From Opportunity to Operation: Creating An Engineered System

By IBT Inc

October 01, 2005

Engineering

“One of the interesting things about working in the IBT Engineering Department,” Bruce Loyd and his key lieutenants Jim Boatright and Alan Beech report, “is that you never know what the next telephone call, fax or email may bring you in terms of a professional challenge.

“When we hear from an IBT outside sales rep or an IBT client, we may be getting an opportunity to become involved in a project that might have significant impact on a factory’s operations or productivity or profitability.

“Or, we may be getting an opportunity to spin our wheels, chase our tails or begin a hot pursuit of a wild goose. In some ways, the first time we hear about them, all opportunities sort of look alike. One of our jobs is to figure out how to take those initial opportunities and turn them into meaningful projects that actually get built and make a difference for a customer.”

Like Jack Webb on the old Dragnet TV show, the engineering work starts with getting “just the facts.”

To capture those facts – and they need the facts in great detail – the department has developed a series of more than 12 RFQ questionnaires. These forms, available from any of the Engineers or your IBT sales representative, cover applications as simple as casters and wheels and as complicated as palletizing robotic systems. The RFQ forms are designed to capture the key information and variables that will enable them to issue a detailed, thorough, professional and actionable quotation and proposal.

“Of course,” Alan Beech admits, “we don’t always get the information in that detailed a form. When we do get it, our job is easier. We are able to be more responsive with more accuracy in less time. When we don’t get all the info we need, we have to go in search of it. This can be both frustrating and time consuming. However, we have mastered various methods and tools to make sure that the quote we produce is as credible and understandable as is possible.”

In addition to the RFQ forms, good field intelligence from sales people, portfolios of digital photos, lengthy telephone conversations with client staff (engineers, process improvement directors, maintenance supervisors, plant managers and the like) helps shape the proposal. So does actually visiting to the site to eyeball all of the hidden variables that even the best of forms and most diligent of third party reports can never quite seem to cover.

“We have to look in 3-D and in great detail,” Bruce Loyd notes. “We have to worry about walls and doors and aisles and duct work and HVAC systems and fork lift clearances and lighting fixtures. If there is something in the space, you can almost bet that if we don’t note it carefully and allow for it, it will end up being a potential complication.”

When the background information is complete, the quotation is clearly understandable to the prospective buyer. That situation can frequently result in sales being made without a great deal of back-and-forth about the fine details. They are already covered.

The clear quotation also leads to detailed purchase orders – often incorporating the exact language for the original quotation. These documents can also lead to job orders and other necessary work documents being generated easily and accurately.

Regardless of how clear the initial information is, and regardless of how clearly the job documentation has been prepared, projects have a complexity after the initial stages that can require frequent and knowledgeable professional intervention.

“Although our experience and background are essential in the planning and quoting stages of any job,” Jim Boatright observes, “we frequently work the hardest to earn our money after the project goes into production. The number of things that can happen to cause changes are amazing.

“We have had jobs where the products to be handled change significantly. We come across significant changes in management philosophy, and, sometimes the management and ownership of the company can change midstream. The unexpected events that can occur are an endless source of surprise – some of them more alarming than others. On occasion, the surprises act to make our work easier, but one should not count on that.”

“In all cases,” Alan Beech continues, “the engineering of a job is not ever done until it is fully designed, built, installed, tested, retested, commissioned and turned over to the owners.”

“Even then,” Bruce Loyd contributes, “we are not necessarily done with it. Our job doesn’t really end because the buyer’s continuing satisfaction is the source of our continued access to a company’s future projects. So, any contacts, adjustments or handholding that we may do to further make sure that the job is done and operating properly, we are willing to do.”

“Actually,” Jim Boatright adds, “it is sometimes very exciting to go see one of our projects in operation. We sometimes can forget how important our work has been to a client, but when we see it in use, we are reminded of what problems they had, how we worked with them to find the best solutions, and how great an impact our contribution has had on their workplace. Seeing the machinery in use in the real working world gives us a special sense of accomplishment. It makes all the hours and details and worries and efforts feel really important and worthwhile.”

To learn more about IBT Engineering services, contact us.

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