Automation Technology, Inc.  

Automation Technology is a distributor of a number of automation product lines and is an integrator of both mechanical and electrical system for the manufacturing sector. Its market focus is in support of the manufacturing process without exposure to the considerable capital outlays and risk associated with large scale integration. The company is organized around three departments, Outside Sales comprised of both salesmen and product specialists who interface directly with the manufacturing customer, Inside Sales that process incoming orders for products sold as individual items, and the Engineering and Fabrication Departments (E&F) that are responsible for creating integrated manufacturing solutions. Within E&F there are two groups: the electrical group that designs and fabricates electrical controls both for the process and discrete manufacturing sectors and the mechanical group that designs and fabricates a range of static products in support mainly of the discrete manufacturing sector. These groups combine to produce conveyors systems and other electromechanical system in support of the discrete manufacturing sector. They have recently moved into the are of manufacturing “vision” systems and robotics.

IQ was brought in to address three major areas of management: budgeting and planning, compensation, and engineering and fabrication project management. With a budget of from 10 to 20 million dollars and both internal and external accounting functions, the budgeting process needed to go considerably further than what was available within their management information system designed specifically for distributors (Tribute). An inside accountant maintains the balance sheet and income statement while interfacing with an external CPA. A system was required that would interface with the information system and allow the monthly review of Year-to-Date and monthly sales and expenses numbers. It needed to be easily updated and easily modified to evaluate any trends that were identified and consider the consequences for the year-end totals. The custom system that IQ created offered these opportunities as well as allowed the immediate analysis of engineering and fabrication hourly costs for use in costing projects.

IQ was also tasked with helping to create a sales and management compensation program that tied the level of compensation to performance, both individual and corporate. An Integrated Compensation Model was created that allowed the evaluation of a wide range of possible compensation plans in terms of overall company profit. The sales program centered around three issues: the need for salesmen to create a challenging but realistic plan and then execute it, the need to stimulate sales in specific product lines to satisfy vender demands, and the need to draw salesman’s effort into the $1M range. The most innovative feature of the program was a sliding commission scale based on the percent over or under their cumulative YTD sales were relative to their cumulative plan. Because each plan was a “growth” plan, the plan involved a monthly increase in sales such that by year end total sales were above the previous year by some negotiated amount.

Final IQ was tasked with creating a system for tracking engineering projects from the Request-for-Quotation stage through the shipping/installation stage. An Engineering Master Log was created to capture a wide array of information including dates, hour of time expended by engineering and fabrication and financial information concerning total amounts and any prepayments timing and amounts. With this master log in place an array of tabular and graphical reports were generated that allow corporate management to easily asses the status of projects and allow E&F management to achieve a number of critical project management milestones such as completing engineering design, receiving all parts, fabricating the product, testing and quality assurance, and shipping and/or installation of the product. This system combined with daily review meetings (usually taking 15 to 20 minutes) allowed the immediate response to the inevitable issues that arose as projects proceeded. The system also allowed the prediction of cash flow from the engineering effort. In conjunction with the Engineering Master Log was a related system for tracking any prepayments associated with larger projects.

In general IQ acted as an assistant to the President in the role of solving problems by developing and implementing integrated management solutions.

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