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Piping Technology & Products

  Experienced Manufacturer of Pipe Supports since 1978
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PT&P History: The First Thirty-Five Years

Index | Acknowledgements | Milestones | Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Read More

Chapter 5: A Continuing Process: The Modernization of the 1990s

Piping Technology & Products found itself in a time of profound change as the 1980s flowed into the 1990s. The company had survived the difficult economic slump of the 1980s through continually reinventing itself. By the end of the decade PT&P had a new home and was poised to embark on the greatest period of expansion in the firm's history. But first, PT&P would have to address a number of administrative and systematic growing pains that threatened the company. In particular, PT&P needed to incorporate the latest developments in computer technology to standardize procedure in a way that would streamline the firm's operations. Also, it had become necessary for the company to reinvigorate its marketing ability with an update of its catalog and brochures.

Although Durga Agrawal made several trips to India between 1986-1991, he was never out of touch with his company in Houston. He communicated daily by telephone and traveled to Houston about every six weeks, In addition, he had brought in Dr. Ben Rhodes, his former college professor and graduate advisor, as one of the firm's vice presidents. While Randy Bailey managed the day to day operations, one of Rhodes' missions was to take a broader view of PT&P, thinking strategically about the firm's future as a viable business entity. Now, Agrawal, and his management team—Vice Presidents Randy Bailey and Ben Rhodes, Controller Ellsworth Seaman, Sales Manager Terry McCormick, Operations Manager Larry Altshuler, and Plant Manager Ben Tatum—would begin an internal transformation of PT&P that would help to modernize the firm's operations and place the company in the forefront of its area in the piping industry.

After he joined the firm in September 1986, Rhodes initiated a series of "manager meetings" to provide a forum in which PT&P officials could raise issues, express concerns, and offer suggestions that would address the needs of the company. These meetings spawned a number of subcommittees to look into issues facing the company and to formulate strategic plans for the future. Issues raised included the acquisition of new computer technology to help manage more efficiently the growing company. In addition, the company embarked on a process of streamlining, standardizing, and modernizing that would make PT&P more efficient and even more competitive. Central to this was the company's embrace of computer technology for every department.

Still, Smith and others observed that an inordinate amount of repeated data entry slowed the processing of orders. Smith also noted a pattern. As PT&P's customers ordered pipe supports for their different projects, they ordered the same type of part over and over. But each time an order was received, PT&P engineers had to do the calculations and manually enter the specifications, even though they had been through the same exercise dozens of time before. This repetitive process was tedious, time consuming, and increased the likelihood of errors along the way.

Part of the problem arose from the lack of a truly standardized process in the engineering department. Each engineer prepared proposals and fabrication reports using his or her own preferred format. The computer literate engineers generally used a word processor or the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet program, while those who were not well trained on the computer did their computations manually, with hand calculators. Further delays arose as engineers repeated their calculations to check for accuracy. Under this system, then, the printed formats for part descriptions and reports varied widely among the engineering staff. Such inconsistencies caused confusion and frequently required shop personnel to go back to the engineers for clarification. All of this led to shipping delays and sometimes angered customers.

The lack of a network capability made it impossible to centralize or share data, further slowing the process. Since there was no database capability, there were no search tools with which to retrieve data. When clients ordered the same parts again, the engineers had to reenter the data that had been entered previously. All the engineering calculations also had to be done again. This slowed the company's response to bids and contributed to problems meeting production and delivery deadlines.

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