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Design Happens

Posted by on 29th September 2014

Where are you on this curve?

Do you see what I mean? This is what we deal with on a daily basis trying to solve a custom problem.

It may seem obvious, but it’s worth reassuring clients that once the design goals have been established, the product will work as intended. The hard part is to understand what the design intent is in the first place. There is a serious need to establish a clear line of communication with the customer. There is no way around it. That is because the customer has all the infinite details obvious to them. How the product will be used. What’s around it. How many they need, production or prototype. All that matters to make a custom product work great for that particular intended purpose. The big picture and the smallest details are in the customers’ hands and minds.

How design happens is actually irrelevant, as long as the product works and the customer is happy. After pulling all the information out – the specification document, the rest is the grunt work. The tools of the trade, FEA, CFD, type of CAD, or size of the pencils are not important to the customer. In fact, all of the engineering process is an enabler, as far as the customer is concerned, a necessary evil. NDA is not considered worth mentioning. What matters is the finished product. However, if the designer operates without clear project goals and without the proper tools, it will be a frustrating project for both parties. Without a clear design intent nothing will happen. A spec must be developed. This takes time and communication. You can’t ask for quick results.

How then do we make good designs happen? Trust, communication without hesitation, anticipation of limits, listening and understanding between the two engineers – the engineering customer and the development engineer thinking as one.

How SEO Fits in with Business Development: Penberthy Sight Glass

Posted by on 28th September 2014

We do no marketing whatsoever, other than stuffing the website with keywords for sight glasses, our main products at this point. Why we still have sales is beyond me as we are on page 7 on Google, and Encole sight glasses are a fairly new product. Yet we have repeat customers, new customers, and the word is spreading. But not as fast as we would like. So we are optimizing the site, doing the expert SEO, the best ten, top ranking bit, all that. Is that enough to move up on the supply/demand curve. No. We can add social media marketing, direct marketing, trade shows followed up by visits to our favorite distributors. All that helps. But, hey, we are an innovative company, and an impatient one at that.  Doing backflips on social media is not our forte.

Recently we’ve had increased demand for sight windows of a particular size we do not carry, yet customers need. They come to us, so we help. We contacted a number of suppliers, only a few of then responded. Most suppliers have a mess of a website, hard to navigate, even harder to find particular products. This is for an industrial product where customers expect the site to be dry and boring. Engineering customers want a functional site with a logical flow of information so they can find the thing they need buy it and move on. By need I am talking job security, making revenue, something that actually extends their economic well being, not just an object you buy from the SkyMall catalog. We even did a search by images for Penberthy Sight Glass, and this is what the results looked like:

Penberthy Sight Glass

Penberthy Sight Glass Web Search - Images Page

Can you actually buy the product on the Penberthy website, especially if your job depends on it? Unlikely. This website just leads to emails for distributors in various locations around the world. You have to send an email and hope they get back to you at some point. We are still waiting, the customer is on hold. Not cool.

The level of stress in the cubicles out there is just too high. We are here to solve this nonsense. Sure, we do SEO and SEM, but this is not really building a business. Not to us. We build the business by actually helping the customer, by developing trust and understanding their needs. And by delivering the product they need. Our efforts are on listening and really trying to solve customers needs. There is music in this approach to creating a durable economic franchise.

For The Record [LIVE] by Jaggery: A Review

Posted by on 16th September 2014

Jaggery is a pretty standard, mainstream 5-piece rock outfit.

Except instead of a bass guitar they have an upright acoustic bass. Or, occasionally, a Moroccan sintir.

And instead of a lead guitar they have a viola.

And instead of a rhythm guitar they have a harp.

And their drummer is a jazz artist who likes to explore time signatures you’ve never heard of.

And their singer is a devotee of Voice Movement Therapy who can do things with her voice that do not sound entirely human – from soaring angelic beauty to demonic possession, often within a few bars.

And instead of rock they play the sort of intriguing sonic melange that one might expect from a jazz drummer and other-wordly singer backed by a viola, a harp, and a sintir.

Oh wait … Jaggery is nothing like a standard, mainstream 5-piece rock outfit.

While their songs do tend to have approachable, recognizable, hummable melodies, their orchestrations – the word seems justified by their eclectic instrumentation – are incredibly intricate and reward the careful listener with layer upon layer of sonic discoveries.

It often sounds as if each member is independently playing a prolonged solo that improbably meshes perfectly with all of the other solos. The standard musical functions – melody, harmony, rhythm, counterpoint – are all recognizable, but each is presented with an unexpected twist. It is sort of like listening to someone speak English with a beautiful foreign accent: you have to pay a little extra attention to keep track of what they’re saying, but the end result sounds more attractive and profound than normal every-day speech.

These musical veterans have released three full-length albums, two EPs, and several singles. But their latest effort is a 12-track live album called “For The Record [LIVE],” which was recorded during a single performance on June 12, 2014 at the Oberon theater in Cambridge, MA.

The selections provide a nice cross-section of Jaggery’s catalogue, and so the album serves as an excellent introduction to the band for the uninitiated. The band’s virtuosity is on full display: everything was captured live in one take and is nearly flawless. What’s more the quality of the recording – engineered by Ariel Bernstein – is such that it sounds like a studio album right up to the point where the audience applauds. And the inclusion of some inter-song banter from the band let’s their personality shine through.

The collection opens with “Icy,” which singer and band leader Mali Sastri wrote as part of a project called “Ten Paintings/Ten Songs” in collaboration with artist, director, and bon vivant Steven Bogart. Melodic synthed percussion draws the listener in and paves the way for Sastri’s gorgeous vocals while harpist Petaluma Vale provides beautiful harmony. This track showcases Sastri’s impressive vocal range, which is not simply a question of octaves. She is able to manipulate the tone and timbre of her voice to such an extent that the listener may be excused for believing there are actually 3 or 4 vocalists collaborating here.

If there were any doubt that this is not a run-of-the-mill album it is quickly dispelled with the opening to “War Cry” (Track 2). When Sastri unleashes the eponymous war cry it sounds like a cross between singing and ululation. Though most of the song is methodical and martial, the bridge is an incongruous neoclassical solo by violist extraordinaire and fashion icon Rachel Jayson.

The album careens through a vast thematic territory, from the straightforward beauty of “Come” (Track 7), through the manic energy of “O Scorpio” (Track 9), to the meditative minimalism of “Crux” (Track 10) with several fascinating stops in between.

Old standard and fan favorite “7 Stone” (Track 14) is given new life via an introduction consisting of a sintir solo accompanied by syncopated clapping, before launching into its familiar not-so-standard-after-all chaos in 5/5 time.

This thrilling performance comes to an appropriately triumphant conclusion with “Javelin” (Track 15), which is perhaps the most perfectly balanced piece in the set. Each member of the band is prominent without being dominant. Here they truly cease being individuals and play as a cohesive unit with that joyful effortlessness that can only ever be achieved through long hours of intense effort.

Do your ears a favor. Take them off the beaten sonic path and check out “For The Record [LIVE]” by Jaggery.

Sight Glass Application Notes

Posted by on 14th September 2014

It’s hard for a development engineer to switch from product development to business development. Development engineers by nature are thinkers. Quiet thinkers at that where the ideas become very real in the engineer’s mind without saying a word. This is actually a problem, where companies create over- or under-engineered products that make you go like “what?” I’ve seen robots that are cool in their features if you are another robot, but not so useful if you are an operator using the thing. Cars with some clever contraption thinking that you are drowsy and displays a cup of coffee on the dashboard, that is next to a oil low warning light. Engine diagnostics meets doctor.

The point here is to communicate the engineering designs, talk about them before they find their ways into “The Selfie Brush”. Did they really make it?

Verbalizing is really great, it helps find better ways to implement a feature or two, or scrap the idea all together.  Someone has to be present listening to all that verbalization, usually another technical person who can actually understand what the other is talking about. Then something clicks, suddenly the development engineer finds a solution to their particular problem. We recently started to step out of our nose-to-the-ground-technical-development shell and started to ask a lot more questions than say a couple of years before. Questions outside Encole and questions among ourselves within Encole – mechanical meets electrical meets optical meets firmware. Firmware, by the way, is software that is permanently embedded into hardware, like a in a camera’s chip, or a the chip that drives a cappuccino machine. Software you can touch.

There is really a simple reason for asking more questions. We have more of our products working in our customers’ applications. What do our sight glasses actually do is our job to understand so we can keep developing, keep improving. What other “wish have” ideas should we develop is ongoing, as we are starting to shift more into business development from technology development. Here are some of the sight window applications we can share. Thank you Mr. G., thank you Linas! Good to hear from you!

Sight Glass NPT 2" for an oil compressor

Sight Glass NPT 2" for an oil compressor

 

Laser Sensor Head with Sapphire Window

Sapphire Window on a laser head

Business Growth by Listening

Posted by on 8th September 2014

The difference between a business that grows by the great success of a single product and one growing by adding more products is longevity. How long does a business survive when the success disappears? The point here is to have overlapping successes from multiple products, no matter how small or great their successes. We are learning this as we grow in our own ways. We are yet to feel the great success from a single product, this is a matter of time as we keep introducing useful solutions to the world. This experience of adding products is a fascinating one, fueled by our steady increasing number of sales, repeat customers and new ideas from the field.

Lately I’ve been delegating more of technology development work and focusing more on business development because Encole is taking more custom projects than I alone can handle. We are engaging more engineers to focus on technical tasks, which frees time to take more custom work, which increases our throughput – all good things for a growing business. And more importantly, we are learning that the custom work we do is not custom at all, but rather variations on the same theme. Well, it used to be custom about a year ago, but not any more as we became really good at this. Most of the custom work we do is a variation of sight windows for different pressures, temperatures or mounting designs. Sometimes, the customers want compliance with some nasty chemicals covered by NACE, so we carefully listened to that too. Basically, what we hear is a need for a specific product line that fits a range of custom requirements.

So, the most logical thing to do is to productize something repeatedly custom. This approach of listening to customers and developing a line of released products makes technical sense, because we do not have to engineer a variation of the base part over and over again. There is a lot of stress to produce a custom part on time, within specification and price. All three – promised lead time, cost, performance must be met in order to continue building credibility, reputation, and in the long term lasting business. Would it be easier to build products for the shelf for later distribution, rather than meeting the time/cost/spec triage? Absolutely. All lead times are internal, so no stress of shipping late to the customer, product performance is tested over a number of times, so no worry there, where with custom stuff we have to offer testing every time we ship a truly custom product. That’s expensive and sometimes turns the customer away.

It’s been working for us. Check out our new sight glasses for hydrogen sulfide service, high temperature sight glasses, high pressure sight glasses. The latter was actually developed for the oil & gas industry where there is a raging technological combat going on to fuel the world. Well, people need energy. We are there to support the old and develop the new ways. We grow by listening.

h2s sight glass, npt

H2S Sight Glass

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