Eight Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Technology Consultant
Technology is constantly evolving and it affects almost every aspect of today’s businesses. In order for your company to stay on the cutting edge, you must keep up. That means having good IT consultants who can keep your business at the cutting edge of current technology. When it comes to the mission-critical task of hiring a good consultant, you can’t afford to make a mistake. Here are the top eight mistakes to avoid:
Failing to Identify Your Needs
There are numerous reasons for hiring a Technology Consultant from upgrading your current enterprise system (or modules), maintaining or modernizing your legacy systems, updating software and hardware, or just having a qualified resource to help train your staff or work on short term projects. No matter the need, finding the right Tech for the job first requires identifying exactly what you need him/her for.
Too Little Manpower
If the work you need is extensive and you’ve hired an independent contractor, there may not be enough manpower to handle the job. That could either create a situation in which the work goes on far too long with no end in sight or simply does not get done at all. Neither situation is acceptable. It’s important to hire a company that has enough manpower to handle the size of the job.
A consulting contractor can handle the job if it is within their means. Some small companies can also handle some very large jobs as well. Just be certain the size of the company suites the size of the job.
Area of Expertise
It’s important that the person hiring the consultant understands what the company needs well enough to conduct the interview with pointed questions. Does this consultant have the expertise to do your specific job? Technology consultants cover many different areas of expertise. Their resume may not pinpoint your job. Therefore, interview questions must be specific in cases like these. Do you, as the interviewer, have the specific knowledge required to garner whether or not this consultant can do what he or she needs to be able to do for your company? Are you asking the right questions? Is someone else within your company in a better position to be interviewing for this contract?
Get it in writing
Be certain you know exactly what you’re getting for your money. Be certain the entire scope of work and job is outlined within the contract. What will the consultant be providing? Some consultants set up hardware, software, or complicated systems and then leave without training anyone to use it. Be certain that having someone on your team trained is part of the service and that it is specified in writing as part of the contract with the IT consulting firm. This is a critical part of your contract.
Since the IT consultant will have access to some of your most sensitive data, be certain this contract also includes a confidentiality agreement as well as a right to all Intellectual Property created during services rendered.
Make Sure the IT Consultant is Not Trying to Sell You a Product
Your Technology Consultant should be focused on what is best for you and your company – not on selling you a particular product because he/she gets a kickback from that company. Ask them outright if they receive a commission for selling you a particular software. Be certain that your written agreement with the IT consultant specifies that they are not engaged to sell you a particular product, that they do not represent any one software or hardware company. Only in that way can you be certain that the tech has your best interest in mind.
Failing to Speak the Same Language
In addition to making sure someone within your company is trained to continue using the software or hardware or system that the Technology Consultant has put into place, be certain that someone within your company, someone who has been involved in the interview process (see #3) understands exactly what the consultant is doing. They don’t have to understand how the tech is doing what he’s doing, only why he is doing it. If you’re in a role that requires oversight of specific software, hardware or systems, you should understand this information. Anyone within your organization that will have direct involvement working with a particular software or system should be involved in hiring this consultant to be certain communication is open and fluid.
Becoming Dependent on Your Technology Consultant
If you or someone trusted in your organization does not train in what the consultant is putting in place within your system, the consultant can build in complexities that will require you to call on them frequently at their regular hourly rate (which could be astronomical and eternal). Additionally, they could custom-build something into the system. Be certain that your contract gives you full ownership of any Intellectual Property conceived during the project.
An unsavory Technology Consultant can hold your systems hostage as was exhibited with the Colonial Pipeline recently. Ransomware is prevalent. Generally, it’s not as blatant as a consultant who has been inside your business – but it can be. Why take the chance? There have been numerous instances of highjacking associated business bank accounts and draining the funds. It can take months or even years to recover these funds – if ever. And often the perpetrators never get caught. Don’t let this happen to you. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you are working with a reputable company and consultants.
Know your consultant. Looking at this person’s resume is not enough. Your Technology Consultant will have access to some of your most sensitive data. Be certain that he has had this responsibility before. Know that he has completed past projects on time and with exceptional results. You can only be certain of this by having his employer verify this information. You can also so do a separate background check for internal purposes as well.
Hiring a Technology Consultant is a big responsibility. Don’t let it intimidate you. The consultant or consulting company is there to help you. By selecting the right consulting company and avoiding these pitfalls, you can make this a win-win for both parties. Remember, working with the right consultant could make the difference between success or failure for your company.
The client is a leading global supplier of automotive dampers and performance shock absorbers in commercial and defense segments. PMC was able to offer its expertise in Ergonomic Analysis, MODAPTS and Dynamic Simulation modeling to identify the challenges faced by the customer to improve the current throughput in their efforts for capacity expansion. Our utilization of discrete event simulation techniques and Ergonomic analysis techniques allowed the company to identify utilization of all the stations and operators working in the production line, identify the potential ergonomically perilous activities carried out by the operator and provide solutions to the high-risk ergo concerns. The combination of Simulation Analysis along with Non-Value-added (MODAPTS) analysis and Ergonomic analysis has resulted in improvement in the line capacity and throughput.
The current line has 11 stations running 2 shifts per day. Each shift being 8 hours there are 11 operators allocated to the stations. There are 2 stations which are replenished by the line leaders in addition to the 11 operators. Out of the 11 stations, 2 station are outside the line in the current state, which will eventually be shifted to the line in the future state. There are 22 FGI parts for 2 different customers (Customer A and Customer B) making a share of 66.7% and 33.3% respectively. A third of the FGI parts produced for Customer A go through the offline machines currently. Essentially there are 2 different process flows with respect to the type of FGI being produced.
The current process flows and procedures at the plant have been proving to be inefficient to improve productivity, and meet customer demands due to ramping up of production and inclusion of new products on the line. With the unreliable equipment on the line the company had a challenge to improve their throughput with wide product variety and high changeover times. It was necessary for the client to focus on the current operational improvements to reduce the overall cycle time of the products.
a) Data Collection and Validation (PFEP): Data collection in simulation modelling is a vital process that highlights the required data sets and their desired properties such as accuracy, sample period and format to allow the simulation model to achieve the project objectives. A PFEP (Plan for Every Part) was developed with the data collected from various sources and validated on the line.
b) Ergo Analysis (JACK): All the operator movements associated with operations, handling etc., during production for each station have been captured and studied. The 3D models of the stations were imported to JACK to study the movements of the operators at and between the stations and the postures were simulated. The Ergo analysis provided qualitative and quantitative rating to the movements of the operator. One of the rating systems that provide the magnitude of risk associated with a task is RULA (Rapid Upper Limb Assessment). From the analysis, the medium to high risk items were identified and suggestions/improvements were made on these operator movements. The suggestions were re-simulated in Jack and results were provided. This unique technique of PMC has ensured that the customer identified the tasks that will need immediate changes and eventually it would save on cycle time due to minimization or elimination of high-risk tasks.
c) MODAPTS: PMC’s expertise in MODAPTS is utilized in this case to identify the Non-value added and waste movements of the operators in the process for each station. All the operator movements were video recorded and analyzed utilizing a custom built MODAPTS sheet created by PMC. The MODAPTS sheet gives an account of all the Value Added, Non-Value Added and Waste activities associated with the process. Based on the operations suggestions were made on tasks, equipment utilized in the operations by the operator and standard operating procedures to minimize the Non-Value Added and Waste times associated with the cycle. At this point MODAPTS and JACK analysis improvements go hand in hand, since any changes made to ergonomics would reflect in MODAPTS due to change in the operation.
d) Simulation Model (PlantSim): The layout, the PFEP and the Production Schedule are fed to PlantSim, to get the base simulation model. The current process flows of material and the operators are incorporated in the model. The current capacity and throughput are obtained after running the simulation for 40 days with provided schedule. The changes made through Ergo analysis and NVA study are incorporated in the simulation study to get the future state simulation model and an analysis of the simulation results were made.
The improvements made through the MODAPTS NVA analysis and the JACK ergonomic analysis resulted in efficient utilization of the operators at the stations. By simulating the changes made and running scenarios the following throughput improvements have been achieved.
1. Base model + MODAPTS NVA Analysis + Jack Ergo Analysis – 4.33% improvement in throughput
2. Scenario 1 + Addition of resource – 25.56% improvement in overall throughput
3. Scenario 2 + Change in SOPs – 41.77% improvement in overall throughput
The unique approach to problem solving through simulation not only achieves the output the client wishes for but also identifies the hazardous and perilous processes along the way and aims to keep the work environment streamlined and safer while being efficient at the same time.
The client, a major automotive company, desired a new vehicle distribution system for its North American dealership network. The goal was to create a system that would be responsive to customer choices while reducing distribution costs. After comprehensively evaluating the supply chain, with an emphasis on customer satisfaction metrics, PMC developed and recommended a Distribution Center (DC) plan which optimally balanced customer needs and transportation costs. This plan demonstrated the possibility of reducing transportation costs by 25% while simultaneously improving customer service.
• Inefficient vehicle distribution system
• High inventory at point of sales location
• Low customer responsiveness
• High transportation costs
• Long vehicle delivery times
• Inadequate service levels
Vehicles manufactured abroad were shipped to multiple ports within the United States to satisfy North American demand. Dealerships received
inventory directly from the ports nearest to their respective metro area. Most transportation from portside distribution centers to dealerships was performed via road transportation (i.e. trucks).
The primary objective of the project was to improve customer satisfaction with a cost-effective distribution plan. Features of the former plan targeted for improvement included:
• High Transportation costs between ports and metro markets
• Long vehicle delivery times
• Waning customer satisfaction metrics relating to vehicle choice and availability
The client was considering the introduction of more distribution centers, closer to dealerships, as a potential strategy for improvement. PMC was tasked with both developing tools to generate and evaluate various distribution center placement alternatives, and proposing an improved distribution plan. Both the quantity and location of distribution centers were to be analyzed.
PMC’s first step was to thoroughly document the existing distribution network. To do this, a multi-step plan was initiated: First, process maps describing the customer and vehicle flow were created. Then, key contributors to customer service level and transportation costs were identified, using created dynamic and stochastic input variables. Such variables included dealer inventory control policies, truck load factors, customer demand and demand seasonality, as well as transportation delays. PMC consultants developed both a Mixed Integer Program (MIP) optimization and discrete event simulation model to represent the details of the distribution network. Results of the MIP, obtained with AMPL Plus, combined with ProModel what-if analysis techniques were used to determine the optimal number of DCs to include and the ideal locations to place them.
PMC’s MIP was developed to generate distribution center alternatives that minimized transportation-related costs per year. The alternatives were then evaluated using the simulation model, which explicitly considered the probability and dynamic elements in the system, and hence, estimated the overall effect of the given options more realistically. The client was updated on the distribution network options available to them, the expected benefits of each, and the new design recommended by PMC.
The solution outcomes demonstrated that a decentralized DC concept would achieve the designated performance criteria. Significant cost reduction opportunities relating to DC inventories and transportation modes were revealed. It was shown that, under certain circumstances, the recommended distribution network could yield over $20 million savings per year in transportation-related costs. In addition to cost savings, the distribution plan improves customer service levels by increasing the likelihood of first-choice vehicles being available and reducing the instances of lost customers.
A top tier supplier of agricultural and construction equipment launched several new products without developing corresponding labor standards to support the production process. This presented two major challenges to the management staff. The first issue related to the incentive program in place for production personnel. Without appropriate labor standards there was no way to tie incentives to operator performance. As a result operators were receiving maximum incentives regardless of performance. This resulted in higher labor costs and effectively eliminated the motivational aspect of the incentive program since there was no way to gauge operator performance. The second major issue was that the absence of labor standards resulted in highly unpredictable production levels. As a result, production forecasts were frequently inaccurate, leading to late orders and excessive order backlogs. In addition to the above the manufacturer was planning to install new production lines to expand capacity and needed to develop a future state plant layout that included a consolidation of similar operations, improved traffic flow, and adequate storage space.
The manufacturing process was divided into stamping, welding, and assembly operations. Labor standards were absent in all three operational areas and work station design was not optimized in many cases.
A tour of the manufacturing facility revealed much opportunity for improvement using basic techniques of lean manufacturing. In addition to the lack of work standards there were numerous instances of parts and tools being stored on the floor, double-handling of material, and excessive line side stock. These conditions resulted in excessive operator walk time, poor ergonomic conditions, and potential safety hazards. Ultimately, these conditions lead to lower than expected throughput, highly variable production levels, low morale, and an ineffective incentive system.
Labor standards were developed using a systematic approach consisting of four steps. The first step was the creation of a video recording of the process. This video could then be referenced as needed. The next step was to reference blue prints for welding specifications. The third step was to input all of the work elements into EASEworks® software. This software had been customized to contain predetermined times for most of the common elements performed and was used to record and calculate the labor standard. Finally, the fourth step was to create standard work instructions and process sheets for each job. After work standards were created work stations were reviewed for improvement opportunities and a proposed future state layout was created.
Labor standards were developed in conjunction with the application of lean initiatives and process improvement efforts. While engineers were developing labor standards, waste, which was prevalent in the operations, began to surface. Process improvement techniques were then implemented with the intent of eliminating this waste and were directed in such a way as to produce the highest impact for the smallest investment. A proposed future state layout was also developed.
Labor standards were developed for all operations and standard work instructions and process sheets were created. Work station design was also optimized to reduce walk time and improve ergonomic conditions. In order to eliminate excessive stock from work stations, improve part presentation to the operator, and reduce non-value added walk time material carts were designed and implemented. These carts included small bins to store hardware, shelves for small to medium sized parts (especially heavy parts), tool holders, and swivel castors to enhance mobility and flexibility. Deployment of these carts facilitated a reduction in both walk times and the floor space required for material storage and a simplification of the inventory counting process. In addition to the material carts, tool rails were hung to better position tools for the operators, lighting was improved, additional air and electrical feeds were installed, and flow racks were put in place for large part storage. These improvements led directly to improved quality, increased throughput, decreased production variation, and a reduction in required floor space. A future state layout was also developed incorporating all of the improvements. The resulting layout allowed for consolidation of all assembly/trim operations to one area of the facility, provided aisles to facilitate improved traffic flow and afforded additional space for warehouse and finished goods storage.
PMC’s established project management methodology was used to design, plan and implement material handling systems for a new engine assembly line at a large automotive engine assembly plant. It was clear from the outset that this was no ordinary move and would require extensive and complex planning in order to achieve the physical move within the required time frame. PMC’s experience as a material handling systems integrator helped the client achieve their goals through execution of proven solution processes.
The project consisted of designing and relocating the existing parts warehouse, dock analysis, design and implementation of material delivery routes from warehouse to point of assembly, and material presentation at the station. The project also consists of sourcing equipment required at the warehouse, for material delivery, and at the station for better material presentation.
The primary challenge of this project was to achieve all of the project goals and objectives while adhering to the defined constraints. The primary constraints were scope, time, quality and budget. The secondary, and more ambitious, challenge was to optimize the allocation of necessary inputs and integrate them to meet pre-defined objectives.
PMC utilized project management techniques to effectively manage the project including: Initiating Processes, Planning Processes, Executing Processes, Monitoring and Controlling Processes, and Closing Processes. A series of standard templates and reports were created and used to execute and monitor the performance of the tasks throughout the various stages of the project. Some of the tasks/ steps involved in managing the project effectively were:
• Documenting and providing minutes of project status meetings
• Providing and maintaining the Project Plan including coordination and interface with other major
contractors (material handling equipment manufacturers, parts kit box suppliers, etc.)
• Identifying, tracking, managing, and resolving project issues
• Coordinating and interfacing with suppliers and sub-contractors
• Tracking equipment and system design changes
• Working closely with safety, ergonomic, logistics, team leaders, and various other stakeholders
during the design phase and during various stages of the project
The warehouse relocation was successfully completed without interrupting the existing assembly line operation. The overall project was completed in time and within the budget. Effective project management contributed to customer quality, material integrity, asset management and overall compliance. The client was very satisfied in the way the entire project was managed and executed.