Reflection Can Reveal Best Practices

Dec. 28, 2015
This is an exciting time to be in the automation business, as there are tremendous opportunities to integrate technologies and revolutionize the production of goods. Reflecting on your processes can help make the most of them.

As the year comes to a close, it’s not uncommon to reflect over the past year. We recently had an opportunity to do just that, but in a very thorough way, by completing an application for a national award. The process was both inspirational and educational. I found myself reflecting on how we do business and realized that we are using many best practices that I want to share with you.

Hire the best and brightest.
We have an exceptionally smart team that thrives on learning new technologies and jumps at the chance to do work other companies either can’t or won’t do. We encourage employees to provide suggestions and feedback, especially if it would enhance or encourage continuous improvement. We challenge our engineers to stay on top of emerging technologies and to work with different industries.

Invest in your staff.
Once people are on board, they participate in a mock project and mentoring program. We offer a wide variety of options to continue to learn and grow, such as R2-D2 Day, when employee teams choose projects and spend a day in Really Rapid Develop and Deploy mode. We also allocate an annual budget to each department for off-site training. Our Center of Innovation, which includes a Fanuc robot, allows engineers to test solutions on-site. We schedule twice-monthly employee lunches, as well as host monthly sales and marketing roundtable meetings.

Be precise in your methodology.
We maximize success on every project by following our project methodology. It defines each step of a project, starting with the sales effort. We use the process to establish open communication with our customers to ensure we understand their expectations and that they understand our processes and deliverables. By following a structured methodology, we reduce our customers’ exposure to risk, meet functional expectations, stay within budget, and finish on time.

Share your culture.
We frame our culture in specific actions, all of which are based on a simple premise: Our people are the key. When we are clear about how we want them to act, everyone benefits, including our clients. We call these guiding principles “The Concept Way.” Here are a few:

* Manage projects to success.
* Enjoy project variety.
* Use the right tool for the right job.
* Be on the leading edge, not the bleeding edge.
* Stay nimble.

Think about your future.
Annually, we prepare a one-page business plan that we share with our staff. It helps them to focus on common goals and strategies. We also create and update a five-year outlook that we call a “Vivid Vision.” It gives employees insights into the direction of the company so they can help us create our future. We think these four changes will have significant effects on our industry:

* Proliferation of robotics.
* Manufacturing on demand.
* Everything is networked.
* Growing skills gap.

Michael Gurney is CEO of Concept Systems Inc., a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association. See Concept Systems’ profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.

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