We are so excited to launch our video series called “Big Ideas”! This series will feature how innovation shapes our culture and drives our growth here at Spec Engineering
Our video series kicks off with President Brian Bernard and EVP Strategic Business Initiatives John Wightkin discussing some big ideas we have coming and how innovation plays an extremely large role at Spec Engineering. We do these innovations within projects, down to the details of every piece of equipment that we specify, design, and build, to provide a complete solution that is right on with what our customers need.
Watch the full video here!
John: As director of strategic initiatives, I love hearing the idea of Spec being a purpose driven company. Can you tell us a little more about Spec’s history?
Brian: From day-one we were an equipment-based firm. How Spec has been successful over the years is not just doing what was done on the last project, we always look to do better in design and to find better innovations and better opportunities to make our customers projects and integrations more successful.
John: Can you give me a couple examples of how innovation has played a part in Spec’s success?
Brian: Spec has always been a real leader and has this expertise in the dust collection, dust mitigation and safety that goes with that. NFPA has upped its regulations over the years and I think you were part of the Spec tank, where we gathered a bunch of our staff and gave them projects to look at to come up with some ideas that were good for industry. One that was spot on and timely was coming up with a piece of equipment called the Dust Rescuer ™ that meets NFPA guidelines. It basically captures dust where it’s created and also can be rescued for more higher value ingredients and things of that nature. So its safety and its innovation of the business of saving those ingredients and keeping the operator safe.
John: One of the challenges that companies have is how do you maintain that culture of innovation throughout the whole organization and where some of the challenges. Maybe you could speak to those two issues.
Brian: That’s a great question, you know process engineering simplified isn’t just words, it’s how we approach a project. We start at a certain level and we have an application review, so that means peers and other people are able to look at the design at a certain stage, ask questions about the scope and make sure that we are meeting all the needs of the project, meeting design parameters and we also look for opportunities and innovations to improve that.
John: Talk a little bit more about innovation just in general besides just at Spec but why its just important in general.
Brian: Engineers kind of get a bad rap of being kind of black and white you know, just details nuts and bolts and things of that nature. So to debunk that we have to allow free thinking within our projects, within our development and then that’s important not only here at work, but it’s important everywhere.
We have our circa 1932 JW Hohberger cooling wheel, that is an authentic working model that we refurbished to really celebrate that innovation back in the day. You know back in the boom of the candy industry, the actual fondant cooling wheel was invented out of need for the ability to create a sugar based product that had fine crystallization without using powdered sugar. It was very expensive, very dangerous, it was very dusty and this process innovation is another example of what’s core at Spec and why we’re so interested in that type of equipment in those types of processes.
John: So recently Spec engineering became a partner company of Gray Inc. Can you talk about the history of that and how that has actually supported the innovation going forward?
Brian: Yeah it’s a very exciting time for Spec. We started discussions with Gray Construction which is a part of Gray Inc. in 2017, became a partner company in 2018 and fully joined the company in 2019. Their approach is just like Spec’s, treat people well, customer focused, safety is paramount. How it ties back to innovation is James Norris Gray. He has a really neat saying that is in the archives and his mantra is “give the customer what he wants and a little bit more” and for me that little bit more is that innovation, that little extra thinking. From a business standpoint being a part of Gray now, gets us the opportunities to be Spec and be everything Spec is and on larger projects, we have more financial and human resource backing to do more innovations to do larger projects and execute larger projects. From scope at the beginning of an operation all the way through the end.
You know John maybe we take a walk down to the shop and I can show you where even more innovation happens on the shop floor.
John: Let’s go
Brian: So John this is our fabrication and assembly area and as you can see we have a lot of things going through here right now. It could be frames, could be equipment, or a number of things every day. What is really awesome about our coordination between fabrication and engineering is that the assemblers and fabricators get an opportunity to collaborate with engineering. To think about access, to think about how things come together, how things are maintained, which again fits right into our culture of innovation and ideations for a better solution.
John: Brian, thank you very much for joining us today and taking time out your busy schedule. It was a fantastic conversation. We want to thank all of you for joining the Big Idea Video series and join us next time for the next Big Idea.