March 26, 2013

Variety is the Spice of Success

Written by: Mike Gardella
VP Engineering & Manufacturing - Sorensen Systems

In the past several years I have been involved with a wide variety of projects
such as:

1)      Driving a 10 ton piston at 4000 gallons a minute and 5000 psi for an energy storage system
2)      Controlling the position of 48 inch bore-cylinder to ± 3 µ
3)      Designing and developing rack and pinion system driven by hydraulics in an 800°F environment
4)      Designing and developing a motor yacht GPS positioning system
5)      Providing engineering services for a client to supply an oil pumping system in Venezuela
6)      Nitrogen generators
When I look at that list, I have to admit I didn’t know that’s where a lot of my effort would be spent. Ten years ago the primary business in New England hydraulics was machine tool, injection molding, paper mills, and heavy industry. Today those industries no longer exist nearly to the extent they once did.
Today, we are focusing on marine/mobile, military/homeland security, life sciences, power generation, and alternate energy. These customers require a whole new level of engineering and technical support for us – and them - to be successful.
Over the years Sorensen Systems has had to adapt to changing industries both in New England and abroad. The key to adapting to these changes is to ensure you have a strong engineering staff that’s capable of thinking outside the box and willing to take on new and varying projects. The first reaction out of an engineer upon receiving a project that’s never been done before should be one of excitement and a drive to figure it out. I’m convinced that’s the attitude we have developed here.
Many companies segregate their engineering staff into specialized fields, for example, structures, controls, fluids, etc. Sorensen System’s key attribute in selecting engineers is flexibility. Regardless of whether we’re hiring a hydraulic project engineer or a controls engineer, that person will eventually be cross-trained to perform all aspects of a project. This goes against the practice of what is typically followed by engineering companies. But by cross-training our engineering staff the project engineer obtains the ability to see the whole picture of a project and how best to integrate all aspects of a project to meet the customer’s requirements. This also allows the project engineer to be a single point of contact for the customer, allowing him or her to support that customer with any issue or question they might have.
Admittedly this requires a much bigger investment in personnel training to bring the project engineer to this level. But once that level of training is achieved it makes the investment worth it by allowing Sorensen Systems to seamlessly service its customers in a wide variety of projects. I believe that variety, as in the spice of life, is also the spice of successful engineering.