Did you know you’re a salesperson? The importance of customer service.

 

 

Contributed by Brandon Hogan, P.E., Operations Manager 

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Did you know you’re a salesperson? The importance of customer service.

Did you know you're a salesperson? The importance of customer service. H+M Industrial EPC

I love going to big box stores to shop.  The workers there are so friendly and helpful.  Anytime I have a question, or need something off of the very top shelf, and enthusiastic worker is always at my assistance.  Your experience too?  Just kidding.  Although I have had some experiences like this, they have been relatively few.

Why do less than stellar customer interactions happen?  I think it is because not all employees recognize the impact one person can have on a client’s perception of the whole organization.  Many times, a single employee is the window that a client has into a company.  If the interaction is negative, the client attributes negativity to the whole organization.  And this is not an easy problem to solve.  Many people want to “do their job”, without realizing that they most likely have a direct impact on whether a client will choose to do business with their company.  Reception, receivables, payables?  All sales jobs.  Project management, engineering?  Sales jobs.  The list goes on and on.  Anyone who makes contact with clients or potential clients is that company’s representative.  It seems like common sense, yet most people have little appreciation for it.

In my company, we implement engineering and construction projects for clients.  Every job we do is different, requiring a custom approach that is dependent on technical requirements and the client company’s project approach.  Within each organization, the individual client project managers often have different approaches, pet peeves and requirements.  So every project has a unique set of constraints that affect the way it can be executed.  Many times, customers have one point of contact with our company. This makes it even more important for us to push that every employee is a salesperson. A bad experience with their point of contact can cause a customer to start having doubts about the company as a whole, which is unfortunate and something all organizations must really watch out for.

With all the moving parts from project to project, it is important to create consistency in as many ways as possible, so that the product feels like your product and a customer can recognize it as your company’s work.  One way to do this is a consistent customer service approach.  Customer service shouldn’t be confined to a “Customer Service Department”. Each employee must be held accountable for the experience they present customers.  It is the responsibility of everyone in the organization to help clients succeed.

How do you create a culture where every person in your organization will be a salesperson for you?  Frankly, I don’t know, but here is what we are trying:

  1. Telling employees that they ARE sales people (duh!).
  2. Implementing customer service metrics as a part of the evaluation process for all employees. This helps hold them accountable for their actions.
  3. Creating an environment that desires client long-term success, not just the success of any individual project profitability.

Customer service is a concept that should be spread throughout the entire organization, not just obvious positions like account management and business development. Everyone has a chance of communicating with a client, and the significance of great customer service from management must be made BEFORE that interaction happens.

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BrandonHogan - Did you know you’re a salesperson? – The importance of customer service.Brandon Hogan, P.E. – Operations Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

B.S. in Chemical Engineering, MBA

Brandon has more than 14 years of industrial engineering experience in operations and project settings. Responsibilities included managing the operations of the Engineering, Procurement and Construction divisions. His past experience includes over 10 years of engineering with The Lubrizol Corporation in Deer Park including process design, capital project management and engineering optimization.

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How-To Hire a Sure Thing: Bettering your odds with assessments.

 

 

Contributed by Levi Taylor, Human Resources Manager 

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How-To Hire a Sure Thing: Bettering your odds with assessments.

Bettering Odds Hiring Process H+M Industrial EPC

“If you think that it is expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur”? How often have you heard this cliché? The idea that value is found in the quality of work is not a new concept. However, it does seem difficult to define such value in the modern business world. Large companies have spent billions on developing assessments, tests, surveys, and programs to evaluate candidates in a seemingly talent commodity paradigm. With all of the data that is extracted from the plethora of tactics, the end result still has a company betting on their selection to hire.

The traditional interview has been shown to have a nominal success rate of identifying top candidates. Many candidates can present themselves exceptionally, naturally skewing the impression given to the interviewer. Yet, often times, their performance and skillset underperforms. This leaves the hiring manager claiming “well, they were great in the interview.”

While there is no sure bet when it comes to the hiring process, there are scalable assessment solutions to tip the odds in the company’s favor. Having the candidate submit to assessments not only gives the hiring manager a larger pool of data for informed decision making, it adds job and company related, quantifiable evidence that allows the best fit candidate to standout. There are multiple applications in the pre-employment testing realm, the easiest to incorporate and interpret are those that consider “fit to company culture” as well as the job related skills.

Personality Assessments

When evaluating a new employee, certain characteristics will always be sought out. Leadership, charisma, and the ability to be a team player are anecdotal and typically paramount for workplace success. However, things like agreeableness, company loyalty, motivation are less discernible but may be more indicative of a successful hire into the company culture. While hundreds of personality inventories exist in the clinical and industrial/organizational psychology world, only a few can possibly capture the traits that accentuate the culture of a company. This would require an organization to take an introspective look at the true core values of their employee population and pair them with the traits that are required to emulate the vision of the future. Once the assessment is selected in regards to the ideal traits, the company must administer the assessment to the current population. The range that is found within the current population will serve as the baseline for establishing the profile of the ideal candidate. Although this is not at perfect solution for eliminating turnover rates, it does reduce the likelihood of placing a bad bet.

Hands-On Demonstration

Job related skills are far easier to identify but may be more difficult to quantify. For instance, an Administrative Assistant may be given measures for grammar, business math, and software like Excel with little preparation or research. However, extremely technical roles, like engineers or hands-on labor, require skills that cannot be judged on a knowledge based assessment alone. Positions that are given a knowledge based assessment should also be subject to a demonstration or hands-on assessment that validates the ability to apply the skills. Welders in the construction industry complete a weld test that requires them to fit pieces of metal to specifications and then perform a weld that passes code requirements. Manufacturing Engineers are given product components with schematics and then required to assemble the complete product to gauge mechanical ability and reasoning. Regardless of the skills required to the complete the job, some level of demonstration should be introduced to validate the walk to the proverbial talk.

Assessments give candidates the ability to audition their true self. Even the most confident people are somewhat nervous in an interview setting and everyone tends to behave themselves. Giving candidates the opportunity to shine in a less anxiety provoking environment, like an assessment, can give a far better measure of relevant behavior.

The goal of this effort is to identify the candidate that best exonerates the skills needed for the job as well as emulates the company culture that company leadership envisions. Although developing the tools that properly identify the desired characteristics in a candidate may not lead to a sure bet, it definitely goes a long way to find a candidate to put money on.

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Levi Taylor Human Resources H+M Industrial EPC

Levi Taylor, MS, SPHR- Human Resources Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

M.S. in Psychology 

Levi has an MS in Psychology paired with over 10 years of Human Resources, training and workforce development experience in both U.S. and international companies including those in the engineering, construction, manufacturing, petrochemical and power industries.

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Stabilize, Standardize, Optimize – The Best Lesson My Mentor Ever Taught Me

 

 

Contributed by Kevin Bautz, Senior Project Manager

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Stabilize, Standardize, Optimize – The Best Lesson My Mentor Ever Taught Me

Stabilize, Standardize, Optimize - H+M Industrial EPC

Several years ago, I met a gentleman who had achieved great successes throughout his career. He had held various positions of responsibility, created and marketed useful products for his companies, owned and operated businesses, and mentored young professionals providing advice and guidance. I was one of those fortunate enough to receive mentoring from this man.  He was my Jonah (If this doesn’t ring a bell, I recommend you read The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt).

It was through many interactions and deep discussions that I learned why mentoring had become his latest passion.  He had achieved all he personally desired and realized he could have an exponentially greater impact by mentoring those who had similar traits.  He always said if he only knew in his 30’s what he learned by his 60’s, his career would have been even more successful and come with greater ease.  I share this to show that he was deeply committed to his projects.

I, being one of his “projects”, felt the level of commitment and value immediately.  It was early on in my mentorship that I became responsible for my department and began feeling the effects of years of neglectful “leadership”.  My mentor provided the grounding needed to evaluate my department. He provided the knowledge to help shape a vision and he had the experience to make it even better.  He shared three words: Stabilize, Standardize, Optimize.  You cannot put the cart before the horse.  You must be stable before you attempt to standardize.  You must be standardized before you optimize.  He explained to me that being a simple man, he liked to keep things simple.  He also said that old age made him forget things so he tried to remember as little as possible. I sometimes think this was just a ploy to play-down the outward simplicity of what he shared.

So what was the impact of those three words?  Well, for starters, they straightened up the department and put it on the path to success. That path included:

  • Stabilize. The department had vacancies in key positions, other positions only had temporary support, interdepartmental relationships were strained, expectations were unclear and/or not being followed, and the list goes on and on. Being the first goal, these received immediate attention and were corrected.
  • Standardize. Each shift operated in its own manner. Expectations were clear but still varied between individuals. Reporting and formatting differed day-to-day and procedures lacked details.  With some focus, teamwork, and additional time these items were standardized.
  • Optimize. We strove to achieve this step and knew that optimization would be ongoing.  Optimization would be sustainable as long as stability and standardization had been established.  When we reached this stage, it felt like the sky was the limit.  Creativity, decision-making, results, teamwork…everything seemed to just click while being positioned on a solid base.

As for the lasting impact of Stabilize, Standardize, Optimize, much like my seasoned mentor, it is simple enough for me to remember.  It is applicable in more instances than I first realized.  I have used it for work assignments, large projects, leading departments, life events, and even seemingly simple tasks.  It is a shared vision that helps people to see and achieve opportunities without falling victim to constant inefficiency, confusion, or a “flavor-of-the-month” feel.

These three words are also, as I found out later on, what my mentor was using to guide me.  He evaluated me, determined my current stage, and worked a plan to move me through the stages.  He knew that he could not mold me and teach me effectively (Standardize) if I lacked a solid foundation (Stabilize).  He knew that he could not push the limits and test my ceiling (Optimize) if he could not understand or anticipate my thoughts and actions (Standardize).  The realization that my mentor used this to achieve success in so many situations left an even greater impact on me.  How can three words that we hear all of time in business (but usually separately) be brought together to drive success?

Try it for yourself.  Think of a current situation, assignment, or project.  Evaluate it to determine whether it is stabilized, standardized, or optimized.  Plan your path to move it from one stage to the next and act.

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KevinBautz

Kevin Bautz – Senior Project Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

B.S. in Chemical Engineering

Kevin has more than 13 years of industrial engineering experience in operations and project settings. His past experience ranges from process and equipment engineering in semiconductors, process simulation engineer for the oil & gas and chemical industries, and key management roles in engineering and operations for The Sun Products Corporation in Pasadena, TX and Bowling Green, KY. Kevin joined H+M in 2014.

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Ensuring Project Success and Profitability: The importance of designers in engineering projects.

 

 

Contributed by Chris Chandler – Design Coordinator 

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Ensuring Project Success and Profitability: The importance of designers in engineering projects.

Success and Profitability - The importance of designers on engineering projects.

Sometimes engineering companies only have one chance to provide services to a client. The future relationship depends greatly on the package delivered. Whether mechanical or E&I, providing a quality package on schedule is usually the deciding factor whether or not projects will be awarded in the future.  Profitability is a major factor when determining if an engineering company will survive and be able to provide their services in the future. While all members of the project team play an important role, the designer’s contribution can really make or break things in terms of profitability.

Have you ever wondered why a client uses a particular engineering company over and over again? Or worse, why they never use them again? The three main factors include:

  • Cost of services
  • Quality of the package
  • Schedule

Designer payroll can be a large portion of engineering project cost but what they produce, if done right, is worth every penny.  Often, the majority of charged hours come from the designers on the project. This makes it increasingly important to know your staff. If a top paid designer consistently spends 1 hour a day out of a 10 hour day (10% of their time) being unproductive, project profitability will suffer. These situations are not uncommon and must be fixed quickly and prevented from the beginning if possible.

The experience type and level of an assigned designer can also affect the bottom line of the projects they work on. This is a huge indicator for success. They must have the skills to complete the task efficiently. Even though small capital projects include most of the same metrics as large capital projects, the way the designer approaches and works the job should be evaluated before kickoff to ensure small capital characteristics are taken into account.  Smaller projects may not allow the built-in overhead costs that are usually part of a large job.  1% of a 10,000 MH project allows 100 hours for printing, document control, and other overhead costs. On the other hand, 1% of a 1,000 hour job only allows 10 hours for these functions.  This means the designer must manage resources properly while working these smaller types of projects to stay within budget.  Whoever does the hiring for a company needs to understand the company’s project style and hire accordingly. 10% of a small project may be as little as 100 hours (two and a half weeks). If a senior designer is hired to lead projects for smaller cap revamp type projects but is only experienced leading large capital projects it is likely that efficiency and profitability will suffer.

A designer working on smaller revamp type projects will need to stay flexible and be able to wear different hats to ensure success. If they are not willing to step outside the boundaries of the typical designer role, the costs may become too high.  A 1,000,000 MH green field project over a two year period could employ a survey team, multiple senior designers, multiple modelers, CAD operators and a document control team. There is enough work in larger projects to justify this type of team and those teams members will probably remain in these roles for most of that time. On a small revamp project, let’s say 4,000 hours, there may only be one senior designer in each discipline acting as a working lead for one or two CAD operators. The senior designer must understand what tasks he can do efficiently. They must also realize when/if to manage and delegate to the CAD operators or other available team members. If the senior designer understands this and efficiently utilizes lower level drafters or CAD operators, the composite rate throughout the project will keep project costs within budget.

The goal of any Engineering company should be to provide the client with a package that will make the project a success. The client hopefully understands that the company must also make a profit to be around for bidding on the next project.  Projects can be successful to both clients and the engineering company if it is staffed with the right designers that set both sides up for success….it’s a win win!

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Chris Chandler H+M Industrial EPC

Chris Chandler – Design Coordinator at H+M Industrial EPC

Chris has more than 30 years experience in piping design, coordination and project management in industrial settings. His project design and supervision responsibilities have ranged from small capital projects to multimillion dollar projects. Chris has worked at H&M for ten years, with previous work experience at Jacobs, CDI, Enterprise Products and Mustang Engineering.

 

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Economics of Safety in the Workplace – What Does Safety Really Cost?

 

 

Contributed by Jay Bice – HSE Manager

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Economics of Safety in the Workplace – What Does Safety Really Cost?

What does safety really cost? H+M Industrial EPC

What does safety really cost?  In the old days, employee safety was not exactly valued.    The injuries or fatalities that happened during construction were often just figured into the cost of doing business.  For example, during the construction of the Empire State Building in 1931, five workers lost their lives.  From 1933-1937, eleven workers died building the Golden Gate Bridge. As you can see in the picture below, there was no true safety culture.

1024px-Old_timer_structural_worker2

Jump forward 40 years and it seems that safety was still not a focal point of the industry. While the World Trade Center was being built during the early 1970’s, sixty workers lost their lives during the construction.  Eventually, in 1970, President Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act into law, establishing OSHA.  This was the start of companies realizing the value of ensuring employee safety.

Another 40 years later, the One World Trade Center began construction.  This video  shows that safety is becoming a true workplace value and not just an accepted risk.  During the construction of One World Trade Center, the fourth tallest building in the world, two workers lost their life…a drastic decrease from earlier years.

Some have a perception that safety only costs the organization money. This perception leaves much of the story untold. To understand how safety really affects your bottom line you must understand the direct costs versus the indirect costs.  Direct costs are associated with the initial cost of an injury or accident; the cost of a doctor’s visit, the cost of new fender the truck needs. Then you have the indirect costs that are much like the iceberg analogy; 90% of the cost of an incident is hidden as an indirect cost.

Direct Costs:

  • Medical Expenses
  • Payroll/Indemnity

Indirect Costs:

  • Replacement Employees
  • Production Delays
  • Overtime
  • Lost Work Time
  • Reduced Productivity
  • Loss of Expertise

Indirect costs are staggering in comparison to the direct cost of an incident.  Indirect costs take into account the time it takes your safety professionals and management to respond and manage the incident.  A major indirect cost is the lost productivity of those involved.

Lost productivity just scratches the surface of indirect costs incurred after an incident. The question is, what does that really cost?  If it delays your project, it could send a message to your client that you cannot keep your deadlines.  What could that cost you? Possibly a future contract worth millions of dollars to your organization.  What about insurance cost to cover your losses, or the increased EMR (experience modifier rating) rating you receive because of the incident? This could affect future contracts since clients are more frequently awarding projects based on these statistics.

This calculator will give you the estimated impact of a workplace injury on a company’s profitability. For example, if a company makes a 10% profit margin and we look at an incident that has a direct cost of $20,000 and indirect cost of $22,000, you will have a total cost of $42,000.  The company would have to generate $220,000 in sales to cover the indirect cost and almost half a million dollars to cover the total cost of one minor injury.  This shows how the costs of one incident can really add up.

So how are you going to control these costs? Add more safety professionals? Add more training? Hire only experienced employees?  Just one tactic alone will not solve all safety problems.

Implementing an effective incident reporting and investigation program will help demonstrate the value a company puts on employees safety. Reporting incidents and near misses are extremely important to organizations that want to improve their safety systems and culture. Near miss investigations are typically viewed as a negative finding. It is actually the opposite. A true near miss will have minimal cost and no injuries or damage. These show where the gaps in your system are before they have an opportunity to cost you a fortune. This is a prime opportunity to investigate, identify gaps, and report to your management team the recommended corrective actions.

Corrective actions will typically come in four categories:

  • Elimination of the hazard
  • An engineering control of the hazard
  • An administrative control of the hazard
  • PPE to protect against the hazard

The most effective way to approach and minimize the losses is to first have a very safety supportive management team.  Safety has a true place in a company’s culture, where everyone on staff is a safety leader and safety is not the sole responsibility of the company’s safety professionals.  Everyone should have a direct role in safety, and ultimately, it is the responsibility of management to execute projects not only on time but safely as well.  A quick fix could be to add someone with “safety” in their title to every crew, but how cost effective would that be?  Some can sustain that kind of cost but most would not be able to remain competitive in the marketplace with that increase in staff.  Management must understand and support the safety culture.

Safety does cost money, but it can cost a lot more if safety is not a valued part of a company’s culture.  I have been around the gulf coast industrial business all my life. I have seen my share of what can go wrong. There have been a number of incidents that help remind me every day of the importance of having a safety culture valued by all.

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Jay Bice H+M Industrial EPC

Jay Bice – HSE Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

Certificate of Technology in Occupational Health and Safety 

Jay has more than 20 years of industrial health and safety, experience in construction, pipeline environmental services and petrochemical facilities. He is responsible for developing and executing safety and health policy and objectives for H+M, as well as any sub-contractor workforce all of which represents exposure of a high risk nature. Jay provides management oversight to various safety and occupational health related programs. These programs include injury prevention, fire and emergency services, behavior safety, drug and alcohol prevention, training and occupational health. Jay is a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers.

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Small Project vs. Large Project Planning – Schedule Slippage and Recovery

 

 

Contributed by Matt McQuinn – Director of Construction

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Small Project vs. Large Project Planning – Schedule Slippage and Recovery

Small vs. Large Project Planning  - H+M Industrial EPC

Recovery.

It’s not that you shouldn’t do it, it’s that you shouldn’t HAVE to do it.

As the summer comes to a close and our daughters birthday approaches later this fall, my wife and I have been kicking around ideas for how to celebrate. This isn’t just any birthday, it’s her GOLDEN birthday which is extra special, according to my wife, as she will be turning two on the 2nd. My wife takes birthdays seriously and the only thing that might make her happier than a birthday celebration is a trip to Disney World.

We are now in the process of laying out our Disney plan to ensure we make the most of our daughter’s first visit. Meanwhile, we are working to cross off the remaining stragglers from the “2015 Summer Bucket List” we created to have some fun while getting to know an area relatively new to us. From a planning and execution standpoint, these two scopes are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

For the purposes of the next few paragraphs:

  • The summer bucket list will be labeled our “large project” (3 months).
  • The Disney trip will be labeled our “small project” (1 week).
  • Both projects have well-defined scopes.
  • The large project has a long list of activities varying greatly in terms of level of effort needed for completion, along with plenty of time in the schedule to complete the scope.
  • The small project contains a limited number of activities to be executed during a very short window of opportunity.

There is a laundry list of differences of how large vs. small projects are planned, executed, and measured. A few of the key differences are seen in:

  • Budgeting
  • Tracking
  • Work breakdown structures
  • Level of detail in project schedule
  • Reporting metrics
  • Contingency levels

For small to medium size projects (<$20MM), such as those performed by H+M, the most detrimental factor to project success for both the owner and contractor is schedule slippage.  Why? The recovery time simply isn’t available on small projects.

On our large project (summer bucket list), the remaining scope is quickly outpacing the remaining schedule duration. The list included twenty activities to be completed within a ninety day schedule, one activity every four and a half days. Sounds simple, right? Especially when the activities are things like “visit a new playground” or “go out for sno-cones”. But, as we watch the Houston, TX temperatures top 100F the entire week, activities like “go to the zoo” and “have a picnic” may need to keep sliding right. There will always be unforeseen events that affect schedule logic which is why it is imperative to complete activities as they become available. This keeps from eating up float early in the project life.  The key to large projects is finding activities like “lunch with Dad” which can be pulled up despite the 100F heat. This keeps from back-loading the schedule and controlling population densities in critical work areas.

How does this early slippage happen? Large projects give a false sense of security. During the first 25-50% of the project it is easy to adjust the plan and sequencing to fit the circumstances. Justifications for this include “the original schedule had built-in contingency” or “it was resource leveled to minimize work force”. If there is sufficient time to add resources to work multiple fronts simultaneously or if another activity can be pulled forward for resource limited projects, it often times does not hurt the project to slide activities right. Unfortunately, there are a similar number of cases where the amount of parallel critical paths caused by all the shifts start growing faster than Pinocchio’s nose.  On large projects there are several avenues to recovery, however most of them add significant project cost.

Small projects do not afford the same execution flexibility that a large project allows.  As the market has fluctuated, more and more large companies are willing the take the smaller projects as fill in work.  We have been seeing the results of large companies doing small projects, and it’s not good.

One of the first construction managers I worked for coined the phrase “Doyle’s Law: Organization Breeds Efficiency, Efficiency Breeds Productivity.” Although many of the same principles of large projects do in fact apply to small and medium projects, the execution strategies do not. Three months before our trip, thanks to Doyle’s Law, I could have told you when and where we will have a lunch date with Winnie the Pooh, how we are going to utilize our Fast Pass, which rides are toddler approved, and which additional park has local purchasing availability in case we just haven’t had enough.

Would it be reasonable to arrive at Disney World for the first time expecting success without having some rough ideas of how to accomplish the goals of the trip?  I think not.  So, why would it be reasonable to award a project that is critical to plant operations to a contractor who cannot clearly demonstrate their road map to successfully meet your project objectives?  It is important to understand each contractor’s strengths and weaknesses along with what type of projects fit them best. You definitely don’t want Uber on speed dial trying to squeeze Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom into the final day of your project.

You see, I’m confident we will knock out our large project (summer bucket list) despite the slow start. I am willing to suffer through a long drive home from Galveston with a fussy almost-two-year-old if we have to jam the zoo and building sand castles into the same day. There’s always a cost associated with recovery. That’s why I don’t like to do it.

Did I mention this is the first we’ve done a summer bucket list? Oh and by the way, we’re visiting Magic Kingdom day #2, not day #5.

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Matt McQuinn H+M Industrial EPC

Matt McQuinn – Director of Construction at H+M Industrial EPC

B.S. in Mechanical Engineering

Matt has more than 10 years of industrial engineering, construction, and commissioning experience in both domestic and foreign project settings. Responsibilities include: engineering drawing and specification interpretation; resource planning and allocation; project schedule analysis; constructability reviews; contracting strategies and management. With previous EPC contracting experience for CB&I, Matt joined H+M in 2014 to lead the construction efforts.

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Prevent Nuisance Tripping – Proper Conductor Sizing Techniques per 2014 National Electrical Code

 

 

Contributed by Justin Grubbs, P.E. – I&E Department Manager

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Prevent Nuisance Tripping – Proper Conductor Sizing Techniques per 2014 National Electrical Code

Prevent Nuisance Tripping - Proper Conductor Sizing Techniques per 2014 National Electrical Code - H+M Industrial EPC

I have gone skydiving more than a few times in my life. As an active and licensed skydiver, the safety requirements involved are clear and have been established as the cornerstone of the sport. The requirements range from medical considerations to equipment specs, each one extensively thought through and put in place to ensure safety from the time you put on your rig to the time you land under your parachute. Coincidentally, these type of regulations are also common in my line of work. Just like with skydiving, the techniques used when sizing conductors for electrical projects are imperative to the process. You wouldn’t jump out of an airplane with the wrong parachute, so why design electrical systems with incorrectly sized conductors?

Throughout my experience working in the oil, gas, and petrochemical processing industry, I have seen numerous instances of errors committed while sizing conductors and performing voltage drop calculations per the National Electrical Code® (NFPA 70 – NEC). These errors can have a wide variety of effects which range from causing equipment to operate incorrectly or inefficiently to potentially causing serious injury or death to personnel. There are many factors and considerations which must be taken into account when performing these calculations.

For the purposes of this article, assume that we are sizing a conductor which meets the requirements of Table 310.15(B)(16) (formerly Table 310.16) of the 2014 National Electrical Code. Furthermore, assume that a THHN copper conductor will be used. The first consideration one must make when determining the appropriate conductor size is the temperature rating of the conductor. In this application, a 90°C rated conductor is being used. Does this mean one should use the ampacity listed in the 90°C column of this table? Perhaps surprisingly, no, it does not. Remember that the temperature rating in this table also applies to termination points of the conductor as these will be operating at the same temperature as the conductor itself, see 310.15(A)(B) and 110.14(C). In my experience, the most common rating for a low voltage breaker terminal is 75°C. According to an Eaton® (who also manufactures breakers for Rockwell Automation®) Application Paper, the terminals on molded-case circuit breakers are rated for a maximum temperature of 75°C. With this information, the correct column to use for conductor ampacity rating is the 75°C column.

Table 310.15(B)(16) provides a starting point for sizing a conductor. This table makes a number of assumptions, the most notable of which is that the conductor is installed in an environment with an ambient temperature of 30°C (86°F). Most applications in my experience have exceeded this ambient temperature requirement (especially when installed in Texas) and have therefore required an adjustment factor to be used. Table 310.15(B)(2) contains these adjustment factors.

Voltage drop is referenced in a number of places in the NEC as an Informational Note. Section 210.19(A) IN No. 4 is the first reference to voltage drop in the code. The significance of this is that Informational Notes as defined in the NEC are NOT code requirements. These are intended to provide recommendations for best engineering practices and not enforceable as a requirement of NEC, see 90.5(C). This being said, the NEC is intended to be a minimum requirement for electrical installations. It is published by the National Fire Protection Association as a means to mitigate harm to personnel or property. In most cases, good engineering practices, industry standards, and client specifications have requirements which are above and beyond NEC; voltage drop is by far the most common example of this. Consider a 3-phase 480V MCC lineup which is fed from any number of upstream transformers and switchgear. According to NEC, the total voltage drop of all feeder and load conductors to a connected load should be no more than 5% voltage drop for reasonable efficiency of operation. If this MCC were connected to a load which contained protective relaying, even this level of voltage drop may cause nuisance tripping. Additionally, if the voltage drop is too great at the load terminals, the increase in the current passing through the load conductors may cause upstream overcurrent protective devices to trip.

Whether it is skydiving or conductor sizing, it is important not to jump into (or out of) something without understanding all necessary factors. These factors are vital to safe and reliable operational decisions. The potential issues that stem from improperly sizing conductors vary in severity but are all important nonetheless. Always make sure to double check codes, applicable specifications, and industry recommendations to help decrease the likelihood of issues that could arise.

 

References: 2014 National Electrical Code® published by the National Fire Protection Association®, Eaton® Application Paper AP01200004E

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Justin Grubbs H+M Industrial EPC

Justin Grubbs, P.E. – I&E Department Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

B.S. in Electrical Engineering

Justin has more than 7 years of industrial engineering, construction and commissioning experience. He has experience with designing, engineering, leading I&E construction, developing plant control documents, directing commissioning efforts, overseeing instrumentation specifications, validating engineering data, specifying I&E material and training operations personnel.

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Beyond the Cubicle – The importance of developing entry level employees.

 

 

Contributed by David Bull, Engineering Manager

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Beyond the Cubicle – The importance of developing entry level employees. 

BeyondCubicleArt

No one starts off their career knowing it all and not everything can be learned in the classroom. Knowledge is key and entry level employees need guidance, oversight and consistent feedback to make sure they deliver their best performance. This is especially true in the engineering and design world.

Throughout my years as a manager, I have noticed that entry level folks are generally thrown into a box of cubicles to see who emerges with the desire to develop their skills and go on to a profitable career as a piping, I&E or civil/structural engineer or designer.  The development of this group is often times stalled out due to an unclear development path. It is unrealistic for them to rely solely on on-the-job training since it can possibly take years to build their experience to the necessary level.

With limited resources in the design world it is imperative to develop your young fresh talent. Below are three ways that I suggest to achieve peak performance from your new design hires.

PERFORMANCE DEVELOPMENT

One of the first things you can do to develop your less experienced technical talent is to align their development path to organizational goals through a performance development program.

  1. Start by setting goals for them to attain throughout the year. Use these goals to increase productivity, identify your top performers and motivate the group.
  2. Make sure these goals are tied to compensation as the group will begin to bring more value to your organization with their developing skills. Also, having something specific to strive for never hurts.
  3. Check in with them quarterly or bi-annually to see where they stand and to give them feedback. A quick conversation about their performance can have a lasting impact.

At the end of this exercise your developmental people will be more engaged because they will know that someone cares about their future. Having engaged employees creates organizational loyalty that, in turn, can help retain your skilled talent.

MENTORING

Most can identify someone that has had a significant impact on their career over the years. Embracing the idea of a mentorship program can help grow your people and decrease the knowledge gap that plagues many organizations.

Start off your mentorship program by assigning a lead designer to mentor the group through their development.  This provides new hires with a resource for questions and idea generation. This works best when the mentee has the ability to accept feedback or constructive criticism and open to learning new things.

Mentoring is a two-way street. It requires that both parties are dedicated to ensure its success. Remember to pair them with a mentor who has patience and is eager to share in their development. Task the mentor with creating a development focus based on what your organization needs whether it be modeling, field work, etc.

LUNCH AND LEARN SESSIONS

Providing forums to attend that discuss basic design procedures and strategies can easily facilitate development as well.  I have found that a lunch-and-learn type environment is the perfect setting to help bring out good feedback and answers to any questions they may have.  It is remarkable what can be learned from one another in such a quick and casual setting.

At H+M we have taken this a step further and send our new drafting hires through Piper and I&E academies.  These academies require 17 weeks of classroom training followed by a field exercise checklist to help build on-the-job skills. Despite a lengthier time commitment, I have noticed a clear acceleration of the learning curve with this method.

Spend some time developing your talent and watch your retention and job satisfaction grow. This not only helps the new employee, it helps the organization as a whole.

 

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David Bull H+M Industrial EPC

David Bull – Engineering Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

B.S. in Chemical Engineering, MBA

David has more than 13 years of industrial engineering experience in operations and project settings. Responsibilities include: process design, optimization and debottlenecking; capital project management; and process unit management. With previous experience in operations for the Dow Chemical Company, David has worked at H+M for the past year in project management.

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Increase ROI by awarding projects based on VALUE instead of just PRICE

 

 

Contributed by Brad Sawyer, Business Development Manager

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Increase ROI by awarding projects based on VALUE instead of just PRICE

Value vs Price H+M Industrial EPC

“Value” is defined as the monetary worth of goods or services, and “price” is simply a number on the tag. This is especially true in the petro-chemical industry where capital project services are custom and not likely to be repetitive.  This situation makes it challenging to determine the difference between value and price, and the breakeven point as to which is the best option.

Let’s take a look at engineering and design services:  By choosing the least expensive option when selecting an engineering/design contractor, a company will no doubt save money at the start of their project.  However, when the design package is completed and issued for bids to construction companies, the possible mistakes could prove far more costly than the high quality, more expensive engineering package.  This is obviously not to say that expensive = quality, only that it must be ensured that the necessary deliverables are provided accurately to have a successful project.

Usually, construction costs and process equipment are the most expensive parts of a project. This makes it important to invest in your project early to get it started out on the right track. If it’s not, change orders from construction will add to the job cost and the schedule will be compromised.  So if you look back at the 10 % “cost savings” achieved by going with the cheapest option, what did you really save?

A company must look at the total value over the lifetime of the project, not just the price. It is increasingly important to make sure the benefits outweigh the cost and provide the desired return on investment. The cost side of the equation includes things such as project bid cost, cost due to change orders, maintenance costs, and ongoing operating costs. ROI considerations include income from operations, income as a result of increased efficiencies, and additional income due to quick startup.

A simple example of value integration is EPC companies who have a dedicated civil/structural engineering department to work alongside construction. When dealing with a civil construction job that you did not engineer, you will no doubt end up scratching your head with questions like “why do we need this much concrete?” or “is this much steel really necessary?” In order to reduce engineering/design costs to become the low cost provider, many civil/structural engineering companies just throw in huge amounts of concrete or way too many supports just to reduce the engineering hours. So by reducing their engineering “cost”, you’re now paying for it on the construction side…and we all know how expensive concrete and steel can be.

A perfect example of this recently happened to us, H+M Industrial EPC, on a very large civil/structural construction only project.  After looking over the drawings, the H+M construction team noticed it was significantly over-engineered.  Our customer allowed us to re-engineer it, stamp it, and bid on the construction as it was then designed.  In the end, we were awarded the project, re-engineered it, stamped it, and constructed the whole project for way cheaper than the competitor with the original bid.  Now our customer has a better product for a better price, and recognizes the value in starting their project off right.

Determining value requires more than just following a formula. It changes for each job, company and industry. You must use your past experience to determine what is truly valuable to stakeholders. Do not always look for the low cost provider. Look for companies who are confident in their designs and create them with constructability in mind and the intent of bidding and being awarded the construction.  Doing so, you are increasing your chance of getting a good package that leaves little room for change orders. Look for someone who plans on being around when the project is completed, is eager to form a mutually beneficial relationship, and proud to put their name on your project.

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BradSawyer

Brad Sawyer – Business Development Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

B.S. in Industrial Distribution Engineering

Brad has more than 10 years of business development experience in the heavy industrial markets including Petrochem, Refining, Power, Mid-stream, and Terminals. His responsibilities include managing the Business Development and Marketing divisions at H+M. Industry experience includes capital projects, turn-arounds, outages, and maintenance along the Texas Gulf coast region.

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Success or Failure – Using the 5 Steps of Project Management to Plan Yours

 

 

Contributed by Kevin Bautz, Senior Project Manager

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Success or Failure – Using the 5 Steps of Project Management to Plan Yours

5 steps of project management H+M Industrial EPC

I wanted to write about a topic that would allow me to discuss something personal yet applicable to work, important to me yet topical to others, and in-the-moment yet timeless.  I found no better way to write about success and failure than in the context of a recent workplace competition.

I entered the workplace competition to succeed, not fail.  Isn’t that why most people compete?  If so, why is it that many will fail?  Why will few succeed?  What is the difference between success and failure?  What is the same between success and failure?  It is this last question that helps me understand answers to the others.

This competition had many motivating factors; “want” alone was not enough to succeed.  Both success and failure take effort; you have to try. Both outcomes require initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closure. Coincidentally, those are also the 5 Steps in Project Management.

These steps can either support or thwart a positive outcome.  They can help you succeed, but they can also help you fail if not used correctly.  In the case of the workplace competition, many used these steps to execute a plan contradictory to their ultimate goal.  They subconsciously planned how to do everything BUT work toward the goal.

The same is true at work.  In my field, Project Management, the steps below are the ones that guide my work.  These steps, when used effectively, ensure the highest level of success.  They are specific, predictable, consistent, thoughtful, tested, uniform, familiar, and teachable to name a few.

5 Steps in Project Management

  • Initiating – consists of those processes performed to define a new project or a phase of an existing project by obtaining authorization to start the project or phase. (PMBOK Guide)
  • Planning – consists of those processes required to establish the scope of the project, refine the objectives and define the course of action required to attain the objectives that the project was undertaken to achieve. (PMBOK Guide)
  • Executing – consists of those processes performed to complete the work defined in the project management plan to satisfy the project specifications. (PMBOK Guide)
  • Monitoring/Controlling – required to track, review and regulate the progress and performance of the project; identify any areas in which changes to the plan are required; and initiate the corresponding changes. (PMBOK Guide)
  • Closure – consists of those processes performed to finalize all activities across all the Process Groups to formally close the project or phase. (PMBOK Guide)

Still wondering what workplace competition allowed me to use these steps toward success?  I lost…a lot.  I also won…a lot.  I succeeded at achieving better health, better self-image, a little bit of financial compensation, bragging rights, and everything else that comes with losing 35 pounds in 90-days.  Let’s just say that I don’t like to lose.

My success did not come by accident. I used the steps to accomplish my goal, not conflict with it.  The next time you are presented with achieving a goal, remember it is up to you to put your efforts toward either success or failure.

References:

Project Management Institute. (2004). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide). Newtown Square, Pa: Project Management Institute.

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KevinBautz

Kevin Bautz – Senior Project Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

B.S. in Chemical Engineering

Kevin has more than 13 years of industrial engineering experience in operations and project settings. His past experience ranges from process and equipment engineering in semiconductors, process simulation engineer for the oil & gas and chemical industries, and key management roles in engineering and operations for The Sun Products Corporation in Pasadena, TX and Bowling Green, KY. Kevin joined H+M in 2014.

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