Back in the 70s when I graduated with an engineering degree, a large percentage of the new graduates went to work for manufacturing companies. A certain percentage went on for advanced degrees and ended up in research positions and academia, but much of the research was carried out by private companies building their own IP portfolios. The exception to this was civil, structural and architectural graduates who might end up working for private engineering and design firms.
This situation continued for the next decade and longer. Manufacturing giants like General Electric, General Motors, IBM and Kodak maintained their own engineering staffs for process design, manufacturing support and research. Consulting and design firms got their revenue from design of buildings, roads, bridges and airports. Engineering design firms providing industrial design services were very rare. This was because there was no market for these services.
This began to shift in the late 80s. To reduce overhead and costs, the major manufacturers began to carry out staff reductions. They reached a decision to outsource engineering and design for processes and equipment not considered part of their core competencies. Over time this shifted until much of innovation, development and design of processes for many manufacturers were carried out by outsourcing partners and design firms.
Firms providing these services are often small, segmented and specialized. The average employment of automation, robotics, or systems integration firms is less than one hundred. They work in cooperation with mechanical or process design firms. Both groups then work with fabricators and contractors to design, fabricate and install new manufacturing lines. In many cases the fabrication and installation services firms are also very segmented. There are electrical contractors, mechanical contractors, sheet metal contractors and pipe fitting firms.
A manufacturing firm, or the general contractor working for them, is required to write multiple contracts to complete a complex manufacturing project. For very large projects there are large EPCs who have a staff of engineering and tradesmen capable of completing the entire project. Their focus on contracting is large new facilities. In the small to mid-sized space, firms with these skills are more uncommon. Optimation Technology is one such firm. With a multi-discipline engineering staff, skilled in industrial applications and a multi-trade group of journeymen Optimation can complete projects in many different industries with a focus in projects of about 5 million dollars or less.
Companies often require a variety of specialized engineering services when developing a new product, process, or a service. This includes design, development, infrastructure, equipment, and the processes involved in their manufacturing line and its maintenance. When this happens, a firm like Optimation Technology becomes a valuable partner in cost effective, quality design and build while effectively meeting the schedule for time to market.