To excel, says Biach, companies need to respect employees and provide
clear leadership on values.
Design News:How can a specialized company like Biach Industries survive today?
Biach: It's important to have an organization that has the contacts and access to find out what you can offer that's of high value to a focused group of customers. I'm not so much concerned about competition with other consultants as I am about competition with much larger companies. Larger companies are trying to find ways to justify various smaller segments of their organizations. And they're trying to address the smaller or more specialized projects that companies like us historically lived on. In the long term we will win out, because we can do a better job.
Q: Speaking as a supplier, what future do you see for the nuclear power industry?
A: I've seen the morale and attitudes of operating people in the nuclear power industry improve considerably over the past few years. As we start facing the end of the lifetimes of a lot of these plants, I'm concerned that there's going to be a change in attitude. There'll be less investment in capital improvements and less investment in im-proving the operation of the plants. They're depending more on outside people to come in and do the work. We can offer services to supplement the loss of staff. And we can help the industry determine how to get the remaining staff better trained and more up to speed.
Q: How valuable is computer-aided visualization to a firm like yours?
A: For us it's very valuable. A lot of the equipment that we develop is sold into markets that are not big enough to allow us to build things in volumes. So if we have a concept for a new idea, we can't prototype it. A prototype might cost a million dollars, and we can't afford to do that. So we need a way to demonstrate the principles and concepts of our idea and engage in a dialogue with our customers to see whether this is the right thing for them. Certainly as a sales tool visualization gives customers a sense of what they can gain from utilizing our services or our product. It's a communication tool more than anything else.
Q: What applications do you see for such innovations as neural networks?
A: We need to be more and more creative in the types of services and the nature of the products that we sell. We need to be able to bring the best technology to bear on any problem. Neural networks are a very effective way of implementing a solution to a problem where it's difficult to quantitatively model what you need. But neural networks aren't the only kind of technologies that are useful. A big part of our organization is devoted to exploring new technologies and seeing how they can be applied to process industries, and to improvements in product design.
Q: What must management do to persuade tough-minded employees like engineers that attempts to change corporate culture are serious?
A: There are people who are going to accept change and be energized by it, there are some people who follow along, and there are some people who resist change, believing that it's not necessary. Any company, if it intends to remain competitive and continue to grow and flourish, needs to have the best people available. And those people need to be on board with your values. They need to be enthusiastic about being flexible and addressing change. The best that you can do in workshops is to show employees the systemic reasons why changes are necessary.
When you try to make a change, if you try to change components of the system, the system is going to find a way to spring back, to go back into the position it was before. Unless you make a very organic change in the system itself that reinforces the behavior you're looking for, the change is not going to happen.
Q: How important is trust in the relationship between managers, engineers, and other personnel?
A: It's critical in all directions. Certainly managers have to trust all employees--engineers, production people, and everyone else. They have to trust them to be dealing on an open and above-board basis, and to accept that they are mature human beings. Employees in turn have to trust that managers are going to be there to support them and to give them the opportunity to do their best. And employees must trust managers to have some idea about how they're going to make the company continue to thrive.