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IAG: Refining Responsibility

Republished from Energy Today Magazine

In North America and around the world, Houston, Texas-based IAG has staked its claim as the leader in development and program management of refinery projects and turnarounds since starting up in 1995. A subsidiary of the Triten Corporation, the company built a reputation as the single point of responsibility on projects such as grassroots complexes, multi-unit revamps/turnarounds, and emergency plant repairs.

Today the company has its execution office in Houston and sales offices in Chicago, Kansas City, and Guildford, England. IAG was initially formed to focus primarily on FCC revamps because these main gasoline producing units in refineries wear out over time and need to be upgraded. IAG believed from the start that it could do those projects better and faster, with higher quality and lower cost, than the competition.

“Throughout our history, we’ve shown that we can do just that,” said Scott Pappas, executive VP of corporate development.

Bringing Projects Together

The key to the company’s initial success was an alliance with Illinois-based UOP, the leading licensor in the world for refining technology. UOP has FCC technology as part of its portfolio, and IAG is its execution partner. That alliance has grown over the years even as IAG has diversified into other areas.

For example, IAG expanded into areas like insured events and gas processing. The company also has a large gas processing project going to the field now that’s worth more than $1 billion in capital, has moved toward renewable projects along with UOP, and is working on hydroprocessing revamps.

“We’ve also participated in grassroots projects, as a natural extension of our proven success,” said Paul Switzer, executive VP and GM. “We have developed unique work methods to support fast-track projects, and that has driven our secondary niche because clients are interested in speed as well as cost, and fast-track execution is one of our specialties.”

IAG: Refining ResponsibilityIAG’s success in delivering on projects has a lot to do with focus on detail in selecting the right subcontractors. Switzer said choosing the right subcontractor for a job is one of the most important strategic goals on every project, and IAG makes its decisions based on the highest probability for success. On every project, IAG goes through a stringent process of evaluating subcontractors, and it is not always focused on the commercial side of proposals.

“Although cost effectiveness is critical, performance has to be there as well,” said Switzer, noting that IAG does a lot of repeat business with subcontractors based on past experience. “Subcontractors must perform above industry standards, and we evaluate their personnel, systems, and work processes, including going through an interview process for key positions to make sure we get ‘A’ teams.”

People and Process

IAG is not a cap-heavy company, so most of its major investments are focused on staff. The company has 190 employees, and its recruitment effort is mostly focused on referrals from current employees and customers. Employees spend about a year in its comprehensive training process getting used to IAG’s processes, not just in tools and technology, but also ideology and culture.

“What we are mainly looking for is experience. We need people with vast industry knowledge who like our entrepreneurial business model, as well as the spirit of how we work on projects. That is how we get people with strong backgrounds that can bring critical experience and advice to make us continue to evolve as a company,” he explained.

“From my perspective, it is critical to embrace change, and as we bring people in, we are interested in what they see and how they can help us continue our evolution as a company,” he added. “We’re always looking for new ideas, and we meticulously go through completed projects from a lessons-learned perspective to find the positives and negatives so we can continue improving.”

The company spends a great deal of time and effort ironing out its internal processes to make project delivery as efficient as possible. Switzer said many companies use canned work processes, but those produce canned results. IAG’s specific work processes are driven by technology, schedule, and cost, which Switzer said allows IAG to provide better results than any competitor.

In the end, the driving force behind IAG is its ability to deliver a quality product. That ability also drives diversification and growth initiatives; IAG doesn’t grow for growth’s sake. The company’s battle cry is to temper growth and diversification based on its ability to execute for clients.

In the last six or seven years, IAG has shown that it can indeed execute, and growth has been the norm. Now, the company is trying to control growth and stay targeted on specific areas within industries where it can bring value. The company doesn’t try to be everything to everyone. It gets requests for a great deal of repeat business, but it stays true to its core so it can maintain a high level of customer satisfaction. That targeted approach is built around places where IAG can bring fast-track projects and real-time cost and schedule controls to bear.

The company has thus far been able to find the right balance of projects inside and outside its main sector. That has helped balance the cyclical nature of its industries. IAG has also managed to maintain the right mix between younger, less experienced people and those who are older and more experienced in its employee pipeline so it can carry on the business model and work processes it has developed.

“IAG is a special place to work. We attract the best people in the industry because we have a unique atmosphere and business model with great customers,” concluded Pappas.

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