BLOG - Page 12 of 12 - Custom Air Products & Services

Project Life Cycles in a Custom HVAC World

Posted on
projectlifecycle

Personal reflections by Bea Amaya, Marketing Manager…formerly Project Manager in a whole different type of business.

Anyone with any background or education in Project Management should recognize the Project Life Cycle curve:

(Image taken from: http://www.pmhub.net/wp/2009/07/pmbok-still-two-phased-another-trap-for-the-unwary/figure-2-1-typical-cost-and-staffing-levels-across-the-project-life-cycle-3/)

I have to say that in my previous life as a database designer, this curve was pretty much right on the money. But now that I’m in a different business, I really have to wonder about 1) whether this curve really fits what we do, and 2) if not, how would I change it.

I’ve been in this business nearly 9 months now, and am still only just beginning to get a good handle on it all. From my observations, however, this is the kind of work cycle I see.

  1. Someone that one of our Sales Team has already spent time with finally decides to allow us to bid on a project for them and provides us with some basic information.
  2. Our Sales Team then begins working diligently with our Estimators to prepare a detailed scope of work, a task which often results in a considerable amount of time, effort, and communication in order to collect, then create, the required specifications.
  3. The Sales Team member returns to the customer with a detailed quote for the work.
  4. We wait.
  5. If we lose the bid, all that (unpaid) work gets filed away and we move on.
  6. If we win the bid, the real work begins.
  7. Activities really begin to ramp up in all parts of the organization.
    1. Finance: Is this a new customer? Do we have them in our system? Are they reputable, dependable, and trustworthy?
    2. Fabrication: What are the requirements of this project in manpower, materials, and equipment? When/how can we slot this work in to our schedule?
    3. Project Management: Who will take over management of the project? What further questions need to be asked and answered before work can begin? What kind of design/engineering is required? How much will all the parts cost? When do we order them so they arrive just in time for our needs?
    4. Design/Engineering: Has the customer provided all the information we need? Does the customer approve of this item? And this one? How about this one? Can fabrication meet this design requirement? Can electrical? Can automation/controls?
  8. Once the project design/engineering is complete, the job passes on to fabrication for execution.
  9. Now this is where my opinion may be a little “off”, but my initial feeling at this point is that although the work takes significant time and manpower to execute, the fact that all the difficult questions have already been answered means that we have already “peaked” on our curve and that the project impact on our organization is on a downhill slide now.

The two most difficult to manage features of the kind of work we do, then, are these. 1) We spend a lot of time and effort on preparing for a job that we have not yet been hired to do. 2) We are often at the “mercy” of the customer’s schedule, budget, and work environment during the entire design phase. And it is this second feature that really breaks our ability to control the project as we would like, or even as we would need in order to be more efficient and cost-effective.

Have I made a mistake here? Am I “off” in my perspective?

So, I continue to search for that curve that I think represents our kind of work flow. And if I don’t find it, I may be forced to create it because I think it is important. For as those of us with a Project Management background all know, “Planning without action is futile, action without planning is fatal.” — Cornelius Fitchner.

Filed under: career, experience Tagged: caps, hvac, manufacturing, project management


Making Those Marketing $$ $tretch

Posted on

At CAPS, we are planning to participate in a trade show in two weeks (the Texas City Industrial Trade Show) and are scrambling to prepare for it. I mean, we only have two week, right? Trade shows are always a lot of fun for us allowing us to get out and interact with potential customers, and the community, and share a bit about who we are and what we do. But yes, they are also a distraction from our regular work as well as a bit of trouble to prepare for and execute. Still…we do what we need to do.

Yesterday (Wednesday) we made a decision to also participate in a career fair at one of our local college campuses. The San Jacinto College Career Fair is a different kind of fun for us as this allows us to interact, personally, with potential candidates for positions in our organization. The problem? This fair is scheduled for Tuesday. That’s right…less that one week to prepare!

Ha! No step for a stepper, right? Well, I put my brain to work scrambling for new ideas for this one as the rules are a little different. The show is only 3 hours long; we have a “booth” on hand but are wondering if we want to go through all the trouble of setting it up for such a short show; we are not targeting customers but rather potential employees; and some of these potential employees are not quite sure what it is we do.

So, we need photos. And we need them fast. I have a marketing budget, of course, and could organize for some professional help, but not overnight. My strategy? I took a look at some nice equipment photos we have on hand, took a bit of time on each to remove the backgrounds (Photoshop), uploaded 10 of them to a local photo shop, chose the one-hour service and waited for my text notification. Here’s the results:

walmart-photos

Not bad, right? Oh…so you want to know the name of my photo service? The one that printed my photos, mounted them on some lightweight frames, then sent me a text message to come pick them up? Um…that would be Walmart.

Marketing is important to our business as we sometimes need to find a way to show customers, potential customers, and potential employees examples of our work. (These units are not something most people encounter on their everyday wanderings.) I have no problem investing in value-added products and services that help us accomplish our marketing goals. But when something comes along that meets our needs, is quick, reliable, and just happens to be inexpensive, well, it’s just one of those things with me…

I can’t resist a good deal!


Lunch and Learn with the Service Division

Posted on
CAPS excel class

Twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in exchange for a good lunch (my standard “price”) I hang out with the folks from our Service Division and “teach” a class on Excel. When I was first approached to try to help find someone to bring in for this purpose, I laughingly pointed out that I was probably qualified to do the teaching. When they first took me up on the offer, I had to engage in some soul searching…is this really what I want to do for lunch twice a week?

As it turns out, at least so far, the idea is actually GREAT, and for a number of reasons.

  1. Because the group has some common goals, and common tools (Excel), we just pick a major topic then adjust the class content to fit these real-life examples.
  2. There are several levels of competency in class which makes for a rich learning experience for all of us (including me!). Instead of splitting the class into beginners, intermediates, and advanced Excel users, we opted to have everyone come at the same time. This way we cover a wide range of experience for a particular topic and everyone seems to get a little bit of what they need. So far, I like how it’s working out.
  3. Having a group of people that work together every day involved in the class together is so very cool. We can talk about issues, examples, and brainstorm ideas, and everyone is on board with the conversation.
  4. The class has actually turned into an experience of group problem-solving as much as training. We pull up actual spreadsheets in use by the team and try different scenarios, brainstorm different solutions, and work out solutions that meet the needs of the different roles involved (document creator, spreadsheet user, reporting supervisor, management, etc.).
  5. Finally, as I look down the road I can see that what we are doing now is building a foundation for providing excellent service to our customers. Building up our skill sets and doing it in an interactive team learning environment makes us better able to serve our customers efficiently, with accuracy, and in a timely manner. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

UH Career Fair Fun

Posted on

We really had an incredible time at today’s University of Houston College of Technology Career Fair. Not only did we learn about the activities, studies, and achievements of the students we talked to but we also gained a tremendous amount of respect for the college and the program. This was our first time to participate in this career fair, but it certainly won’t be our last.

UH Career Fair

In many ways our business is a niche business. It’s not like a whole lot of students graduate from universities thinking, “Hey…I think I’d really like to find a good commercial and industrial HVAC company to go to work for now.” Part of our job today was to introduce our company and our industry to these students and give them an idea of the kinds of things they would be working on if they pursued employment with us. On the other side of the coin, we were also trying to discover what kinds of skills, experiences, and capabilities the UH CoT program was providing them with throughout their university experience. The more we interacted with these students, the more we recognized that there are a lot of intersections between what we are looking for and what the program is providing.

Congrats to UH for putting on an excellent job fair but also for preparing College of Technology students to impress potential employers, like us, with these first look interactions. With any luck at all, some of those just might turn in to long-term relationships that we are all proud to talk about.


SHSU career fair

Posted on

shsu-career-fairCAPS will be participating in the SHSU career fair on February 7. Looking forward to seeing what kind of talent is entering the marketplace…perhaps some of it even headed our way.

Custom-Air-Products-2013-01-24-shsu-career


Protecting Your Commercial HVAC Investment

Posted on

Custom Air products trucks

Energy efficiency and lowered utility costs are a top priority for all businesses. Well-maintained commercial HVAC systems deliver optimum performance, comfort, and savings as well as benefitting from an extended effective life on the equipment. Custom Air Products & Services offers a variety of solutions to make sure your commercial HVAC investment is fully protected by a service program custom designed to fit your facility needs.

As a leading commercial HVAC manufacturer, installer, and service provider in the Houston area, Custom Air Products & Services works with a wide range of commercial clients. We believe it is our duty to look for ways to help all our clients save money on energy costs in spite of our notably hot Texas summers, nation-wide financial concerns, and rising utility fees. Our range of customized maintenance and service contracts help us help you in designing a program that is just right for your facility needs.

We provide commercial HVAC value in a number of ways:

  • We work closely with clients to develop a structured approach that is tailored for each individual situation. Effective preventive maintenance programs mean no surprises on utility costs or from unexpected equipment breakdowns.
  • Our service result in immediate operating cost savings that in many cases will more than pay for the cost of the service agreement freeing up valuable cash for other needs.
  • By providing a well-designed quality HVAC maintenance plan, we help clients benefit from lower operating costs from energy savings, lower capital costs from longer equipment life, and the ability to accurately forecast unit replacements.

Contact us today to discuss protection of your commercial HVAC investment. A knowledgeable and experienced representative will be happy to contact you and to work with you in developing a plan that meets your facility’s specific needs.

by Robert Lankford, CAPS Sales


Learning the Business

Posted on

by Bea Amaya, CAPS Marketing

I’ve been on board with Custom Air Products & Services for 6 months now and this weekend I actually settled in to an office space. While it might seem a little odd for the Marketing Manager to go 6 months without an office space of my own, there really was some method to the madness. You see, although I’ve spent my adult life serving in roles mostly throughout the petrochemical industry (I started life as an I&E technician!), the HVAC industry is  new to me.

I started off sitting in a “borrowed” office in the Sales and Mechanical Field Services building. Listening to the goings-on there, watching the equipment being assembled, loaded, and shipped, hearing jokes, witnessing disagreements, observing collaborations…ALL of this was so very helpful to me and a really great place to start. After a month or so, I picked up and moved.

bea-office

My next location had me sitting in an open plan area next to engineering designers and draftsmen. Here I learned about the challenges this department faces when trying to interface with the other departments. I watched these guys work late into the evening on occasion, heard their struggles with trying to answer to salesmen, project managers, management, and customers, and learned about the challenges and rewards of teamworkwithin departments as well as across them.

After a month of this I next moved to the HVAC & Plumbing Services department. I chose an open area here as well in order to listen in on the issues this group deals with every day. I actually had no idea how this division operated before I sat with them. I was surprised to find they were more like an individual company within a company in their methods of handling everything from manpower issues to accounting issues to problem resolutions. I really enjoyed seeing how the members of this group took real ownership of the processes and procedures they were responsible for. Another eye-opening period of time was under my belt now and it was time to move again.

My next location was sitting above the fab shop with the project managers responsible for the monitoring and control of fabrication and manufacturing projects in progress. Having worked with project managers for much of my career (and as one!), I thought this would be the spot that would be more familiar than the others. In some ways I was right, but there were so many ways that my assumptions would have been way off base without this chance to watch these guys in action, listen to the issues they deal with every day, and be a part of their lives for a few weeks.

Although I’ve now settled in to my own space, with things of my choosing on the walls, information organized the way I like it, and a door that I can close when I need to (big smile) I am VERY pleased with my 6-month rotation throughout the facility and what it has meant to me. I am much more comfortable working with all of these different groups now, much more knowledgeable about the challenges and rewards they deal with on a daily basis, and just a little more informed about this business I’ve chosen to pursue and how it works.

I would HIGHLY recommend this kind of path toward learning for new employees,or even others that might need a “refresher course”, especially in the HVAC industry. For the rest of you, I can only recommend that you get out and about in your own businesses, going places you might not normally go and talking to people you might not normally see. In my experience, the value to your own development as an employee, manager, or supervisor is in the unexpected experiences that come with that kind of journey.

 


CAPS Custom HVAC Company Chosen as One of Houston’s Top Workplaces!

Posted on

slide20

Employees and management at Custom Air Products & Services, Inc. were both pleased and excited to be recognized by the Houston Chronicle as being one of the “Top Workplaces” in the Houston area for 2012.

“When we were contacted and told that one of our employees had nominated us for this prestigious award,” explained CEO Taylor Norris, “we weren’t really sure what to think. We have a tremendously talented and professional group of employees here, a group we are very proud of, but were not really sure how, or even if, they would respond to the surveys. When it was finished, discovering that our employees ranked us so highly as to be awarded a top spot was really a pleasant surprise.”

More than 72,500 Houston-area employee weighed in with opinions for this year’s Top Workplaces, and Custom Air Products & Services, Inc. was proud to be recognized in this prestigious group.

Custom Air Products and Services, Inc. (CAPS) is a leader in the design, construction, installation, modification, and servicing of industrial and commercial air conditioning equipment. But being recognized by their workforce as being among the Houston-are top employers is a whole new source of pride for them.

Gaining access to the Top Workplaces listing involves employee rating of their companies in such areas as opportunities for advancement, the value of their pay and benefits, and their bosses’ communication and management skills.

Pennsylvania-based research firm WorkplaceDynamics invited 1,383 local companies to participate and surveyed 244 of them, then tallied the results to determine winners. For the first time since its debut in 2010, the list has been expanded to the top 150 companies. Last year, it included the top 100 companies plus another 42 companies that met a national standard for top workplaces. In total, 44 employers earned spots on the list all three years, including five that met the national standard last year. The local survey participants employ 154,398 people in the area; 125,503 of the employees received surveys, and 72,517 responded. The organizations on the list included public and private entities and nonprofit groups.


« Previous   1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12