Featured interview - Barry Anderson

Barry Anderson is a director at LATSA Learning Services, an Australian-based company that provides a suite of management consulting and certified, customized project and process management training services. The following is a partial transcript of the full interview.

Barry Anderson, Latsa Learning Services Pty Ltd

ADDEDMonday, May 17, 2021

  • Q
    What make LATSA optimistic about the future of the automation industry?
    A
    The main thing about this industry as opposed to other industries is most of the people who get into this industry are just born problem solvers. You know, they’re very used to rapid changes in technology and compliance requirements and definitely see it as a growth industry with a lot of new opportunities out there. The future is looking good.
  • Q
    What is the biggest challenge facing the automation marketplace today and the future?
    A
    I might sneak two in if I can. The first one is cybersecurity. I think that’s crucial to the industry to survive. We’ve got to get a handle on making sure our systems are secure. 
    
    And flexible project delivery. I think there’s a lot of desire from customers these days to head down that sort of route. So it’s more of a design-as-you-build agile sort of approach I think is where we’re heading.
    
  • Q
    So, they at first learn the concepts and then they apply them “in a real-life example” with your fizzy drinks project, correct?
    A
    Correct, yes.
  • Q
    Talk about the mythical project that is part of the course.
    A
    We created a project that’s based on the fizzy drink, soft drink company that has a single location but wants to expand to multiple locations across the US.
  • Q
    Why did you decide to develop the Estimation Training course for CSIA?
    A
    There is not a lot available out in the marketplace. We had been working on a face-to-face course when we started talking to CSIA, and according to member survey data, estimation was an area that desperately needed training, and the survey pointed out that an online self-paced course would be the preferred method to do this sort of thing. So away we went.
  • Q
    If you could give one piece of advice about estimating projects, what would it be?
    A
    Have a systematic approach and continuously improve that systematic approach. Evaluate each of the projects and feed that back into your quoting system, so you’re continually getting better and work on the system itself.
    
    You create a decent system and continue to work for it to make sure it works for you rather than you working for it. 
    
  • Q
    What are some of the mistakes system integrators make when it comes to estimating projects?
    A
    It’s not just systems integrators. It seems to be a standard thing everywhere. The main mistake I come across is not conducting a decent go/no-go on projects before spending the time and effort to quote them.
    
    One of my favorite lines is “Win more by quoting less.” In other words, focus more attention on the projects that suit you, and you’ve got a better chance of winning.
    
  • Q
    Tell us about your work with SIs.
    A
    We’ve got two certified best practices and benchmarks auditors, me being one of them. We’ve currently got the estimation training, which has been very well-received, and we’re in discussion for future training, which is based on the CSIA member feedback as well.
  • Q
    Why do your customers return to you project after project?
    A
    I think it’s really simply passion. Genuine interest combined with experience. We’ve proven to be reliable, experienced, and we like to think we deliver certainty.
  • Q
    What’s unique about how you approach a project?
    A
    All of us have both a broad and a deeper understanding, which we’ve gained from the School of Hard Knocks as to what works in business. This experience is really brought by both the training and consulting sides as well.
  • Q
    What would you say is the smartest decision your company has made recently?
    A
    We used to be involved with two companies. There was ASTAL, which was a consulting business, and Latsa, which was a training business. Back a few months ago, we decided to merge the two companies together. We now provide a seamless training and consulting offering under one entity.
  • Q
    How has LATSA grown or changed in the past year?
    A
    The training side of the business has really seen a need to transition from mostly face to face to virtual training. We expect that trend to go with a bit of platforms also becoming available as well.
  • Q
    What other suppliers do you partner with?
    A
    We partner with a range of well-respected training providers to be able to supply the best possible training outcomes. Companies like APMG, PeopleCert and Learning Tree International. 
  • Q
    Do you specialize in any industry, product or discipline?
    A
    We specialize in training and business analysis and process improvement. Our services really cover a wide range of industries. We do enjoy getting back into the SI space where possible.
  • Q
    How has LATSA evolved?
    A
    The company came from a systems integrators background. All three directors worked in management at SAGE Automation, and we were instrumental in SAGE gaining the CSIA accreditation.
    
    The skills going from that and prior to SAGE have been used to help companies over the years. It was natural for us to partner with CSIA and spend some time back in the systems integrator space. We’re putting our skillsets together to both provide training courses and also best practices auditing.
  • Q
    How do you describe to laypeople what you do?
    A
    Basically, I help companies to improve systems and processes to allow them to effectively win the type of work that they want to.
  • Q
    Why did you chose a career in automation or did the career chose you?
    A
    It’s actually a little bit of both. I started with a fairly large industrial electrical company back in the ‘70s when control systems were hardboard relays, push buttons, pilot lights; and PLCs were just starting to be heard of. I was fortunate enough to spend almost a year in the middle of Australia on a coal mine where we were doing a stacker and reclaimer project, and the project consisted of that full suite of PLC1s and some ISSC PLCs for the ancient ones amongst us. 
    
    Having done that project, I was hooked into the control systems. From that, I progressed through supervision, design, project management, management automation. I mainly worked in power generation, grain handling, water and wastewater, oil and gas.
    
    By the time I got through all that, I got headhunted by some SIs to help improve their estimation systems and finally ended up with SAGE Automation in 2005. From there, progressed to working for myself.