Dave Morton of Automated Control & Technical Services

Dave Morton is Vice President of Operations for Automated Control & Technical Services in Bakersfield, CA, and he gets customer intimacy.  According to Dave, it’s a “big deal.”  “Engineering, System Integration, installation and 24X7 support along with keeping in touch on a regular basis are critical.”

He goes so far as to say that being there for customers when they need to bounce ideas off a knowledgeable person is simply part of job.  “Turnkey accountability” can’t happen any other way.  Since Automated Control & Technical Services does both the electrical work and the systems integration, avoiding finger-pointing is a must.

With that breadth of responsibility assumed on behalf of customers, how do they keep control of their organization?  The key is standards and procedures according to Morton.  “Otherwise one of the company leaders would need to be directly involved in every project at every level,” he says.  That situation would prevent good customer service.

And the foundation of those standards and procedures?  CSIA Certification.  It’s been the roadmap for not only defining, but also consistently following their processes; ensuring both quality and tight project management.  For Automated Control & Technical Services, it’s also an important, 3rd party validation benchmark that customers can use to judge them before signing a contract.

Great insights from an experienced executive.  Don’t miss this one!

Return Appearance – Brent Stromwall of Polytron

Sometimes a topic has such importance that a deep dive into some detail makes sense.  The 70%+ failure rate of major IT-related projects is one of those issues.

Polytron, out of Duluth, GA has broken at least part of the code with laser-beam focus on “People Readiness.”  Brent Stromwall, their Vice President of Business Development, believes that 3-5% of the total budget for major capital expenditure project should be allocated to the people issues.

He points out several things in this interview that need to be addressed.  For example, a subject matter expert might know all there is to know about technology X, but might not be a very good instructor.  He or she might know even less about instructional design or advanced teaching/learning technologies.

Teaching skills? Instructional design?  Not commonly addressed issues perhaps, but downright critical when it comes to getting folks ready to assume and sustain responsibility for a major new system.  And what about those who will assume that responsibility in the future?  Who will deliver that 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation training and how?

Heavy stuff!  Heavy stuff with a big time financial impact!

We also talked about change management, including how often it’s really a fundamental “cultural” challenge, the modern industrial sales rep as consultant and the real tangible value of certification by the Control System Integrators Association.

Listen up!  There’s a lot of valuable insight in this one.

Brad Walker, President of ASECO Integrated Systems

Brad Walker, President of ASECO Integrated Systems shares some enlightening perspectives…

On Re-Use…  It’s one of those chicken or egg scenarios, but regardless, large companies are aggressively re-using designs, code, intellectual property, etc. across multiple sites.  Is it possible to reduce total costs by as much as 2/3 using the approach?  How vital is acumen regarding “re-use” for manufacturers and system integrators?

And speaking of Intellectual Property…  Discussions about who owns what are becoming more common and more important; and wow, they are challenging.  Brad talks about how looking at systems component by component makes it easier to appropriately divvy up the IP for the benefit of all.  Dealing with the “purchasing guys and lawyers” is becoming more and more significant.

On RFP vs. Partnering…  No doubt, partnering is a more successful strategy, but how do you get from here to there?  How can manufacturers and system integrators develop trust quickly?

On Differentiation…  It’s training.  It’s IP.  It’s vision.  It’s all about integrating skill sets above and beyond the traditional disciplines.

On Standards…  Of course ISO standards are invaluable.  Walker’s take on the equivalence of ISO standards and CSIA Certification is instructive.  Clever engineers are not enough!  Process and systems need to support those clever engineers to make technology really hum and generate value.

Putting real meaning behind the word “Partner”

It’s been quite a while since I’ve heard such a great story about genuine partnering!  In this interview, Steve Townsend, Senior Controls Engineer for Imerys and Chuck Wambeke, President of Industrial Automation Consulting both out of Three Forks, Montana talk about two decades of producing mutual value.

What’s the basis for this sustained success story?  Standardization.  Documented standards for automation, naming and even beyond that, to blocking and tackling like wiring at the electrical, PLC and HMI levels, is the underlying theme.  Steve emphasizes how even though individual employees may come and go, the standards remain.  They’re an anchor that continuously minimizes both excess work and change orders.  Better yet, Chuck and Steve have aggressively leveraged the power of these standards across all their locations.

Chuck shared a bit of historical perceptive as well.  IAC started thinking in terms of best practices and standards even before the CSIA (Control System Integrators Association) was established.  They continue this focus and for the third time, are ready to get re-certified.  What’s particularly striking is Steve’s (i.e., the customer’s) perspective on the value of CSIA Certification.  He attributes much of Imerys’ stellar safety record to the CSIA-based safety standards ICA helped them implement.  Think of a talc mine in Montana, and then think about no lost time accidents in 6 years.  As I said in the interview, “Wow!”

Listen to the whole discussion to bone up on how “partnering” is done.