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Productivity Knowledge Base: Case Histories

Case #0001: Productivity isn't always a matter of doing the job for less than the bid requires.

Brad Johnson had been a project manager with Bergeron Electric for 21 years. The company performed a wide range of services, but most of its work involved retrofits and upgrades in industrial plants.

Brad took on a job that involved revamping an entire process line. This line used several operator control stations. Each station consisted of a box with pushbuttons and panel switches. Brad had tried to talk the customer into a central PLC-based system, but the customer wanted the switches and buttons.

The wiring was old, and much of the insulation was crumbled. The stations themselves were corroded, dented, pitted, or otherwise cosmetically defective. Though most of them had very similar functions, all of them were laid out differently.

Brad talked to the customer about standardizing the stations to one particular design. "No, I don't want to pay for a redesign. Just rewire the ones I have." Brad showed the customer the condition of the existing units, and explained that costs involved in rewiring. Then, Brad suggested the following:

  • Bergeron would create a standard face for all the control stations, reducing operator confusion and mistakes that had been plaguing the customer.
  • Bergeron would assemble these in their own shop, eliminating field fabrication time downtime at the customer's site.
  • All of these stations would plug into standard DIN connectors, which would be wired to terminal strips.
  • The customer would need some downtime to allow for running existing wiring into the new wiring interface. But, that would save time for future maintenance.

This increased productivity really didn't save Bergeron any money. It changed the scope of the job, and changed their price accordingly. Why do it? Here are some reasons:

  • Bergeron focused on solving the customer's problem, not on seeing how cheaply they could do the work.
  • The standardized approach made for a much nicer-looking installation.
  • The combination of pre-fab, standardization, and other factors nearly eliminated any chance of a callback. The originally suggested project would have been a service nightmare.

So, you see, productivity isn't always a matter of doing the job for less than the bid requires. It can be a matter of getting the bid to match the real needs of the customer.

Disclaimer: In many cases, the names have been changed for various reasons. In no case are we publishing any case that sheds a negative light on any real person or company. Any negative comments related to the name of an actual person or company are purely coincidental.



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