Ready Engineering Corporation is based in Spruce Grove, Alberta with offices in the United States and Canada. It is an industry-leading, global provider of electrical, controls and industrial information systems engineering services for a wide array of industries, and is approaching its twentieth year in business.
The highly technical and specialized work that Ready does is crucial to the operation of industrial plants and the nuclear industry. Business in Focus spoke with Principal Chris Stasiuk and Vice President of Operations Jeff Whitt.
Ready Engineering provides professional engineering consulting services focused on electrical and control systems as well as cyber security for industrial clients. “We specialize in the security of process networks in industrial facilities. We won’t do cyber security on a business network in downtown office buildings. Industrial networks use different communication protocols, different end-devices and require vastly different configuration than business networks.”
In industry, one cannot lock everything down on the network for security purposes because that may interrupt communications and trip the plant offline. This can be very detrimental in an industrial process facility.
“To be able to secure the cyber assets in a facility so that the outside world can’t get into what you don’t want them to get into, but not affect operations, is a niche that we are focused on, and we are doing that in the nuclear industry.”
The company prides itself on tackling high priority projects around the globe. In addition to the complex nuclear industry in Europe, China and the U.S., Ready has worked on Alberta oil sands projects, for power producers across the U.S. and for industrial clients in Africa and South America and across North America. Each of these projects brings welcome challenges to the company. Every project has an aspect that stretches the firm, from project delivery to technical requirements.
“We’ve got the business infrastructure and capabilities to take on opportunities around the world and provide our employees with work that they would not get with other companies.” Other industries that Ready serves include food and beverage manufacturing, industrial agriculture, bio-fuels, energy conservation, chemicals, fibres, mining, oil and gas, pulp and paper, buildings, commercial and residential developments, municipalities, utility applications, water and waste management, fossil fuel and green power generation.
“We don’t just intend to just stay ahead of the curve; we are striving to define the curve.” On the technical side, Ready focuses on specialized services that clients typically cannot readily find locally. Project services may be anything from specifying and configuring a specialized distributed control system that would be installed in a major utility to specifying protection relays and configuration settings for high voltage substations.
Dealing with issues such as these means that employees must have much more than just the technical skills of an engineer; they must also act as consultants to clearly communicate technical details and develop trusting relationships with clients who are often not engineers. Project managers also need to be able to understand finances in order to manage a project properly and understand the impact that the work has on a client’s facility or process.
“They need to have a bit of entrepreneurial spirit to recognize situations more as opportunities than problems, so that we can offer good solutions to clients. Good consultants have to wear many hats.” Ready hires people who want to be consultants and can survive the variability of the ups and downs that accompany the role in a feast or famine industry.
“Consulting for the type of work that Ready does is not a nine to five job in your hometown. We have to go to where the work is and where our clients are. That can change from week to week and sometimes day to day.” Successful Ready employees thrive on this.
Within the company, there is a culture of personal responsibility. Ready wants people who are willing to take charge of their own careers, people who want to first learn and then improve on the best practices in the industry. In that way, Ready can maintain its model of a business-focused engineering firm and be able to maximize opportunities. “Building our culture around personal responsibility is critical to our success.”
Internal training helps new recruits efficiently learn the technology to ensure that they are worth their billing rate more quickly. This is critically important in the consulting world, as clients are expecting a certain level of expertise. This is also where soft skills come into play in order to turn engineers into consultants, so the focus is on communication skills and recognizing the strengths and weaknesses within individual employees.
Ready received the 2014 PSMJ Platinum Award for reaching the PSMJ Circle of Excellence four out of the last five years. This circle represents the top twenty percent of the best managed participating firms in both Canada and the U.S. in the architecture, engineering and construction industries. Over the last two years, there have been more than 300 participants in this process each year. The criteria ranges from management of overhead costs to business development and amount of backlog to productive use of employee time and overall profitability of the company.
“Making that list once is an achievement and it gives us the ability to confirm how our model of a business-focused engineering firm measures up against our industry peers. Our model is focused on maximizing the utility of our human capital – really using our employees’ time efficiently and effectively.”
Winning the award clearly shows the discipline and consistency of Ready’s practices. The Platinum Award puts the company in the top three percent of ist peers. As a further demonstration of that performance, Ready has reached the Circle of Excellence in eight out of the last ten years. It is a way for the company to measure itself compared to the rest of the industry, which helps to ensure that everyone’s time is being used well and that clients are receiving quality service.
There are many repeat clients who come back for the company’s niche services. “When people want to purchase services, they look for people that we can trust, and when we start to build that relationship, they are inclined to go back. Our clients are no different. They trust that Ready can continuously provide value to their projects, and so they give us a call.”
Once that trust is built and good relationships are developed, then Ready can act as partners and trusted advisers to its clients. Its consultants look to build these kinds of relationships to cultivate a company reputation as being the source for services.
“We want to make sure that they are seeing the value they get when using us as part of the investment in their facility. If they are making an investment to improve something, we want to make sure that we are providing good value to them.”
Ready is focused on providing specialized services across North America and throughout the world, which means continuing to develop and refine those technical skills and identifying and pursuing new opportunities such as cyber security.
“We do not seek growth for growth’s sake. We want to make sure that we are very intentional and are maintaining that culture we’ve established.”