June 17, 2014

Case Study: A New Design for a Water-Cooled Furnace Brings to Life the Concept of “Conservative Innovation”

When a CECON consultant specializing in chemical and process engineering presented his idea for a new design for a water-cooled furnace to the expert designers he worked with they said one word: IMPOSSIBLE.  But employing his concept of “conservative innovation design,” he persisted and built a furnace that not only operated successfully, it became far more practical to maintain and repair than the traditional design.

Over the course of five years, I have built and operated a total of seven rotary induction water cooled furnaces—giant furnaces capable of processing hundreds of tons of ore per hour—in two different factories.  

When No. 6 was running, my electrician, who I had been working with since No. 1, came into my office and declared: “We must get rid of this water cooling nuisance. You must make an air-cooled coil!” He had a point. Water leakages and sometimes blocked water passages, created safety risks, demanded problematic repairs and consequently caused lengthy down time of the furnaces.

I immediately responded: “Our furnaces are not the first in the world. If this were possible, the Chinese experts who supplied the equipment would have done it long ago. Forget about it! We have enough on our hands.”

He was disappointed, but he understood my point.

But that evening I found myself considering the possibilities. I started writing notes and making sketches. I assumed that if this was really impossible, my engineering calculations would run into a dead end, or some expert will convince me to let go of the idea.

My criteria were that I need the new design to be suitable for conversion of the existing furnaces without major modifications including the need to modify the power supply and control mode. Getting rid of the cooling water nuisance was tempting but not enough to justify a major design revolution, especially considering that we already 6 furnaces running.

It took some calculations and consulting with experts of heat exchange and electrical bus bar designers to come up with an alternative design of an air-cooled coil that would have the same Ohmic resistance as the original despite of the higher working temperature. The copper weight was 2.5 times the original. More expensive but still not prohibitive. I now knew that I had a suitable design.

We knew the maximum current in the coils so we could calculate the power needed to overcome the Ohmic resistance of the coils. We then measured the cooling water flow rate and temperature difference and thus verified that we know the heat load to be removed by the surrounding air. With this in hand, and using some heat exchange coefficients found in literature, we could calculate the surface temperature of any suggested copper profile to be used for the construction of the new AIR-COOLED INDUCTION COIL. 

Knowing the service temperature of the Copper we could now find the new specific resistance of the Copper and calculate the required cross section in order that the total coil resistance will be the same as the original. The copper weight was 2.5 times the original. More expensive but still not prohibitive. I now compared my results to engineering tables which I received from an electrical engineer showing service conditions and loads for bare copper cables and bus bars used in electrical panels. The comparison was encouraging. I now knew that I had a suitable design.

What is Conservative Innovative Design?
At this stage I would like to spell out the main characteristics of what I call Conservative Innovative design. The innovative part of this is easy to understand. Once you face a problem, which the existing technology cannot solve satisfactorily, keep your mind open to innovative ideas even if, at first glance they look unsuitable. Do not be afraid of innovation. Have the guts to try new things.

How do you apply innovation in a conservative way? We must remember that we are within an operating facility where a lot of money was invested and time is highly valued. We must respect the “old” technology even if we are critical of it, as this is actually what we have and what is paying the bills and providing pay checks.

We must not be too adventurous or too arrogant. We must consult with many experts, listen to many opinions, especially those which reject our ideas and predict failure. We must be critical to prove to ourselves that the rejecting opinions are wrong–or maybe they are right or partially right and maybe we can learn something and improve. This requires patience and hesitation. A thinking process that does not go through the hesitation stage had simply not been examined deeply enough. Never assume that things will go right. Prove it to yourself!

June 3, 2014

The Best Way to Source Consultants/ Legal Expert Witnesses: Social Media or Placement Firm?

5 Advantages of (and 1 Misconception about)
Using a Consultant Placement Firm over Searching Social Media to Hire a Consultant

 With everyone on Linked In and websites so easy to build, it is easier than ever to search for a client or expert on the internet and skip the “middleman” or expert placement firm when hiring a consultant. But should you? Is it really cheaper? 

What are the advantages to using an expert placement firm?

1. Vetting. Did the expert whose profile looks so appealing on social media really attend that school? Does he/she really have those skills? A placement firm can vet their experts.

2. Additional experts are available if needed. If you need multiple experts or additional experts in a complementary field,  a placement firm can be “one stop shopping.” Your “rep” will already know the details of your project and the expertise you already have, so you don’t need to start over multiple times to engage additional help. You will also just get one invoice, which streamlines paperwork for you.

3. Filtering: Having so many choices of experts can be confusing. A placement firm with experience in a specific practice area is able to help you discern which of a long list of experts is the one who meets your needs. Experts may use a variety of terms in their resumes or websites, whose relevance may be difficult to interpret for someone not in that field. A placement firm can send you a filtered list of candidates.

4. Expertise discernement: What type of expertise is actually needed for your job? It may be different than you think.
In one of CECON’s successful expert placements, a plaintiff’s attorney sought a pharmaceutical consultant with a specific skill set from our expert database. After discussing the case with the client and getting more details, the CECON Project Manager suggested that an expert with a slightly different background would be more appropriate. An expert on regulatory issues and innovative/generic drug labeling was engaged, per CECON’s suggestion. The outcome was a judgment was for the plaintiffs, with a $500 Million Punitive Award.

5. Scope definition. A placement firm whose client service reps have expert experience themselves can often help define and narrow the scope of your job.
For example, CECON Project Managers have helped clients define technical specifications for engineering projects, then sourced the necessary consulting team to complete the projects. If you are uncertain about the full scope and hidden tasks involved with a project, an experienced technical project manager can help you.

And, the one misconception: that fees will be higher. This is not always the case. Fees may be comparable to hiring an expert directly when sourcing a consultant through a placement firm. Because placement firms provide a higher volume of work to a consultant than one client will, they may get a lower rate, which compensates for the placement fee. Placement firms usually understand market pricing and will work to make the net end fee to the user competitive.

So don’t rule out using a placement firm because you think the fee may be higher. The services provided will also save you time in searching, another cost savings.

Founded in 1985, The CECON Group specializes in providing science and engineering consultants and expert witnesses. Consultants in their global network typically have more than 25 years of experience; CECON offers consultants in more than 200 disciplines, including pharmaceutical development and regulatory compliance, chemical processing and safety, biotechnology, medical devices, nanotechnology, and polymers and coatings.

For details, visit www.cecon.com or call 888-263-8000.