Why Companies Should Consider a Professional Services Contract (at least for industrial controls systems)

Buying Into Professional Service Contracts
Some Companies Prefer Hour by Hour Instead of Project by Project

It could be for one of many reasons: The company’s engineering staff is working on another project, it’s short-staffed or its to-do list is too long. Whatever the reason, Process and Data Automation Inc. (PDA) helps firms with controls-system and manufacturing data-analysis projects with professional service contracts. Instead of billing on a project-by-project basis, companies can purchase blocks of time and essentially enlist PDA as an extension of their engineering group, using the time for engineering, consulting and maintenance.

“We don’t have an electrical engineer or programmer on-site because we didn’t feel we’d generate enough work to employ someone full-time,” explained Ryan Steuben, plant manager for HERO BX, a biofuel producer located in Erie, Pa. “So when PDA approached us and presented this option, it was an ideal arrangement for us.”

PDA is an Erie, Pa.-based industrial controls and integration company that specializes in designing systems to help organizations improve their system efficiency and productivity with equipment and process setups, batching systems, and data collection and analysis. Companies taking advantage of PDA’s professional service contracts use their blocks of time in monthly increments throughout the year. In some cases, unused monthly hours may be assigned to the following month.

“This gives companies flexibility,” explained Greg Keller, PDA’s project manager for HERO BX. “For example, with some agreements I could be working at a company one or two days a week, giving them an engineering team without having one in-house.” At HERO BX, Keller is also able to work remotely, saving the company travel-time expenses.

“We sometimes require after-hours support and Greg can remotely diagnose or address an issue,” Steuben said. “The contract has been convenient and flexible. There is freedom to alter the schedule – either on our end or on PDA’s end – and there is a single point of contact, which streamlines communication.”

James Carucci is the point of contact for a food manufacturer in New York. He works at the manufacturing facility two days a week.

“The contracts help companies keep up with day-to-day tasks that wouldn’t be considered an entire project,” he said. “Control engineers might be bogged down with meetings or other work, so things get set aside and the to-do list gets longer. We can free up their staff, take care of routine maintenance and finish those small projects.”

Carucci said companies might be looking for a full-time staff engineer but can’t wait until that position is filled to begin projects. PDA’s professional service contracts help fill those gaps.

Such is the case at the New York food manufacturer. “After our control engineer left, circumstances have prevented us from filling the position,” said Nathan Pistner, the company’s project engineer. “It left a big void and got to the point that we had to do something.”

Since PDA had been helping Pistner with nearly every capital project involving control integration, the company decided a professional service contract with PDA was critical to its operations.

Although companies are assigned a single point of contact, the contracts also give firms the depth of resources of the entire PDA team.

“We also offer diversity of experience,” said PDA’s Tom Ludwig, who works with several companies using professional service contracts. “A company is not limited to its primary contact, it gets the benefit of all of our experts – in equipment, data, systems, reporting and analysis.”

Pistner agrees. “We’ve had about five PDA engineers working on various projects when our project manager hasn’t been available,” he said. “It’s seamless. Although they approach things differently than James does, the end result is that a problem is fixed or an issue is addressed. There is no lack of talent when someone pinch-hits.”

Cost-savings and speed are other benefits for companies using PDA’s professional service contracts.

“Quoting smaller projects adds cost,” Ludwig said. “And depending on the company and its procedures, there could be layers of bureaucracy to approve quotes. To eliminate that extra time and expense, we simply establish a contract for a set amount of hours and they just have to write a single order. It takes the hassle out of getting smaller jobs completed.”

PDA’s professional service contracts also allow for reduced emergency service call rates. “I can be sitting home at 7 p.m. and receive an emergency call,” Keller said. “For many companies, 24/7 support is essential and our contracts allow for emergency calls to be applied to their allotted hours.”

Whether used to shorten a to-do list or to augment a busy engineering department, PDA’s professional service contracts can help lighten a company’s load – an hour at a time.