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Starting with the Correct Consultant

By David W. Spitzer

E-Zine December 2014

A recent article stated that, "hiring expensive consultants... (to) recommend ways to improve your plant should be the last place to start" and suggested that the reader start with people in the plant. Having worked both in the plant and as a consultant, I respectfully disagree.

While working in a plant, a consultant suggested plant modifications that significantly increased capacity while dramatically reducing the number, duration and cost of outages. We (at the plant) may have had tribal knowledge, but we did not have the consultant's broad exposure to other plants, industries and technologies. Simply put, the value of the consultant's work greatly exceeded the amount of his invoice. Was the consultant expensive? No.

As a consultant, my specialized knowledge of flow measurement often enables me to unravel problems that people at the plant cannot resolve. In one case, the operation of a water system in a major US city "calmed down" (with reduced maintenance) after implementing a control strategy developed to improve flow measurement. The value of my work exceeded the amount of my invoice for this work. Was the consultant expensive? No.

I suggest that the company that hires the correct consultant at the correct time to do the correct work in the correct quantity will survive and prosper. Conversely, companies that fail to use consultants effectively will not reach their full potential. The correct consultant will tell management if the people in the plant are the place to start and will help plant people gain credibility. If people in the plant are not the place to start, the correct consultant will make suggestions for improvement. With most clients, I find myself doing both --- helping plant people gain credibility and making suggestions.

IMHO, consultants are not the "last place to start". To the contrary, the correct consultant should be the first place to start.

“Letter to the Editor” to Intech magazine (March/April 2012)

ISSN 1538-5280

Spitzer and Boyes, LLC
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