Beyond the Standard: Solving Problems, Not Masking Them
If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
This adage holds particular relevance in the system integrator space today. Most integrators advocate for a standard software library, a standard hammer and nail. In fact, one of the last integrators I worked for had a standard product library that no one in the organization could modify. If fixes or improvements were needed, they had to contract outside the organization. While this example represents an extreme case, similar challenges persist throughout our industry. I can’t count how many times I have found myself in meetings where engineers and sales teams tried to creatively align the problem at hand with the parameters of the standard product offering.
I ask myself why this is a common problem. We are engineers – we solve problems! Why push to fit every round peg into a square hole? It boils down to risk mitigation. The perception is that custom software solutions increase risk exponentially. If engineers use proven and tested designs, code, and processes, however, the risk won’t increase. But at what cost? We must carefully evaluate the true cost of such an approach. Does it solve the problem at its source, or does it merely implement a solution that masks or displaces the problem elsewhere?
Masked Owl Technologies (MOT) has a robust project delivery process that allows us to take on new integration challenges while still mitigating risk. We start with proper scope definition followed by an interactive design and build process where we perform constant quality checks, both internally and with our clients. We finish with an engaging start-up process that ensures we’ve solved the problem at its source, properly trained the on-site teams, and proactively prepared for unexpected system scenarios.
MOT’s customer success team is involved throughout the entire project lifecycle to ensure testing directly aligns with the defined scope. Our project managers hold the team accountable for adhering to the schedule, diligently driving the team towards meeting crucial deadlines. Throughout the process, MOT’s subject matter experts (SMEs) actively contribute their expertise to drive proper technology use.
As a technical example, a paint shop in central Indiana approached one of our engineers in a previous role to implement an on/off solution on a reciprocating paint application. It was a simple setup; the paint applicator would reciprocate vertically. A system integrator had provided a price to add a proximity switch to count gear teeth and turn the applicator on/off based on position, a simple solution that ultimately would not work. Based on the calculations, the teeth were spaced such that the on/off granularity would be about 5 inches and the entire stroke of the machine was 20. And with most parts spanning the middle 15 inches, the opportunity for savings was minimal at best. A timer could be used to add some granularity in the last 5 inches on the bottom and the top, but timers posed additional problems within the application (and if a timer was the right solution, why add the proximity switch at all?).
What was the solution? The engineers found a string potentiometer that was NEMA 4X rated for explosion-proof applications. It would provide granularity down to 0.025 inches and allow for much tighter control of the on/off cycle. These were implemented and the client had the control they needed.
The lesson learned from this experience is that system integrators should not sell solutions for nonexistent problems or offer solutions that are incompatible with the specific challenges at hand. Solution providers like MOT are bold enough to dig deeper, address the problem at its source, and effectively mitigate risk throughout the entire process.