were interesting because they demonstrated two things:

  • Commercial enterprise is possible with the combination of expertise, financing and desire. Although some of these were from major producing countries, others were from countries whose goal was to reduce their dependence on imported oil. Some of the inspiration of this site--to disseminate information that make good foundations possible--has come from the experience of interacting with these customers.
  • International business is possible without many of the treaties that we seem to be told we "have to have" for it to be a reality. For many years Vulcan routinely exported a third of its output for one reason: it had a product that people and organisations found essential to fulfil their own purposes.
On the phone with the customer: Herman Hasenkampf worked for Woodard Wight of New Orleans until 1977 (this photo dates from 1973), when Vulcan hired him directly. He sold a higher dollar volume of Vulcan hammers than any other individual in the history of the product line (click here for an example of the hammers he sold.) A patient relationship builder, he knew everyone in the organisations he called on, from the Chairman of the Board to the stockroom clerk. His knowledge of the product was as thorough as his relationship with his customer.

Woodard Wight's office. Today Howard Avenue in New Orleans is a complex of shops and apartments, but in those days people had to work for a living.

The New Orleans sales office and warehouse, in December 1978.

Vulcan's first offshore literature, issued in 1965.

One of the exasperating things about the cover is its depiction of oil drilling. Except for driving conductor pile, Vulcan's product was used in platform construction, not drilling. Also, the 040 shown had column keys, quite a few of which went into the Gulf before the develoment of cables to hold the hammers together.

A favourite destination of Vulcan personnel was McDermott's yard in Amelia; this photo dates from December 1971.

Both sales and service of Vulcan equipment took the company's personnel to all parts of the world. This photo of the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, was taken by the webmaster from the Beijing Hotel during his visit in March 1981.

Success! The webmaster (signing, on the right) the contract to sell a Vulcan 560 package with spare parts, steam hose and a Johnston marine fire tube boiler to the Petroleum Corporation of the People's Republic of China.

Facing a well entrenched but overconfident Japanese competitor, Vulcan had no previous relationship with the Chinese. After two weeks of intensive negotiations they were able to convince the Chinese to purchase a Vulcan hammer.  The same organisation purchased a second 560 two years later.

Click here for story about an entirely different set of negotiations.

Driven Pile Manual Volume 1a
Driven Pile Manual 1b
Driven Pile Manual 2