It is well-known that I like to find companies that deal with interesting things, and are not so well known to the general public, and the only thing better than that is when those companies find me. One of them is Cenosco, a company started two decades ago in the Netherlands, which today employs 60 employees in offices in Pula, The Hague and Zagreb. Cenosco is primarily involved in risk management in the oil industry, working with clients such as Shell and the Dutch government.
I have to admit that I never knew too much about how pipelines, oil platforms and industrial plants for the processing of derivatives are maintained, but after hanging out with Josip Hrvatin and Marcel Sminia from Cenosco, I became an expert in this area, at the very least.
All jokes aside, I tried to demystify the area they are dealing with and discover that they not only use very interesting systems but also developed their own graphics engine, use VR and AR technologies very seriously and explore Artificial intelligence making them an extremely interesting place to work especially for almost all developers.
But what exactly is Cenosco and what challenges did they face to get to where they are today? In the simplest terms, a company that produces software for risk management and the engineering industry – IMS (Integrity Management System). Marcel explained more:
We were founded in the beginning of 2000 as a Dutch company, but today we can easily call ourself a company from Croatia since most of our employees are from Croatia. We started as a software company without affiliation with any industry, but we started working with Shell in almost the first year of our business, and we continue to this day. It was a project related to risk and reliability at refineries. Over the years, this and other projects for Shell have taken more and more resources and we have slowly expanded our company.
Controlling invaluable equipment
Because it is very easy to get lost in a variety of concepts related to this very complicated industry, I directly asked Marcel what exactly IMS is and how it functions to benefit the clients. Marcel says:
IMS is useful to its clients in several ways. First, it is important to emphasize that managing an oil and gas plants is not something we can think of in the room and then create. There are many rules and regulations, and one of them is management inspections to better understand the condition of your equipment. If the situation is bad, you
risk environmental, financial, reputational and other problems and consequences. We can talk here about shutdowns such as oil platforms, but also about explosions and environmental disasters.
Cenosco’s IMS seeks to be a system that monitors what is happening with the equipment in one place and gives a cleaner picture of how to maintain it better. Software like this is mandatory in the industry and is often what makes the plants more efficient and secure, not only for those who work in them, but also for the ecosystem as a whole.
In Croatia for more than a decade
Marcel adds that through years of collaboration with Shell they gained very valuable first-hand knowledge of the oil and gas industry, which has made them a bit of a niche company that is small and easy to adapt to, but again has extensive experience in the field which is incredibly complex and large. Today, Cenosco can easily understand the needs of such large clients and systems, as Marcel puts it: “Through only a few lines in an email”.
In 2015, Cenosco developed IMS (Integrity Management System), a system that was quickly implemented throughout Shell, and then made available to other clients. It is this system and the development of further applications for Shell and other clients since 2015 that has greatly accelerated the growth of this company, but also confronted them with unexpected problems. Namely, more work comes with higher costs, and Cenosco constantly has to compete with a multi-favorable workforce from India.
The cost of the work was also one of the reasons why Cenosco opened an office in Pula with more than 40 developers working today. The fact that Pula is relatively close to the main office in The Hague and the same time zone certainly played a huge role in helping this company grow. My interluctors add that the mentality in Croatia is quite similar to the Dutch one.
Developers, where are you?
Cenosco is now undergoing a similar situation as companies from Osijek, as their needs for developers are increasing. In co-operation with the local academic community, they also seek to attract students to practice during their studies, and my interlocutors tell me that there are three students in the Pula office who are likely to continue working for them. Josip explains to me how students respond to this company’s pitch:
We compete with start-ups and social networks, and these things are perceived as more “sexy”. However, as soon as we start explaining how our applications function and where they fit into the industry processes, many are easier to connect with us and very quickly realize how our job offers a very interesting area of work. You get a opportunity to work with the latest and most sophisticated technologies, except that iit’s not about the VR shooting games, it’s about the real environment.
Zagreb and Pula grow in parallel
The opening of the office in Zagreb came about because Cenosco is trying to get closer to more potential employees, and Josip tells me that they are simultaneously trying to develop Zagreb and Pula so that employees can have more options about where they want to work. For Cenosco, Joseph and Marcel agree, it is difficult to predict which city will grow more, but they leave all options open.
Cenosco not only works with Shell, and it is interesting that one of their clients is the Dutch Government with whom they collaborate on a number of projects. Marcel tells me that it is very interesting to work with two completely different sectors, but even in the Netherlands roses do not seem to bloom when it comes to bureaucracy. In the oil industry, developing better software is an extremely natural thing, but governments still need to educate themselves on why they have to think this way at all. Marcel adds that it is very difficult to explain to the institutions of the state that it is good for them to work agile, and even when they convince them this is a good move, it is still a matter of “clerical mentality”, he says.
Today there is really a lot of talk about agility and access to clients, and being agile has become a major feature of almost every business. Cenosco also uses an agile approach, but Josip clarifies to me that “complete” agile does not exist:
I think complete agility is a myth, but we use some agile methods that we adapt to ourselves. We use scrum, sprints and give our clients the opportunity to comment and provide additional input over the course of the project, of course as much as this is possible in our industry.
The future is now?
What particularly impressed me was the amount of new technologies that uses today. Specifically, platform and system inspections use very advanced 3D projections that, from my perspective, look like they were made in Unity or another video game engine. Specifically, it is extremely important for companies to know at all times where each piece of equipment is to be inspected or serviced, and although it is all possible to group tables, 3D projections make it much easier to find and identify problems within massive refineries. Josip adds:
You need to know exactly where the problem is and whether you might need some equipment to get to it. When you can “walk” through a situation and visually see where the problem lies, it is an incredible advantage.
It is not just about VR, but also about AR technology, which allows inspectors to easily view pipelines through a cell phone or tablet, but at the same time flag errors down that then become visible to other employees online. Think of it as a great level of logic game in which out of 40,000 tubes you need to find one that needs servicing, and you can see from any perspective exactly what it is all about. Josip concludes:
All this is not the future, it is already possible. You can walk around with your iPad and mark in real time where the problem is in order to have more information in the future.
Cenosco was kind enough to show me what kind of systems they are working on, and I can only say that I was more than impressed. Although it may not seem like it at first, working on risk assessment applications may include some of the most advanced technologies you may encounter today as a developer. If this appeals to you– perhaps Cenosco is the company for you.