Featured interview - Michael Howard

 

mike feature interview

Michael Howard is Vice President of System Integration | George T. Hall Company, a CSIA Certified control system integrator company, located in Sparks, NV.

Michael Howard, George T. Hall Company

ADDEDMonday, July 1, 2019

  • Q
    Are you certified or endorsed with any you’d like to mention?
    A
    We’ve been long-time certified solution partners with Schneider Electric, Honeywell and Phoenix Contact. These two companies that have been very supportive of our organization over the years.
  • Q
    Do you specialize in any industry, product or discipline? Why or why not?
    A
    While we have a wide breadth of experience across many industries, our organization has an incredible knowledge base in combustion control systems. It’s where we started, and many of our personnel have had the opportunity to mentor under some very skilled engineers in this industry. Whether it’s a malt plant, bakery or aerospace application, we have experience to improve process control and reduce emissions in these types of applications.
  • Q
    What’s the best advice you could give your younger self, just getting started?
    A
    Find someone to mentor you along the early stages of your career. As you advance or take on new responsibilities look for people that are willing to share their knowledge and ask for help.
  • Q
    What is the smartest decision your company has made recently?
    A
    Change management and documentation management was becoming more challenging for us as we grew. The CSIA certification audit really drove this home. The realization we needed something scalable that was easy to use and distribute among multiple remote offices led us to acquire a cloud-based project management software suite. Our quality and productivity have improved considerably with better visibility, allowing us to deliver a better product and service.
  • Q
    Share the history of how GTH began and how the company has evolved in the automation industry.
    A
    GTH is unique in that we’ve been in business since 1932. George Hall had a knack for combustion controls and quickly adapted the business to sell boiler controls, eventually incorporating HVAC and then industrial controls as the process industry started to evolve in Southern California. As a system integrator for combustion controls as well as a Honeywell distributor, the company was looking for a growth opportunity outside California that had different industry knowledge. They purchased a Nevada based SI in 2007 that was well-versed in water treatment processes and mining. That acquisition has really helped the organization grow over the last 12 years where we’ve been able to leverage each locations strength allowing us to evolve and serve different markets throughout the West Coast.
  • Q
    What challenges are you customers facing now?
    A
    In my opinion there’s a technology gap with a lot of our customers. With an aging workforce that didn’t grow up in the era of IIoT, virtual machines and cloud-based applications to name a few, it can be difficult for them to not only run their operations but also look forward and plan to be competitive in the market and keep up with the evolution of technology. We try to be the consulting partner whenever possible, but there’s often considerable manpower and technology obstacles that goes into that effort, many projects don’t have that adequately budgeted. 
  • Q
    How has GTH grown or changed in the past year, and what do you expect for your company in the next 12 to 24 months?
    A
    We’ve seen unprecedented growth in a certain industry over the last year resulting in over 50% growth. That’s been a challenge for us regarding staffing. Our business tends to be cyclical, so we try to maintain just the right number of personnel to handle the peak demands while keeping them busy and challenged during the low periods. The next 12 to 24 months will be a lighter load which will allow us to catch our breath and plan for the next wave.
  • Q
    Why did GTH become a member of CSIA?
    A
    CSIA became synonymous with quality SI companies. We were looking for new ideas and market intelligence to help better prepare our organization for longevity and growth with our existing and new employees. 
  • Q
    What is the biggest benefit of CSIA membership for GTH?
    A
    It was important to our organization to have an unfiltered review of our internal processes and procedures. We understood where some of our weaknesses were but needed a structured process such as the Best Practices guide to systematically review our business and use that information to continue making positive changes to ensure we could effectively manage our plans to grow our SI business.
  • Q
    GTH is a CSIA Certified control systems integrator. When someone asks, “Why should I hire CSIA Certified?” what would you tell them?
    A
    CSIA certification establishes a much-needed baseline for client expectations of an SI organization. Setting standards for not only customer facing business practices such as project management but also internal financial and quality management to name a few. Certification gives our potential clients the confidence needed for them to trust our business practices and personnel to meet and exceed their project expectations.
  • Q
    Why did you choose a career in control system integration?
    A
    Going back some 25 years, I was always interested in electromechanical equipment. I began my career in the vibration monitoring industry and then moved on to a small SI company. Once I had the opportunity to see a process controlled by a PLC, I was hooked and needed to know how it worked. I went on to develop a PLC program for some basic processes, which advanced my interest further into SCADA, networking, motor controls, instrumentation and everything that goes into automating a process. I’m still fascinated by the industry and enjoy seeing our team get excited about new applications and opportunities to learn, even though I don’t get the hands-on experiences I once did.