5 Questions with Lee Eslicker, founder and president of D&L Oil Tools
BY ROD WALTON World Staff Writer
Friday, November 30, 2012
11/30/12 at 4:46 AM
Lee Eslicker is founder and president of D&L Oil Tools, a Tulsa company that provides downhole equipment to oil and gas producers domestically and internationally. D&L produces and sells packers, valves, retrieval tools and plugs, among other products. Many of the company's employees, including Eslicker, started with the family-owned Arrow Oil Tools.
1: How did you get involved in the oil tool business?
My family had a tool company, and I started working in the shop when I was 13 years old. I came back after college and joined the company full time, working in all aspects of manufacturing. The company was sold in 1981, and I stayed with the new company until my wife and I founded D&L - named for my children, Dan and Lauren - in 1999.
2: Can you describe your company's local operation?
We do all of our manufacturing at our plant in west Tulsa. In addition, we have a nickel-plating operation in Cleveland, Okla., and an affiliated company that makes all of our custom-molded rubber components.
In total we employ about 275 people. We're enrolled - for the second time - in the Oklahoma Quality Jobs Program and anticipate hiring 100 more people between 2012 and 2015.
3: You just announced a major expansion, adding a second manufacturing facility on Southwest Boulevard and hiring 20 additional workers. Can you tell us a little more about that good news?
We have run out of room for new equipment at our plant, so since June of this year we've purchased about 15 CNC lathes and mills and set them up in a rented facility about four miles from our main plant.
That facility has been operational on first shift since then, and at the end of November we'll be starting a second shift at that location. When that's running, we will have increased our production capacity by about 25 percent.
We still have openings for at least 20 machinists.
4: What is the biggest change in building downhole tools now compared with when you started?
The increased emphasis on material traceability, quality records, industry certifications, etc. - especially since the BP spill - has changed the way we build tools. We've had our ISO 9001 certification for about seven years and are currently pursuing API-Q1 certification.
Consolidation in the industry has reduced the number of independent tool companies. When we started, 100 percent of our business was domestic, 80 percent of it in Texas and Oklahoma. Today almost 40 percent of our equipment is exported all over the world.
5: Companies like National Oilwell Varco have been diversifying and buying up competitors. How does D&L compete and stay independent?
Most of our larger competitors have become customers in the past few years. They have recognized the value of having a smaller company - with lower overhead and the ability to provide equipment quickly - produce certain products for them. We would lose that flexibility if we became a part of their much larger organizations.
Also, I have a son, daughter and son-in-law who are all intimately involved in the business, so my wife and I are motivated to keep the business independent so it can be passed on to them someday.
STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World