ICR Owner Event Series Focuses on Manufacturing Segment
INDIANAPOLIS, IN The latest in a series of events hosted by the Indiana Construction Roundtable (ICR) bringing together owners from differing segments of the construction industry focused recently on the manufacturing segment. Scott Clark of Dow Agro, Tracy Holt of Eli Lilly, Brian Trapp of Evonik and Linda Hicks of Vertellus Specialties comprised the panel moderated by CJ McClanahan of Go Reach More.
The biggest challenge that each said they faced was similar to that faced by audience members hoping to perform work for these major companies: The focus of construction for them is outside of Indiana and the U.S. Vertellus, Evonik and Lilly are learning the ropes in China (and other countries) while the focus of Dow is in Brazil.
With large facilities in Indiana, though, the need for contractors and the design community to assist with substantial maintenance programs remains an alluring prospect for many.
Dow Agro's strategy for finding new contractors for work at their Indiana facilities, according to Clark, is to vet them first and then to use them initially on smaller projects. If they perform well, then they are likely to have opportunities for larger projects.
Each also noted the predominant role that their respective purchasing groups are playing as the entry point of contractors hoping to compete for jobs. The panel agreed with Hicks who said, "The entry point is through our purchasing group who determine the proper audience for us to meet with. First, though, we go to purchasing and explain what we are looking for. Once the work is awarded, the relationship with contractors is managed for the most part by our engineering group."
McClanahan pointed out that "no one wants to go through purchasing" and asked the panel to provide pointers for those concerned with the trend toward purchasing's greater involvement in contractor selection.
Hicks replied that, "somehow there needs to be better relationship-building with young professionals so they know who to "˜tee up' in purchasing."
Holt agreed but also noted that representatives from Lilly can normally be found in industry meetings such as those conducted by ICR. "We are everywhere," she said, "if you are in a meeting with us, come up and introduce yourself. It may take awhile, it doesn't happen over night, but that is the first step."
Hicks was adamant about the importance of having employees properly prepared to present themselves when given the opportunity. "Are they professional?" she asked. "Do they have a sense of urgency, are they responsible? You have to help us train our engineers, you have to have that mindset that you are here to help us, that you are not going to do just one project and then you are out the door."
Noting a shortage of qualified AE firms in some areas of the world, each also agreed on an emerging market for such local firms with experience in the type of work needed by manufacturing: Be prepared to travel to assist these companies on foreign soil. Have updated, valid passports and visas at the ready for qualified staff.
The panel agreed on another pointer for contractors and design professionals: Providing honest feedback. Said Clark, "if we give you a schedule, don't tell me that it is alright when it is not."
While each acknowledged that they were aware that there is a developing craft worker shortage in Indiana and worldwide, each said that they were not in a position to pay higher costs to accommodate it.