Over the past several years working in or selling to power generation, oil and gas facilities, industrial facilities (steel, glass), food and beverage manufacturing, semiconductor production, automotive and chemical plants, there is not much that I have not come across or seen. I remember the days of dealing with Nuclear Plant outages, oil and gas expansion and ramp-up, and industrial plant recovery, there was never quite the right tool to get the job done. As an engineer and a manager, you always hope there was something that was “off the shelf” ready to get done what you wanted when you wanted it done and by your own employees. Doesn’t quite work like that.
In reality, everything is “special” and “unique”. There is no “one size fits all” machining tool that can cover all of your needs. Especially in the Nuclear arena, every day the plant is down costs at least one million dollars, and the last thing you want to be is “critical path” in an outage. That translates to a giant magnifying glass put on your anthill. So, you always want the right tool, the right team, the right schedule, and the right support to make it all happen. Easier said than done.
With years being in the Private and Government/Military sectors , I have had a chance to see and work with many companies who actually got it right, and unfortunately, many who did not. I have been part of or laid witness to great achievements, and colossal failures. Through all of the trials and tribulations, I have been exposed to numerous engineering, machining, welding, tooling, and service organizations, and know what is important for consideration and what is not. So, I developed a list of items that I have chosen to rank companies against to find the best of the best that is out there. My evaluation list included:
- Engineering, Overall Knowledge
- Customizable Approaches Devised by Company
- Completeness of Proposal
- Timeliness of Proposal
- Ability to Integrate into Existing Solutions
- Cost Competitiveness
- Time to Deliver Solution
- Support Provided Post Solution
- Ease to Work With Company
- Responsiveness – Before, During and After
- Established in Market
- Global Presence
This is my list of evaluation points, the “dirty dozen” so to speak. The last two evaluation points I added because as the insurance commercial states “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” Companies that have been in business longer and have a global presence seem to have laid witness to more obstacles and have overcome more challenges than most.
In evaluating the companies, I also considered their breadth of experience. I looked at things like:
- Do they make their own tools?
- Do they provide field services for machining?
- Can they do machining in house if needed?
- Are they experienced in multiple markets, or just a few markets? This means can they do nuclear, conventional power plants, oil and gas, military, industrial plants, etc.
- Do they have an engineering team that is worthy of customizable solutions?
My research involved my own personal experiences since the 1990’s in working with various companies, research into each of the companies, as well as speaking to customers about their experiences.
The companies that I chose to evaluate are listed in tabular format in alphabetical order below:
Again, I am sticking with my “dozen” theme, and there are many more companies out there that are very good, and my apologies if you feel slighted that I did not consider your company. Maybe next time.
I rated each of the attributes on a scale of 1-10, and with a total of 12 attributes, that is a high possible score of 120 points. I did not use any weighting factors as to one attribute being more heavily weighted than another, although my Six Sigma Black Belt days were haunting me as I did this, but I wanted to keep it as clean and simple as possible.
I have listed the top 5 companies below, based on my point rating system. I would like to say that there were no laggards in this group. Everyone scored well, it was actually quite close in the evaluation that was performed. There actually was a number 1, followed by a 3-way tie for numbers 2-4, and then a number 5.
The Top 5 are listed below, and their overall score revealed:
- Tri Tool, Inc. – 102 points
- Hydratight – 95 points
- EH Wachs – 95 points
- Climax – 95 points
- Atlas Machine & Supply, Inc. – 93 points
My overall decision to select Tri Tool, Inc. as the number one Custom Engineered Machining Solution Provider was mathematical, as I have explained, but was also a matter of focus. In my experience in the Nuclear industry along with my research, Tri Tool has made Engineering a priority at their company. Yes, they make their own tools, and I have seen them at various nuclear plants throughout my years, but they also can design, engineer, and modify their tools to do wonderous things, along with creating entirely new machines. All 5 of the companies listed have amazing capabilities, but this evaluation was looking at the Custom Engineering first and foremost.
As many of you know in industry, it is not as simple as it seems when you are planning your outage or modifications, and we know that it is not that simple when everything goes wrong in that outage and you feel like you are drowning. Having a great company at your side to help you through those dark times is paramount. I think that is what drove me to this evaluation over anything else.
About the Author:
Brett Sargent is Founder and Owner of True North Consulting, which provides consulting, coaching and strategic planning to various companies and industries. Brett is a Certified Exit and Succession Planning Strategist for NAVIX, a Vistage Chair and co-owns Sunbelt Business Brokerage of Sacramento which specializes in Mergers and Acquisitions and the buying/selling of various type businesses.
Brett has worked in Commercial Nuclear with Commonwealth Edison and also GE Nuclear. Brett has also worked for Lockheed Martin, DuPont, and Bechtel Marine Propulsion. At LumaSense Technologies, Brett was CTO and Vice President of Sales, selling sensing technologies globally to a variety of industries including oil and gas, metal, glass, semiconductor, automotive, medical, R&D, transmission and distribution and military applications.
Brett holds an MBA from Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA; an MS in Nuclear Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY; and a BS in Electrical Engineering from Widener University in Chester, PA. Brett has also completed the Naval Nuclear Power School from the US Navy and the Reactor Plant Design Analysis Program from Knoll’s Atomic Power Laboratory. He is also Six Sigma Black Belt certified.