A “Walls In” Engineering Solution

Design Systems Canada

The Windsor, Ontario company has been providing its expert end to end service since 1990, and parent company Design Systems Inc., based in Farmington Hills, Michigan, has been operating for over three decades. Both branches have grown rapidly over the years to enjoy a global presence today.

DSC’s ability to provide a comprehensive “Walls In” solution has been foundational to its growth and success. The team will take care of everything inside the walls of a manufacturing plant, from the conveyors and material handling systems, mechanical and electrical, to the ventilation, piping and overall layout. This wide scope gives DSC a unique advantage. “Typically, our competition will specialize only in industrial engineering, or straight CAD layout, or straight 3D, or just electrical or mechanical,” General Manager Wayne Taylor explains. DSC, on the other hand, has “the broad breadth of engineering disciplines that it takes to look at a total plant and its processes.” The company “takes on the full responsibility,” Mr. Taylor adds, to deliver one stop shopping for its clients.

DSC’s comprehensive approach means that clients only have to deal with one point of contact. “We do have all of these engineering groups in-house,” Mr. Taylor points out. “We are all working for one company and we work as a team.” Relying on a single, coordinated group reduces a client’s headache, he explains. “[Clients] can hire a team of people that can handle the entire situation and eliminate some of the frustrations that come about when you have four or five different companies involved.” Moreover, engaging multiple players out of multiple locations for the same project increases “the possibility of errors being made, or something getting dropped or somebody falling behind,” Mr. Taylor insists. With DSC, however, everything is coordinated from a single, central location and executed via a synchronised team, ensuring that everyone is always on the same page.

Rigorous scheduling helps keep the team well-coordinated and fully abreast of every project. “We live, breathe, and sleep by schedules,” Mr. Taylor reports. “You can’t buy the last minute which has passed, which is why schedules are made – and why they are made to be adhered to. The schedule rules everything that we do because the schedule will impact everything down the road, including the cost of the program to the client.”

Having a single team on a synchronized schedule is particularly important because of the complex nature of DSC’s work, Mr. Taylor explains. “It is a big puzzle and you have to put all those different aspects together into something logical.” Not surprisingly, it is almost impossible to piece the puzzle together without solid communication and teamwork.

DSC relies on a team of highly skilled and experienced engineers to execute the company’s complex projects. Many employees have been with the company long term; over half of the present staff members have been with DSC for a decade, and several have worked for the company for a quarter of a century or longer. In addition, the majority of these employees come from a manufacturing background, giving them an additional layer of experience. “They have lived with the end result of what all our efforts produce,” Mr. Taylor explains. “They have had to keep the equipment running and make the production rates, and they have had that hands-on experience.”

Team members can also rely on each other for ongoing support. “None of our people ever have to feel that they are alone,” Mr. Taylor explains. “If they are out in the field and they run into an issue, they know that they can get on the telephone and call somebody here and get answers. I think that is key to our success.”

A highly skilled team with decades of experience doesn’t come cheap, of course, but the staff’s breadth of expertise saves clients money in the long run. “Some of our clients have tried going with the cheaper way and found out that they end up paying more in the end anyway.” These clients “had to redo things,” Mr. Taylor explains, “or things didn’t get done on time.” Both scenarios lead to unexpected additional costs. Complications like these rarely occur when DSC’s industry insiders are at the helm, Mr. Taylor insists. “We’ve lived this. We’ve breathed it. This is what we do for a living.”

DSC’s ability to coordinate a project from its very earliest stage will also help clients save money, Mr. Taylor says. “It is simple logic that the earlier in a program that we can recognize the opportunity for change, the lowest cost impact it is going to have. As the program starts to progress, you get to a point where you have crossed a data line medium. From that point on, everything you change will escalate the cost enormously. So the more time we spend upfront in trying to analyse and engineer out possible risks, the better our chances of maintaining the schedule and keeping the program on budget.”

DSC also utilizes – and develops – leading edge software to plan, coordinate, and execute projects. “We’ve been an industry leader in taking what is off-the-shelf software and modifying it internally with our own IT people to develop manufacturing program software that reflects what happens in real life,” Mr. Taylor reports. The company’s innovative software identifies problems before they happen, and helps the team efficiently manage complex, multi-stage projects on tight timelines. It also gives employees more time to pursue important tasks. “If we can eliminate some of the more repetitious type of work, automate it so that it is faster and it is reliable, we give our people more time to do what they are good at, [such as] applying their creativity and their real world experiences to the programs that they are working on.”

In fact, fostering a creative, supportive environment is a priority at DSC. “We try to create an atmosphere for our employees of innovation and personal satisfaction,” Mr. Taylor reports. “We’ve tried to give our employees the tools they require to feel confident that they can go forward and take on some of these systems.” It is crucial that employees are free to follow their instincts, particularly because they may be wading through uncharted territory. “Some of these jobs have never been done before,” Mr. Taylor points out. “It’s the first time.”

The difficulty surrounding these unique challenges is often compounded by a lack of information. DSC is “allowing the engineers to use their talents and their imagination to do what is world-class engineering at a preliminary engineering stage. And that is a difficult thing to do because there are so many unknowns. There are so many assumptions that are being made.” In fact, the product that will eventually be produced in a DSC-planned facility may not even be finalized when the team begins work. “But we can’t wait for all the answers, so we have to use our experience and go forward with that.”

This creative, problem solving team is ready to tackle any challenge, anywhere. “Our people are more than willing to travel to wherever they need to go,” Mr. Taylor reports. If fact, the team can handle a job virtually anywhere in the world. “We have done work everywhere from Vietnam to Germany to Venezuela. You name it, we’ve been there. We will go wherever our clients want us to go.”

The DSC team plans to continue winning contracts around the world – and delivering a number of benefits to domestic and international clients alike. The company will rely on its hands-on, comprehensive approach to expand its already impressive client base. “It works out quite well for our client that we maintain the control, we maintain the accessibility to the programs that will make [the project] more efficient and more cost effective, and we maintain that team effort,” Mr. Taylor explains.

Armed with a wide array of engineering disciplines under a single roof, the company is fully prepared to take on even more challenging jobs around the globe and provide its clients with a reliable “Walls In” service.

August 18, 2017, 11:42 PM EDT

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