The "A" Team

Have you ever asked for a design firm’s “A” team?  It was probably because your project required some specific knowledge, an expert, not just a generalist.  Seems like a reasonable request – to have the best you can get for your money.  The problem is, the best people in a firm are always occupied.  Sure, they have to roll off a project from time to time, but not to warm the bench - they are already scheduled for the next gig. 

But we all know who does sit on the bench.  The fact is, the best people will always be assigned to the top dollar clients and are tied up working on the long-term million-dollar job.  Small checkbook?  Too bad for you.

To make matters worse, you were not sold on the capabilities of those sitting on the bench.  Or perhaps not even the capabilities of the firm’s top talent.  How can this be?  All companies and industries have turnover, so if a firm has been around for several decades, good people who are long gone were responsible for some of those showcase projects. 

Talent and experience do not transfer by osmosis.  Just being in the same room doesn’t count, in my opinion.  So, when you’re shopping for design or engineering services, be sure to ask who will be assigned to your project and ask to talk to them.  Interview them, not the sales team or company figurehead.  Remember that people do projects, not companies. 

Want to talk to our "A" team? Let us know here!

The Cost of Lead Time

"It seems like customers expect products delivered quicker than ever."


It is first worth finding out why customers are expecting faster delivery.  Is your competitor offering better lead times?  Are they increasing their price to accommodate, or have they improved their supply chain or efficiency?  Maybe your sales team is influencing expectations.  This can be fine, but not if it makes the salesperson the sale (commission) but costs you stress and reduces the company profit margin (not uncommon).


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Secrets of Product Cost Estimation (Prior to Design)! Part 2

Part 2 – Bits and Pieces, and Why 

Bits and pieces

The last portion of the cost can be attributed to medium-ish parts, and the mundane; fasteners, assembly, labeling, packaging, etc.  While this category represents about 20% of the cost of a product, it is also about 80% of the quantity (# of parts) of the product.  The lesson here is don’t waste your time trying to count or estimate it all line by line; estimate in bulk as much as possible.

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Secrets of Product Cost Estimation (Prior to Design)! Part 1

Part 1 - The Big Piece of the Pie

A challenge that companies both new and old face is getting a handle on product cost when you would like to know it most - before you put forth the effort to design and produce it.  It sounds crazy, to estimate how much something will cost before you even design it, but it’s not difficult.  Here's How.

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3 Ways to Avoid Going Broke with Custom Automation Equipment

In the course of R&D, many companies will need to develop what ends up as manually intensive procedures in order to create a new process.  This could occur in any industry: life sciences, agriculture, manufacturing, lab testing, data recovery, etc.  Given the constant shortage of resources in business, it is often difficult to take a step back and initiate a change that may be obvious to an outsider - such as replacing that test-tube-filling PhD with a piece of equipment.  Once the process is proven, it is time to move on and put your high value staff to more productive use elsewhere.
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What is Value Improvement?

Although it may sound boring, Value Improvement (VI) is a quite powerful business tool that should not be overlooked.  Generally known as cost reduction, VI is a more appropriate label once the overall objective is understood.  Several tools can be used to achieve the objectives of Value Improvement and will be discussed later on.  Essentially, the aim is to increase value of the product / service to the customer by:
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