On several previous occasions I have been given the opportunity to blog about one of my passions; capital project execution and the application of a Phases and Gates methodology. As we have previously articulated, Phases and Gates is a shared approach to achieving a business goal, usually involving installing or upgrading manufacturing assets, shared between an end user (the owner) and the chosen solution provider. The beauty of working under a method where the project objectives, technical exploration, definition, and then execution are scripted, and the individual steps with respective deliverables or work product are described as part of the contractual agreement, is that the work process framework promotes clear communication, crisp expectations, and a means to collaborate and manage project risk.
We have new heroes to follow. Crew Dragon and the Falcon 9 rocket launched Saturday May 30th, and the Lunar Optimized Starship and the Artemis program will be here in the near future!
When I was a kid living outside of Columbus, as my father taught at Ohio State we favored an ice cream store that had a sign on the wall that struck me--even at 9 years old. It described how people who only cared for the price of something were doomed to get exactly the experience they deserved. I absorbed that as directing me to focus on the maximizing the experience and the value would follow. Yeah, a geek at 9. And I favored "Cherry Ice" or "Pink Bubble Gum" cones (my brother ate only chocolate).
Not only did we celebrate a new year when the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2020, but also a new decade (depending on who you ask)! What is it about a new year that causes us to take stock and vow to make improvements? As I stepped on the scale this morning, I noted that one of my high ranking resolutions is in serious jeopardy. But then, I was able to rationalize my lackluster progress by remembering that all the holiday cookies, candy, caramel coated popcorn, etc. have been consumed, and the plan to lose a few pounds should self-correct (skeptics need not reply).
In business, it’s been said, “you need to spend money to make money.” This axiom certainly applies to capital investing, where market demands can be exploited with increased production through the careful implementation of new equipment.
At Optimation we design and fabricate manufacturing systems for companies all over the United States and the world. To build this equipment, we use a lot of steel and stainless steel and lesser amounts of aluminum and exotic alloys. A couple months ago, the rules changed when getting prices for these commodity items. Many of our suppliers began to provide pricing which was good for only 24 hours. This reaction by our suppliers was created by threats of tariffs being placed on steel and aluminum.
"Unintended consequences." Sounds harmless, guilt-relieving, “not-our-fault” kind of language. On the surface it's a simple-enough statement, declaring that there were outcomes to some actions taken that (usually) ran counter to the intent of the project, and generally they were not desired. In other words, "some bad things happened that we did not expect."
When one is in the business of selling purpose-built manufacturing systems and equipment, one is frequently asked by one’s prospective customers to provide pricing for their goods and services. Depending on how well defined the needed solution is, which would be embodied in the equipment to be priced, calculated equipment costs can be widely variable. In these situations, where a selection of different technologies and even approaches may satisfy our prospect, we recommend that some preliminary engineering be performed to better define the needs of the client’s operation, and thereby provide criteria with which to limit options and better judge best fit/return on investment from the solution options.
We are a business that executes hundreds and hundreds of projects every year. These span the spectrum from simple to complex, urgent to critical, and small to large. As a vendor in industrial automation, we participate in these interactions as a supplier to prospective clients wishing to accomplish business goals. There are about as many ways to go about this as there are projects; however, there are certain parameters that yield more likely success more often. Let's look at them.
Last week the New York Photonics & Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster held their annual meeting. The Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster has been around for a long time and its predecessor the Institute for Optics was founded in Rochester in 1929. The photonics industry has been around a long time in Rochester. We haven’t been talking about it very much for all that time, in fact hardly at all until recently. Now it’s a big deal. Chuck Schumer, Louise Slaughter and Dr. Ernest Moniz, the Secretary of the Department of Energy himself, came to Rochester to attend the meeting. It was held with a great deal of pomp and ceremony at the Rochester Museum and Science Center. It was no doubt the largest attendance at an annual meeting ever, so large in fact that the event was “sold out.”