VOL. 23, HO. 2 (JUNE 1975), P. 324-339
ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE OF THE OIL INDUSTRY1
(HISTORICAL REVIEW AND THEORETICAL SUGGESTION FOR HEALTHY FUTURE EVOLUTION)
By HAJIME (JIM) FUJIWARA2
Traditionally, we tend to categorize an industry according to its status at a given moment in its history; thus our definition of that industry becomes static. For the purpose of better understanding the basic character of industry, a dynamic model based on its historical evolution is required. An application of the familiar three-point diagram (MTK Diagram) which seems suitable to explain the basic character of industry in general, and the oil industry in particular, is introduced in this paper.
Manpower (Labour), Technology (Machines) and Knowledge (Information) are placed at the apexes of the triangle. A plotted point on the MTK Diagram indicates a quantitative (and qualitative) representation of each of these three elements.
The recognition of the interrelation between the productivity of an industry and the trend of that industry toward the "knowledge" apex is the most important result of the application of the MTK Diagram. According to the MTK Diagram, the oil industry shows a particularly strong trend toward knowledge orientation when compared with other industries.
The oil industry can be subdivided into five principal components: Exploration, Production, Transportation, Refining and Marketing. It is well known that each component of the oil industry maintains its own potential economic power and substantial organizational structure when compared to other industries.
Judging from this feature, it is possible to define the oil industry as a conglomeratic super-industry forming a unitized entity around petroleum. These strong knowledge-oriented and conglomeratic super-features explain why the oil industry has become the biggest business in this century. According to the MTK Diagram, the Exploration Group shows the most strongly knowledge-oriented character among the industry's five principal components. Public recognition of the character of oil exploration could be a key in minimizing present misunderstanding regarding the oil industry. It is vital at the present stage of conflict, characterized by political pressures toward government participation, nationalization, expropriation and so on, to make this role widely understood. To avoid diversion of our industrial society from healthy development, the destiny of the oil industry must be carefully determined. More discussions, based on the wisdom and discernment of man, are indispensable if the coming generation is to benefit.
1This paper was prepared in October 1973 for presentation at the Economic Symposium organized by Mount Royal College, Calgary. However, this symposium was postponed indefinitely due to the occurrence of the oil crisis on the international scene, and the confusing developments both in the petroleum industry and in intergovernmental relations in Canada. The author would like to thank Mount Royal College and the Chairman, Mr. S. Hayakawa, for the opportunity to synthesize my ideas regarding the oil industry.
Petrofina Canada Ltd. allotted time and typing services for the preparation of this paper and provided drafting assistance.
The author also gratefully acknowledges G. L. Bush and E. S. Spurgeon who critically read the manuscript and provided many valuable suggestions.
2Petrofina Canada Ltd., 736 Eighth Avenue Southwest, Calgary, Alberta.
Expropriation, nationalization (Odell, 1970), participation (Mosley, 1973), etc. -- these strong and emotional words flood today's international political and economic scene and the oil industry is swept off its feet! The Middle East, Europe, North America and other places all over the world clamour for the breakup and reorganization of the relationships between petroleum-producing countries and the oil industry. They do this with a view toward a reduction or elimination of the control by the multinational corporation, a process which could ultimately lead to the demise of the free enterprise system (United States Congress, 1970). The general trend of skepticism that has arisen regarding the present role of the oil industry in the development and prosperity of today's industrial society offers that industry a unique opportunity to renew people's understanding of the historical importance of the "oil company." However, the oil industry as yet has made no adequate response.
Today's confusion seems to be a natural consequence of the long-standing ignorance of the basic characteristics of the oil industry on the part of both governments and industrialists. This confusion will certainly benefit neither developed nor producing countries. On the contrary, it might be the beginning of worsening relationships with oil-producing countries or between governments and industry in the future. The oil-producing countries, and some nationalization-oriented governments, cannot be free of blame for this confusion. Both government and the oil industry, one eager to nationalize and the other fighting against being nationalized, have to have a clear and distinct concept about the industry's basic characteristics. Otherwise, they will end up cutting out the belly of the "goose for a golden black egg." Both parties should sit down and review the historical evolution of industry before they decide the ways and means to cope with the situation.
Before getting into the main theme of this discussion, let me digress. No attempt has ever been made to clarify the basic characteristics of the oil industry, especially as to the underlying reasons that helped it grow into the biggest of all world industry today. It seems that the governments of both oil-producing and oil-consuming countries, together with the oil capitalists, do not have a clear perspective as to what should be done in the future. They are all indulging in day-to-day transactions or financial matters related to these transactions. The capital, or the assets of oil companies, is one important facet of the industry, but without giving consideration to all aspects of the business the industry will gain limited growth in the future. Today's society has a limited view of these economic facets; nevertheless, the organizational structure, especially the energy-finding facet of the industry, is as important as the economic facet. Without recognizing the total organizational characteristic of the oil industry, it is impossible to determine the proper direction the industry should take. If ignorance in this matter is left as is, and becomes the main cause of more friction between oil-producing countries and international oil companies, or between governments and the industry, the resulting conflict might present a problem never to be solved. This would be the saddest thing for all human beings.
With my background as an exploration geologist, I may not be the right man to make a contribution toward the settlement of the problem, but few historians or economists have ever made any contribution to speak about. Hence, I feel I have to venture into someone else's territory to expand my own ideas.
When industrial structures of society are classified, industries are generally categorized as primary, secondary and tertiary in the field of economics, sociology, and geography. This classification is used in government statistics as well as in those data published by the United Nations or like organizations. I have no idea who started this classification, but it can easily be applied to all industries, using the following definitions (Fig. I):
--Primary (Resources Industry)
Industry to produce natural products or raw materials
--Secondary (Manufacturing Industry)
Processing of raw materials into end products
--Tertiary (Service Industry)
Producing or supplying a nonmaterial economic good
This static modelling is convenient to use in text books in outlining general ideas, but it fails to express the dynamic changes industries are undergoing at present, especially when the probable future estimates on the industries are made by quantitative statistical methods or simulation. For example, in the case of the oil industry -- one that covers the three classifications of primary, secondary and tertiary industries -- it is impossible to define the distinct boundary of each phase if this static modelling is applied. The reason that a theoretical analysis of the structural organization of the oil industry has not been made may lie in this point.
I have tried many different ways of expressing various aspects of industries that cannot be represented by the static modelling system. As a result, one was developed which can be called "dynamic modelling." It is still premature to say anything definite regarding the absolute utility and merit of this concept, but so far as grasping the mobile phases of industries goes I believe it is far better than applying the static modelling system. In the diagram of Figure 2, at each apex of a triangle I have placed M for Manpower-oriented industry, T for Technology-oriented and K for Knowledge-oriented industry. Human history of the past several thousand years will show how industrial development has been made by shifting from a Manpower-oriented industry to a Technology-oriented industry. Industry based on serfs, peasants and apprentices in past ages was replaced by that of the wage labourers during the Industrial Revolution, which again was replaced by that of the labourers in automated plants in controlled societies of the twentieth century (Ferkiss, 1969). In the latter half of the twentieth century, industries are directed toward greater knowledge orientation while still retaining technology-oriented characteristics. This can be shown by examining the percentage of each of these phases in the various industries.
An analytical study of the patterns of industrial activities will now be discussed. I believe it might tentatively be called an "MTK Diagram." Figure 3 shows how the diagram is to be applied. This type of diagram is quite often used in expressing melting phases and composition in mineralogy and thermodynamics. The principle is not hard to understand and is convenient in representing three interrelated activities.
The three apexes of the diagram show 100 per cent of each component and the opposite bases show zero. To illustrate one example, point A is situated at a position showing 20 per cent of the M element, 60 per cent of the T element and 20 per cent of the K element. This means that this particular industry, taken as an example, shows 20 per cent for manpower, 60 per cent for technology and 20 per cent for knowledge. The industry, therefore, can be categorized as a fairly Technology-oriented industry. Likewise, point B shows 10 per cent for labour and also that the industry has a fair amount of technology based on knowledge as the main factor. Thus, at a glance, the MTK Diagram can show in what proportion these three elements are involved in any industry. Any points plotted near the apex of any MTK Diagram reveal the dominant characteristics of that industry.
There is the possibility, I believe, that the Manpower, Technology and Knowledge content of today's industries will be rearranged under a new concept of a knowledge-dominated technology referred to as "software oriented." Those pointing to hardware domination will lag behind or will undergo lesser developments while the others, that is, software type, will make striding progress. The extent to which Technology-oriented industry can go is now being shown by technological industry's confrontation with the problem of pollution, and by the limited economic effect often called zero growth which is a focus of discussion among economists and politicians. This is comparable to a certain stage where the development of airplanes was halted, the so-called "mach boundary" which took a tremendous effort for the industry to overcome. It is a contortion which has to be overcome and straightened before an industry can make another step forward.
Figure 4 shows how these three elements, manpower, technology and knowledge, define the characteristics of industry in its dynamic phase. No. 1 is the Manpower-oriented, No. 3, the Technology-oriented and No. 5, the Knowledge-oriented industrial pattern, whereas No. 2 is Manpower-to Technology-oriented and No. 4, Technology- to Knowledge-oriented. As has been previously explained, the pattern of industry has changed from No. 1 to No. 2 and thence to No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5. Historically, this pattern of evolution has been proved and is depicted in the lower left part of Figure 4, as the arrow indicates. The arrow depicts the progress of industries, in general, and especially is characteristic of industries in the latter half of the twentieth century, and shows where the black circle belongs beside the arrow, or point A of Figure 3 in its constructive elements. An interesting but exceptional pattern is in the lower right part of Figure 4, in which industry evolution moves directly from manpower-oriented to knowledge-oriented. This exceptional pattern is frequently seen in the service industry (Tertiary Industry) of today. It is a significant phenomenon.
What is called the primary industry by the static model is mostly located either in No. 1 or No. 2 of Figure 4, and the secondary is in No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4, while the tertiary industry takes a pattern as shown in Figure 5. However, its evolution, as depicted in the lower right part, is entirely different. It can be concluded from this that although the primary and secondary industries as depicted by the static model have a certain continuity between the two, the tertiary industry is something entirely different. Consequently, a vertical linkage from primary to tertiary industries, as has been done in the past, is theoretically inapplicable. This erroneous linking of the three phases of industry is a great mistake. The tertiary industry does not rest on the secondary industry, nor can the secondary industry acquire the characteristic of the tertiary industry. Just as primary and secondary industry go from labour- to technology-oriented, and finally on to knowledge-oriented patterns, the tertiary industry may well be said to be evolving straight from labour-oriented to knowledge-oriented, skipping the stage of a technology-oriented industry.
Figure 5 shows the application of the MTK Diagram on the order of productivity of various industrial patterns on the basis of the above-stated understanding. You will see if you compare the sales per capita quoted from the May 1973 issue of "Fortune" magazine there is a marked co-relationship between the strength of productivity and the MTK. The oil industry, placed at the top, shows that it has higher percentage not only of technology but also of knowledge. In other industries, which fall below the oil industry in order of productivity, highly efficient plants as well as skilled workers play a major role in maintaining high productivity. Exceptions are the food, beverage, broadcasting, publishing and cosmetic industries, which are directly concerned with the activities of the mass communication media.
The lowest in per capita productivity, as shown in the lowest column of the diagram, are those manufacturing industries of home appliances, textiles, apparel and furniture, all of which depend upon medium-skilled labours.
It may not be an exaggeration to say the oil industry reigns supreme over all others in the twentieth century, for no other industry approaches it in scale (Tugendhat, 1968). The image of other industries pales in contrast to that of the oil industry, and history will show it to have left a monumental footprint.
In the process of the changing phases of civilization over the past 70 years, no other resource has been so closely and directly associated with this change as oil. The colossal size of the oil industry, with its tremendous impact on other industries, will convince anyone that the foregoing is not an exaggeration. Tables 1 and 2, which follow, clearly show this impact to be no illusion.
Table 1 shows data taken from "Fortune" magazine, which ranks by sales value the world's 20 largest enterprises. In each instance the number of employees involved in the generation of sales is also shown. The position of the oil industry is self-explanatory to anyone who has ever taken a look at this table. Out of the 20 blockbusters of the world's industries, 7 are oil companies. Even if 50 or 100 of the largest companies were listed in Table 2, I doubt if I would be wrong in saying the oil industry would constitute 25 per cent of them.
I believe that the largest industry on earth is oil. Historically, the politics of the world have been revolving around these oil resources, especially over the past 70 years. History will show to what extent countries will go to acquire these resources, or use them for their own political means. It was for no other reason than the presence of oil fields in Carpathia and the Caucasus that the world's politics were focused on the Balkan Peninsula during the period before the outbreak of World War I. It also should not be overlooked that the German government, having an eye on oil interests in Mesopotamia, used extensive political pressure in the interest of a German oil concern. There is no need now to reiterate the fact that during World War II Germany again acted aggressively toward the oil interests in the Balkan Peninsula and Carpathia, initiating an invasion employing Panzer units to ensure their speedy capture (Leach, 1973). The same historical pattern was repeated by Japan on expanding the war zone from China to Indonesia and Burma, in order to break through the oil embargo established by America, Britain, China and Holland just before Pearl Harbor ("Look," Editors of 1946). Moreover, the oil embargo tactics undertaken by the Arab oil-producing countries during late 1973 have had a strong econo-political impact all over the world; oil has played an important role in two great wars and in the present international political scene.
Recognition of the importance of oil resources has been brought home to most people by the present energy shortage. However, management, including many oil industry economists, have failed to make an accurate analysis of the industry and have contributed to the misunderstanding about its role.
Table 1 lists the 20 largest corporations of the world. All top-level companies are in this list, headed by General Motors. The company registers total annual sales of $30,435,000,000. Once the president of the company is reported to have said proudly, "Our interest, or the profit of this company of ours, represents the profit of the whole nation, and the reverse is true." "He may be right" is all we could perhaps have thought. However, the colossal sales figure for this company obscures one important aspect to which I would like to draw your attention -- that of the total sales value per head. The per head sales value of this giant company, the world's largest, is now only one-third of that of Exxon
In order to make the contrast clearer, I have compared two companies, No. 1 and No. 2, but the same may be found with industry as a whole when the oil industry is compared with other industries. Per head sales value of the oil industry is about $117,000, while that of other industries, on an average, is $32,500. This clearly shows there is a distinct line drawn between the two groups.
In this list Royal Dutch Shell, which recorded the lowest sales value per employee in the group of oil companies listed, is still far above any of the other industrial companies. This shows that not only is the oil industry largest in scope, but collectively it also generates more sales value per employee than most other industries. The first reason for a high sales value per employee is that the basic characteristics of the oil industry are much more sophisticated than in most other industries where labour and technology count much more. The second is that oil, gas and their fluid products lend themselves to a high degree of automation.
For a great majority of people who are already familiar with the major oil industry activities of drilling and refining, this sophistication may not be appreciated in the light of the high technical achievements in these areas. I would put it this way: The oil industry has been built basically on "knowledge" -- not, as many would believe, only on technology. I believe I am correct in saying that the oil industry is the first industry undergoing an evolution from a technology-oriented to a knowledge-oriented industry (Fujiwara, 1973).
Most of us picture refining plants or gasoline stations when we think of the oil industry. It is not just the people who live in industrialized areas but most of the people in the world who think this way. But this is not the whole industry. What, then, is the true picture?
Figure 6 answers this question.
As far as the present stage of the industrial evolution is concerned, we may define the oil industry as systematically comprising the stages of exploration, production, transportation, refining and marketing. In the future, the petrochemical industry will either be included in this category or form an independent branch of the industry itself. Among professional specialists, the industry is frequently divided into two large groups, one called "the up stream" and the other "the down stream." Briefly, the up-stream industry will comprise the following:
Investigate areas where oil or gas might be located.
Drill the place where oil or gas is to be found and bring the product to the surface.
The down-stream industry will consist of:
Transport the oil or gas and their by-products by tankers, or pipelines, rail, truck, to the consuming area.
Separate the oil into oil products.
Distribute the oil products by means of distribution channels.
The above five branches form the basic elements of the oil industry. Each branch forms an industry in itself.
Each of these five branches of the industry has different characteristics which show considerable irregularity when MTK Diagrams are applied (Fig. 7).
The oil industry, truly, is a conglomarate, forming a unitized entity around oil. This phenomenon will, I believe, support me in saying that such huge industrial concerns as Lytton, ITT, LTV, or some of the Japanese Zaibatsu groups should be called agglomarates. Both conglomarate and agglomarate originated from the geological terms conglomerate and agglomerate. However, they can now be used as terms for business economics more correctly, not because the writer is a geologist but because of coincidental similarities in the connotations of the concept. The oil industry is a conglomarate formed around a matrix, which is oil. This fact will serve as a clue to understanding why and how the oil industry has become the unprecedented colossal industry of the world.
Now, the MTK Diagram when applied to each stage of the oil industry shows the exploration branch, which is in the up-stream, to be strongly indicative of being knowledge-oriented. Why this is so will be disclosed as you take a closer look at the stage of industry where discovering oil is the main job.
The principal job of the exploration department of an oil company is to explore for and discover oil or gas. But this function is only one of the five basic branches comprising the total oil industry. The four other departments or branches must work together to make the product a useful contribution to human society.
Now, in order to find the significance of the petroleum industry in the light of the evolution of all industry, it might be worth while to make a projection of each of the branches of the oil industry into the future. The stages up to the discovery of oil are software-oriented, whereas production, transportation, refining, and marketing are mostly hardware-oriented.
Why, then, is the exploration stage software-oriented?
The answer becomes clear when exploration activities are analytically reviewed. Before we do this, however, we should define more clearly what knowledge is, because it is "knowledge" that steers those that are called "knowledge oriented" in the direction of the "software oriented" industry. Any standard dictionary contains a host of definitions of knowledge. However, knowledge is not only the mere accumulation of information. Knowledge has to be synthesized and appraised in order to be meaningfully employed under specific circumstances.
A presumptive deduction as to the whereabouts of hydrocarbons can only be made by synthesizing all information obtained and by applying systematized knowledge and scientific imagination on the data available at a specific time under given circumstances (Fujiwara, 1974). The people who do this work are exploration geologists, experienced in the gathering and interpretation of geological data, and the so-called "oilmen" -- management -- who deserve this name in classic terminology with professional respect. These data, to be effectively used, must be synthesized by the many specialists, i.e. the geologist, paleontologist, geophysicist, for example, who have expertise in the many areas of work.
All elements must be brought into harmony toward the discovery of hydrocarbons, using the most up-to-date techniques and the aggregate of systematized knowledge. The organization that enables the above segments to work at their highest efficiency is the exploration division, where knowledge plays an important role. However, little will be gained if management is not in close association with these efforts. Consequently, all other things being equal, whether an oil company is to be an excellent one or not is often determined by the quality of the personnel in this particular segment, and how these personnel are being trained. In other words, organizational potential and performance are a direct result of the ability to achieve exploratory targets by the maximum effective application of scientific and creative imagination upon an oil play (Fujiwara, 1973). In addition, the financial and managerial capabilities of organizations require effectiveness and efficiency to realize this initial task.
I would like to emphasize the fact that only through the intellectual challenge of true exploration will we avoid failure and differentiate oil exploration from gambling.
The oil industry, therefore, can be defined as mostly hardware-oriented when the other four divisions are analyzed. Moreover, the oil industry could be defined as an "information industry" dedicated to supplying energy resources through the media of knowledge and technology. This categorization will become an accepted one in the not too distant future. It is a fact that the oil industry was started as an information-based industry as early as half a century ago, and that its product has become an indispensable item regardless of individual taste. This is what has made the industry the unprecedented colossal enterprise that it is.
The diversified phases of the various components within the oil industry, and the differences between them, need to be examined before any discussion occurs about the role that industry is to play in the future. Otherwise, there is a great danger of burying the kernel of the problem in the entanglements of negotiations between the oil industry and its various adversaries, be they the governments of major oil-consuming countries or the governments of the oil-producing countries. This entanglement of negotiations is one of the primary factors leading to the current confusion in international politics. Some governments of oil-consuming and oil-producing countries obviously believe that ownership of 51 per cent of the total shares of an oil company would guarantee perfect control of that company, whereas the oil capitalists or the international oil companies are afraid that they may lose control of management if the industry is nationalized. The oil industry cannot be owned by holding 51 per cent or even 100 per cent of the shares, for this just means ownership of the shares or assets. The mere possession of the building, mining rights or pipeline network and refinery would mean nothing. Even if 51 per cent of the shares of a company are owned, the potential of management together with the efficiency of exploration activities is lowered if there is less possibility of finding new oil-producing sources. This, after all, is the future of all companies. An oil company, having no potential of finding a new oil source, could be compared to the castoff skin of a cicada. However majestic a building the company is located in, and whatever brilliant records it may have in the past, is no measure of its future success.
I passed by the walls of Balclutha, and they were desolate . . .
Ossian (C. Lamb, 1823)
It is a pitifully ridiculous farce to try to own an organization already lifeless, and it is even as much a social crime as trying to kill elephants to obtain ivory. It is a crime against future generations!
It is worrisome to see so many organizations and so many people of unlimited potential destroyed is discouraged just to satisfy the publicity-seeking of the politician or the selfish egotism of the capitalists who see nothing beyond the horizon. Indeed, the oil industry requires indefatigable courage and imagination, since it needs vast resources to be thrown in the fray before anything is produced. At this moment, when there are a multitude of organizations with a great number of excellent brains working toward fruitful results, there also exist (Halbouty, 1965) on the other hand some capitalists and politicians who rest easily on the work and toil of these people, thinking the future of the industry can be controlled just by nationalization. Nevertheless, the worst danger for the knowledge-oriented exploration industry, which should have a leading role in fulfilling human needs over the next century, is bureaucratism (Parkinson, 1957). I am not aware of any government throughout history which was free of this danger. Efficiency and effectiveness are generally not concordant with the bureaucratic system, and one doubts if nationalization can be independent of bureaucracy. Exploration, which is the brain centre of the oil industry, should be strenuously protected against the evil of bureaucracy if this most dynamic and pioneering industry of the twentieth century is to survive. An eminent cultural critic has predicted the arrival of the age of "ad-hocracy" in the near future (Toffler, 1970). However, we may already be in the initial stages of its development. We should all be aware that we are now at the acme of bureaucratic society with plenty of "Red Tapers" (Toynbee, 1960) and "Clock Watchers" (Crandail, 1969) forming a hierarchy even in the free-enterprise based oil exploration organizations! Moreover, if the most sophisticated organization gropes in the dark to use the existing mountain of knowledge effectively (VonFange, 1959), how much more is required of the average governmental organization. I would like to consider the prediction of the arrival of ad-hocracy in the near future only under the proposition that the near future is not going to be made tomorrow but is being made today (Drucker, 1964). One of the main tasks for us is to make available undiscovered hydrocarbons for our energy-hungry society, and not allow our knowledge-oriented industry to be caught in the trap of bureaucracy.
We must fulfill the needs of the time on frontiers of all kinds -- from geographic, technological and scientific frontiers to social, economic and political frontiers. Moreover, the control of industry through regulation or direct nationalization without consideration of the industry's organizational character does not seem to be appropriate in the case of a knowledge-oriented industry. Private property is never wholly private, free enterprise never wholly free (Samuelson, 1973) from social evolution, but it need not become a sacrifice to a blind and impulsive power struggle. The power and wealth of the "Energy Tiger"* (Finn, 1969) should be domesticated by the wisdom and discernment of man for the benefit of the coming generation, but the progressiveness and brain power of the oil industry should be carefully preserved. It is generally accepted that the life of current oil reserves will be exhausted in 30 years, but it is also a fact that there are enormous reserves to be discovered within that period (Rocks et al., 1972; Halbouty, 1969).
No stone should be left unturned to make the industry grow into a more efficient and effective organization to produce the energy needed to serve the world in the progress of human society.
*Redefined here to include some energy-producing and -consuming nations.
Crandail, Kenneth, 1969, Putting exploration back into focus: Am. Assoc. Petroleum Geologists Bull., v. 53, no. 10.
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