Tips for Fostering Teamwork
Working together. That’s the key. Companies that are experienced collaborators offer the following advice for forming relationships with customers and other parties involved in complex projects:
- Meet local architects, engineers, designers and contractors. “Sit down with them, and tell them what you do,” says Kreysler. “Tell them you want to learn what, if anything, you can do for them to get your foot in the door.”
- Get involved early. “The farther upstream we can get in the process and the better we understand where our customers are headed, the more likely we can work in parallel to formulate value-enhancing concepts that they may be able to integrate into their products,” says Imbrogno.
- “Park the data dump,” adds Imbrogno. “Forget telling customers what you can do. Become knowledgeable about your customers’ markets – what’s going on from a product, technology and business standpoint.” Armed with that knowledge, you can formulate ideas that will meet their needs rather than serve your own.
- Seek out likeminded partners. “We like to solve problems with people who want to solve problems, too,” says structural engineer Hanlon. “It’s exciting as an engineer to push the limits a little bit instead of doing the same old building we’ve done 100 times. If I’m designing a steel structure, I open up my steel manual for a list of instructions that tell me what to do. Working with composites is fun! It appeals to me to throw out the cookbook, use my brain and think up solutions to problems.”
- Be patient. “Engineers are not by nature risk-takers,” says Hanlon. “To use an alternate material that is not proven, you might have to jump through some hoops. It’s getting easier as we continue to build successful projects, but for the time being I would caution patience and fortitude.”
- Teach customers about composites. “The Newmont and KCGM team had limited exposure with composites in the structural engineering world, mainly in regard to strengthening suspended concrete elements,” says Foley. “Advantic was happy to provide a ‘Composites 101’ class to our team, walking us through the fundamentals of composites, applications, costs, advantages and challenges. They let our team probe, query and interrogate in detail to ensure we were satisfied with the direction of this emerging option.”
- Look beyond engineers and designers. “Marketing and procurement departments have goals, too,” says Imbrogno. “Know the metrics by which they are judged and what’s important to your customer contacts, no matter what role they’re in.”
- Listen to your partners. “We look for partners who are open to input because we bring a lot to the table,” says Hanlon. “Their paths to building will be much easier if we are involved. But it’s hard to go to bat for someone who doesn’t listen to the advice you’re giving as a consultant.”
Being receptive to collaboration opens up possibilities in the composites market. Your partners can become an extension of your business, creating new business opportunities. In October, engineering firm Martin/Martin hosted an informational meeting about composites for a large architecture firm in San Francisco, encouraging the architects to consider composites for the next arena they design. “It’s a material that architects will love because of its flexibility of form,” says Hanlon. “The cost is sometimes a barrier, but with the right project we see composite façades emerging as the next iconic architectural material.”
Advancing composite materials is largely a matter of the right people coming together. “What a great opportunity to find like-minded people from the buy side of the table to advance the state of the art in composites,” says Doudican. “I get to work with people who want to take structural engineering and advanced materials and innovate in new spaces within the civil market. It’s got huge potential. It just takes the right pairing of people who can collaborate and bring solutions to fruition.”
Together, anything is possible.