Martin Craighead became president and chief executive officer of Baker Hughes on 1 January 2012. He joined the company in 1986 and has served in various engineering, operations, managerial, and executive positions throughout North America, Latin America, and Asia Pacific. Craighead was named chief operating officer of Baker Hughes in 2009 and was appointed president in July 2010. He earned a BS degree in petroleum and natural gas engineering from Pennsylvania State University and an MBA from Vanderbilt University.

Historically, our industry has been driven by a series of inflection points to re-examine best practices, technologies, or philosophies on how we conduct our business. The most notable of these have often been associated with tragedies such as the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster in the North Sea and, most recently, the Macondo disaster in the US Gulf of Mexico. Piper Alpha led to a wide-scale focus on health, safety, and the environment (HSE), fundamentally changing the way companies viewed safety, and led to orders of magnitude improvement in HSE practices. While the full impact of Macondo is only now being fully understood, it is clear that we will see a similar effect on the way we handle quality, competency, safety critical systems, and contingency planning.

In both of the incidents, external pressure precipitated the cultural or technical shift to a new operating norm, while the capabilities and technology for bridging the gap were available. Until we consider risk management and operational sustainability as business drivers and an equal part of our mission, we will never make the paradigm shift from a reactive to a proactive business model.

The industry’s goal should be an incident-free environment, but government regulation alone will not help the industry achieve that goal. The reservoirs our industry is targeting are more challenging, the environments are harsher, and the technology required is ever more complex. As an industry we must be willing to go far beyond what is regulated—we must fundamentally change the culture of our business to address risk management in our processes, our technology, our talent management, and our safety programs.

Consistent processes and procedures across our business are the foundation for this change. A common operating system not only ensures that we meet regulations in all areas where we work, but also establishes repeatable performance that takes us far beyond what is required. Generally, there is one best way to perform an activity, whether it is solving problems for our customers or developing new products and technology.

Read the entire editorial in the January 2012 issue of JPT.