Slipping into the Future!

Half of 2016 is gone already, where does the time and all those moments go? When the days and weeks are filled with personal and professional events its no surprise that time just seems to evaporate into the vacuum of space. How much has changed over that time, and how little!

Then there’s all those never ending events or “to-do” lists that seem to go on forever. I believe some things drag on because prioritizing the most important over the easy to do items results in procrastination of the more time consuming tasks. Sometimes these things are simply out of our control and things must run their course before action can be take. This months blog is about one of those events, I hope you enjoy it.

The Back Story
I’ve been working with a specialized contractor in Alabama for the better part of 18 months on a series of custom solutions that are for a classified installation out of country.  On an economic level this is a HUGE order for SAE! What makes it even sweeter is that these are Made in America products which also help our country increase exports, a Double Win in my book.

This custom solution requires mostly “off the shelf” components. However there’s still  enough custom adds that make this project a challenge, which is ideal for SAE’s fabrication capabilities and ISO 9000 processes. The sheer volume and resources needed to deliver these solutions and meet the project schedule would be impossible for any integrator. Only through this partnership can we both accomplish what each of us individually couldn’t.

The high level scope of work comprises of the following deliverables and logistical challenges. This is only a short list of the most prominent details that will help frame the projects requirements and the challenges faced:

Most Important Deliverables:
1. Four types of custom assembled and factory wired control cabinets used for damper smoke control, elevator control and system survivability requirements
2. Production quantities in excess of 850 total units
3. Production time set at 10 – 12 weeks (complete order shipped by September 2016)
4. Specialize internal cabinet labeling and carton labeling for tracking purposes
5. Coordinated raw material rotation and finished goods delivery from several OEM’s so production lines are running on schedule, no work stoppage
6. Specialize financing terms that integrates with customers cash flow billing cycles

This project will be the largest project of its kind and complexity done by both this customer and SAE in recent history. The level of coordination and communication between all stake holders as well as individual department managers has been tremendous. This is the kind of project that can jeopardize careers and hamper a business for years if not executed perfectly. With that being said, now the work really begins.

The Realities
There’s no doubt that this is a high stakes game of fabrication and execution. One or two mishaps and there could be no time to recover. However, when you have worked with people and the same teams long enough, you develop a high degree of confidence in everyone’s ability to get it done. This confidence minimizes the level of concern that is inherent with such projects and becomes less of an issue. The level of trust that exists between all stakeholders has been earned over time, however should that trust be violated by non performance that trust is not easily won back.

The collaboration between SAE and this specialized integrator in Alabama started almost two years ago. Over that time the project was on and off several times which was actually a blessing in disguise. When it finally came time to pull the trigger, all our details were in place and expectations clearly defined. This was only possible with two willing partners doing their share, sometimes more, and working tirelessly to get it right. Plan your work and work your plan. That was good advice when I heard it many years ago and still applies today.

The Take Away
Complex and difficult projects, like many things in life, shouldn’t automatically be classified as unworthy of our efforts. Nor should we become discouraged when things drag on longer then expected if there still exists a reasonable chance of success. Where would our culture, industry and personal accomplishments be if we didn’t aim higher and strive for the best we can be even when our plan keeps shifting. Only when you reach the end of your comfort zone does growth begin.

These simple truths teach us to challenge the status quo and consider alternate solutions for our everyday work. With innovation moving at a frenzied pace coupled with the sharing of ideas across the globe via the Internet, no one person or industry can stay ahead of the trends that are constantly changing. If you’re not looking for the next best thing that will help your business succeed you will find it hard to compete with those who do.

The life safety industry is in the beginning stages of a fundamental change that is taking place in the high end construction market.  The new expectations include higher quality solutions at lower cost with faster installation times. Sounds like “Faster, Better, Cheaper” to me! As these expectations become the norm this new standard will trickle down to the mid size construction projects and so on. The time is now to re-tool the workshop and avoid being left behind. Getting in front of the trend will help capitalize on the long term benefits which include increased profits.

Final Thoughts
Change takes time, but if you never start it will never happen and the results will be far worse.  So where to begin? The first place to look is in areas where you can minimize your labor by having someone else do what your providing for lower costs. You must take into account complete end to end pricing, not just the raw materials and installer labor time which is typically under estimated. The time saved on the entire project needs to be factored in as well, especially the over time paid for troubleshooting mistakes made during installation of complex control systems.

Second, find people and companies you trust and have a track record of successful performance. Space Age Electronics wouldn’t go into the electrical installation business because it’s not our area of expertise, even though we have a work force that have some of these skills.  We would however partner with an Electrical Contractor and provide them with custom cabinets for their fast moving projects. The end result would be a finished product delivered at a lower cost and higher quality then they could put together themselves.

Now, in order for all that was just outlined to happen, the conversations must begin months in advance of the project.  Once all the initial details are worked out, all subsequent projects are easy because everything has been vetted and proven, now its just a matter of repeating. It’s simple when you break it down and work through all the details together. Probably the best part is both parties come away with a stronger relationship and an experience that is positive for all parties involved.

As always, we welcome your feedback on this Blog and any of our previous Blogs.  Check out the one question Poll below, really interested to see the results. Until next time, think of your next big move and find those that can help you get there.

All the best

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