SCS Engineers on Drones, Remote Solutions, Outreach & More

Inductive Conversations

41 minute episode Apple Podcasts  |  Spotify  |  Google Play  |  PodBean  |  TuneIn

Dave Hostetter and Philip Carrillo from SCS Engineers discuss remote monitoring and control solutions that help their customers work smarter and play harder. Hear about the landfill gas-flare management system they developed with Corso Systems, which won an Ignition Firebrand Award and includes a game-changing Systems Startup Shutdown Malfunction (SSM) report. You’ll also hear about SCS’s community outreach, their involvement with Engineers Without Borders, advice about enhancing social media through video production, some cool ways they’re using Ignition Perspective, and their approach to maintaining business success during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re really leveraging technology to lower operations and maintenance costs to make operators' lives easier and really help the environment” – David

“My clients are relying more on the remote monitoring and control of their facilities… they’re looking at these systems and expanding them.” – Philip

Guest Bios

Dave is the Regional Manager for the eastern half of the country for SCS Engineers' Remote Monitoring and Control group. He has over 10 years of experience in the fields of landfill gas engineering, operations and maintenance, controls, and mechanical engineering. He has worked for SCS since 2012. In the past 8 years, he has managed the design and installation of dozens of remote monitoring and control systems. He is a professional engineer, registered in the states of Pennsylvania and Virginia.

He was named as one of the top 40 people under the age of 40 in the waste industry by Waste360 in 2016. In 2019, he was named by Control Engineering Magazine as one of the top Engineering Leaders Under 40.

Dave is a leader in applied technology for the waste industry; he listens to his clients' concerns and goals, keeping his solutions focused on their needs. Respected by his clients, peers, and SCS co- workers, he delivers sustainable solutions that balance the clients' needs to provide services and products while protecting our environment. He embraces the SCS culture of dedicating himself to developing other young engineers into future leaders like himself and sharing his knowledge for the betterment of industries and the environment.

Philip Carrillo is the National Director for SCS’s Remote Monitoring and Control (RMC) group. Phil is a systems integrator with 18 years of experience in the O&M of Landfill Gas (LFG) extraction and treatment systems. In the past three years, he has managed the design and installation of 126 SCS RMC systems for 78 clients.

In addition to serving clients with design, installation, and support of customized SCS RMC solutions, Mr. Carrillo leads the development of SCS’s pioneering suite of state-of-the-art hardware and custom applications benefiting clients in their efforts to optimize data management efficiencies.

In 2019, he received an Inductive Automation Ignition Firebrand Award for a project that he did for San Bernardino County.

Episode Transcript:

Justin: Hello and welcome to Inductive Conversations, my name is Justin Reis, I'm the Integrator Program Manager here at Inductive Automation and we are here today with Dave Hostetter and Philip Carrillo from SCS Engineers. Dave, Philip, thanks for joining us today.

Dave: Thanks.

Philip: Thanks for having us.

Dave: Happy to be here.

Justin: Well, we talk a lot on this podcast to system integrators, your company, SCS Engineers is a little unique because it describes itself as an environmental consulting and contracting firm. Can you talk a little bit about what SCS does and what types of customers it serves?

Dave: Sure. So SCS is an environmental engineering firm, we have roughly about 900 employees across the United States and we've got offices from the East Coast to the West Coast as well, we've been around for about 50 years and we're primarily focused in the solid waste arena. Phil and I have both been with SCS for quite a number of years and throughout our time at SCS we've done different things. My time with SCS started out doing mechanical engineering, that's my background, I'm a mechanical engineer by degree, and also by registration. So I started off doing mechanical engineering work for SCS and as I was doing that, I got more and more and more and more involved with controls work and as that was happening, I was introduced to the work that Phil was doing with our Remote Monitoring and Controls group and things really took off from there.

Philip: Our bread and butter is landfills. I've been in this industry for about 20 years, and I've always been involved in controls and automation and I say in the last seven years we've seen it explode, there's been a huge demand, clients are asking for it and we formed this group inside of SCS, Remote Monitoring and Control to service those needs. We've expanded outside the landfills to air monitoring and we have state parks, we have different customers outside the landfill industry, and it's really exploded and Inductive has been there, it's the easiest platform that... Most reliable and cost-effective platform to get our clients up and running.

Justin: That's awesome.

Philip: And I wanna mention SCS is employee-owned. We're 100% employee-owned and I think there... It has a lot to say about the individuals here that's... Everybody has a piece and is an owner. So I just wanna throw that in.

Dave: That's been part of our strategy for staying around for 50 years as well. Literally, I think a month, two months ago we celebrated our 50th anniversary...

Justin: Wow.

Dave: And it started off by three guys Sterns, Conrad and Schmidt. They've all since retired and moved on from the company. Actually, Tom Conrad is still involved to a degree, he was one of my first mentors here at SCS and it was a great opportunity for me to get to learn from him and was really one of the reasons why I'm set in here, where I'm at right now. But one of the things that they did to be able to continue the legacy of SCS was to implement that employee ownership so that it wasn't just being held by three guys, it's now held by all 900 or so of us within the company.

I stay in our Lancaster, Pennsylvania office, we just opened that up here in 2019, Phil is out on the West Coast in Huntington Beach and we've got our headquarters just up the road, so to speak, from Phil in Long Beach, California. I spent three or four years in our Western Virginia office. It's one of our other large offices, it's on the East Coast just outside of Washington DC, so East Coast to West Coast, we've got offices all over the place.

Dave: And it fits basically the model of SCS that we're very dispersed and we're involved in all sorts of different things. So even though our focus is in solid waste, in general, as a company we do all sorts of different things and we service so many different types of clients, anywhere from like a local mom and pop shop, the whole way up through Fortune 500 companies to local municipalities and the federal government. So we do lots of different things throughout the company, and we, as our RMC group, find ways to integrate ourselves with all of the different things that we're doing, and we're always looking for ways that we can include Ignition in the work that we're doing and finding ways to leverage technology to essentially try to make our lives easier and make our clients' lives easier as well.

Justin: Well that's fantastic. That was a great introduction to SCS. But what about you guys? So, Dave, you wanna tell me a little bit about your role there?

Dave: Sure. I'm the Eastern Regional Manager for RMC, so that means I cover the eastern half of the country. Basically, I work with Phil every day and try to build our RMC group, so working to build our business, responding to proposals, working with our clients and trying to understand their needs and try to help them develop solutions to their problems. And then I spend a lot of my time as well mentoring our young staff and teaching them all the things that I've learned throughout my career.

Justin: Thank you. And then Phil, what's your role there?

Philip: I'm the National Director of RMC, and just in this last year, we brought in a lot of staff and it's freed me up to do a little bit more R&D and follow newer technologies such as we just launched methane drone monitoring and my passion is with new technologies and R&D and getting concepts to the whole workflow to the platform to roll it out to our customers.

Justin: Awesome. So I kinda wanna get a little bit of information from you guys about Ignition and one of my favorite questions to ask integrators is how did you first discover Ignition?

Philip: Our energy division. So we have an energy division and they had used it on one of their engine facilities, and they had asked us to work alongside it and that's what I... It caught my eye. And then from there, I implemented a couple of sites and I was surprised how quickly and easily I could develop a system and how cost effective it was. But I think we're going back about six years when I first took notice of the engine facility they had that we teamed up with.

Justin: Dave, how about you?

Dave: Yeah, for me it was much more recent than Phil. And I really started digging into it when Perspective, or really as Perspective was being launched, so I had a little bit of experience working in vision, but most of the time has been spent working in Perspective and kinda cut my teeth there. We rolled out one of the first, what we believe one of the first prospective projects, it was actually launched back when it was in demo, and it was a full production system, it was running a site where we've done a lot of work since then.

Justin: Okay, so you go back to the early days of Perspective, not necessarily the early days of Inductive Automation?

Dave: Yeah.

Justin: Great. So before we get into the main content of this interview, I wanna mention that SCS is a premier integrator since November 2019, I might add. Can you tell me a little bit about that status and what it's meant to SCS so far?

Dave: So for us, it means that it's opened an entire new door of opportunities. Since we became the Premier integrators back in November, we've gotten a number of calls from clients that we wouldn't have gotten calls from before. They found our name on Inductive's website, and we've been able to do some work for some really great clients because of that. So it's opening a new set of doors, and for us, really what it means is that Ignition is at the front of our minds as we're developing solutions. So it's the thing that we lead with to our clients that when they come to us with a problem, it's the first thing that we think of, "Okay, how can we involve Ignition in this, how can we include this other technology in something that we're doing, how can we really try to make everything work together?" And that's one of the great benefits that we see to Ignition is that it's a platform that we can use to combine lots of different things. We can pull data in from this system, we can pull data in from this system, we can make this, talk to that, and then really spin it all up in one environment. And there's just so many nice can features within Ignition that allow us to be able to do that for a relatively cheap cost as well.

Justin: That's excellent, yeah, it's great to have you guys on as Premier integrators. So I just wanna throw that out there, love working with teams like you guys.

Dave: Yes, thank you.

Philip: Yeah, I wanna add that we're honored to get the premier integrator... It has come with a lot of opportunity. We've had a lot of organizations reach out because of that Premier integrator title, so thank you guys.

Justin: Yeah, of course I would love to hear anything that you have to say about an increase of people reaching out.

Dave: I can give one most recent example that we had, somebody calls from the center part of the country that they were a rep for one of Ignition's partners, solution partners, and they didn't have systems integration experience but they had clients that needed system integration help. So Phil and I got on a call with this group of people last week, and we're starting to patch together a partnership that they'll provide the products, we'll provide the systems integration services, and we'll hit the ground running.

Justin: That's fantastic, yeah, that's good to hear. That's exactly what we want to have happened with our integrated program in the premier status, so well done guys.

Dave: Thanks.

Justin: So you guys mentioned you're a RMC specialty group and that's what's been I'm actually really interested in, remote monitoring and control. And I know you guys have had quite a bit of experience with that. Can you tell me what are some of the key benefits of RMC, and some of the successes you've had with it?

Philip: Well I'll first start out. We started in the group 'cause historically SCS didn't have controls or integration experience, and we used to historically subcontract out this work. And when I came on SCS, I noticed because of my controls background and computer science background, I was asked to do a lot of this integration, it was only a fit that we started getting more and more of this work so we started the group based upon the demand.

Dave: And I would say some of the key benefits that we really see to RMC systems are that they improve the quality of life for the people that are using the system, and it's just kind of seen throughout the other things I'm gonna talk about here. It enables the clients, typically engineers, operators, owners of the system to make smarter decisions by giving them more data, and then also giving them the tools to be able to analyze that data. In the past like Phil was talking about, there was data that was coming in, but people were looking at it in spreadsheets and had to create graphs of different things, and all sorts of manual reporting. But through Ignition we've really been able to automate a lot of those processes and allow people to be able to, again, work smarter rather than harder. One of the other key benefits related to that is that, Ignition and the systems that we set up enables people to be more proactive rather than reactive. So one of the examples that I like to give our clients with this is that, if you get a high level in a pump station, that in and of itself may not necessarily be a problem, it's a small problem, if it is a problem.

Dave: But if that high level stays there and stays unacknowledged and nobody does anything about it, the liquid level is probably gonna continue to go up, and up, and up, and up, and up, and over time that pump station will overflow. When that happens, that's a significant issue especially in the environmental industry. You can start to get fines, and the public is upset, and all sorts of bad things start happening. So if we have an Ignition system there, we can send out alarms, we can make sure that showing up as KPI on the dashboard, and it really makes sure that the small issue stays as a small issue, and it doesn't precipitate into something much larger. And then one of the other really key things that we try to do with all of our RMC systems with Ignition, is that we want to try to reduce operations and maintenance costs. Throughout the environmental industry and throughout many industries, there are so many things that are done manually. People are going out there with clipboards, they're writing stuff down, they're producing manual reports, they're taking manual samples on things, they're taking data that was collected automatically, and then doing some post-processing stuff on it manually to create reports, or to visualize different things.

Dave: So as we're approaching a project, we'd like to try to think about all the different things that are being done manually, and try to come up with ways to produce those things automatically. So one of the great examples I like to give with this is that, we've been working with a client now for three or four years, SCS is experienced with this client, it goes back much farther than that. And one of our engineers was talking with me and said that they were working with this client, and the client was spending roughly about $1000 a day doing some activities on the site. For regulatory purposes. So they said, why don't we try to come up with a way that we can automate this process? So we put together the solution and the solution now basically monitors a number of locations around this facility and it collects all that data, pushes it into Ignition and then we use Ignition for the HMI, for the alarming, for the data queries and all fo that.

Dave: And then the real purpose that the Ignition system provides in this circumstance is that it produces automatic reports every day. So every day at 7:30 in the morning, the site has an automatic report that's generated that summarizes what was happening over the previous 24 hours. And this report goes out to us, it goes out to the client and it also goes out to the regulatory agency. So the client is just being completely open and saying, Hey, look, this is what's going on and it's been a real big win for us and for the client and also for the regulatory agency because there's a lot of transparency that's going on with it. And for the client, they were able to take this big expense of a $1000 a night. They spent roughly $90,000 or so on the system, and because of that, they were able to offset that $1000 a night cost and essentially pay for the system in about three months. So it's been again a real big win for all of us.

Justin: Thanks for that answer, Dave, but with the COVID-19 situation, it seems like RMC is more important than ever. I would assume that you're seeing quite a bit more request for that. How's that looking for you?

Philip: Definitely. I think me and Dave have similar experiences but I'll talk about mine first. So my clients are relying more on the remote monitoring and control of their facilities. They're at home, they're not on site anymore. And when this first happened, we were adding users, adding more of the clients on there. And then throughout this, we've see them add sensors, add onto the systems cameras. They're looking at these systems and expanding them. So this is definitely... We've seen an uptick in our systems.

Dave: Yeah.

Philip: And one other thing, on landfills there's an open phase where they're disposing of the trash and a lot of the clients are saying that none of the technicians can go in this area now. We have a fleet of drones with tune-able lasers that are looking for methane and there's been a lot of requests. We're going out there, we're flying in this area and because of this, we're taking that data set and we're working through a workflow to visualize this in Ignition and look at the data and analyze what we're seeing from the drone. As we speak, we're developing that.

Justin: Yeah. You guys have talked a couple of times about these drones and I'm pretty interested in hearing about those. So I'll use that as a segue to get to the next topic I wanted to cover. So SCS worked with an integrator called Corso Systems on a landfill gas flare management system for San Bernardino County, which won an Ignition firebrand award at the 2019 ICC. So I would love to hear about that project actually.

Philip: Sure. So that was with the County of San Bernardino. And I've had this client for about 20 years now. They wanted to upgrade one of their facilities as a pilot. They have over 20 facilities but they had some pretty strenuous requirements and a deadline, a tough deadline. So, let's just talk about the requirements. It had to be pure HTML. Because of their municipality, their IT constraints are security is they're dealing with at the scale houses there's an exchange of money and security is top priority. And they said this platform had to be pure HTML and they wanted to reduce their operating costs. There's a lot of manual reports that have been done. One of them is an SSM, a facility maintenance, and there were a lot of upgrades to sensors and there was a requirement to automate forms and alarming.

Philip: So we responded obviously with Ignition, which is just coming out with Perspective. It was very close to being released. It was in demo and there was only one option for me was to do it in Ignition because of the deadline and the cost and the budget. And we teamed up with Corso and John Gerbac. There were a lot of sleepless nights, but we met the deadline and the client went over the moon. We met all the requirements and we reduced their operating costs and we got to implement a lot of new, cool technology. One being, we put wireless solar powered well monitoring sensors on some of their landfill gas Wells. We implemented drone monitoring with Topos, aerials, and their open phase. We're calculating how much trash is in place and giving them a tool to quantify and check their operations.

Philip: So we do drone flights and they can draw a box and see how much trash is in place, how much dirt they removed all through this interface that we plugged in through Perspective. One of the other cool things we automated, what we call SSM systems...

Dave: Startup, shutdown, malfunction.

Philip: Malfunction. Thanks, Dave. And so we take the alarms coming off the PLC and we query that store-in and we fill out this semi-annual port it's completely automated. It gets sent or you could go ad hoc and create your report on the Ignition Perspective interface. One of the other cool features was automated maintenance form. So the technician, he has a form that historically was done on a clipboard. Well, we implemented a lot of sensors. They take a flow meter. It automatically populates real time when he opens up the form.

Philip: If you have a liquid level, it automatically populates a form. So before these were all analog gauges, and you'd have to go to it and look at the level and look at a meter and copy it down. So any of that, we can pull in from the database and populate this form. Then he makes his observations and he submits it. That goes to a record for the managers to look at and they can query them at the end of the month or at end of the yeah, or they can just do them ad hoc. It was a great report feature that we implemented that saves costs, saves time and money at the end of the day.

Dave: I just want to say the SSM report feature that you put together. I mean, that is absolutely like game-changing here within the landfill gas industry. I mean, just that piece right there can save days of time depending upon the site, that flares startup and they shut down a lot. And if you've got to go back over, I mean, it used to be chart recorder data, like the wheel. You'd have to go there and figure out when this thing was running, when it wasn't running. You'd have to figure out why it had stopped. So that automation process has saved tons of time with just that one part.

Justin: Right. Something else you want to touch on there, Phil?

Philip: Yeah, I just... I got to give the credit to Inductive for giving us the tool to quickly develop that interface. And... I can't take full credit. Corso and John Gerbac were there with me. Like I said, a lot of sleepless nights and Ignition gave us the tools and the development platform to execute this at the end of the day, and it was win-win for everybody. And now we're expanding the system to the other sites and, all around, everybody wins.

Justin: Yeah. And that's kind of what I wanted to get to next is that I looked at the case study that was on the website a couple of times just to kind of get a sense of what you guys did there. And one of the things that was mentioned was that San Bernardino County then had you do other implementations. And that was, I'm assuming, based on the success that you had with Ignition, with Corso, and the rest of your company doing that. Yeah?

Philip: Absolutely. We're... I was just talking to the client this morning and we're implementing upgrades to their sites and it's an ongoing relationship. It wasn't a one and done. We're expanding these systems and every upgrade, we're keeping them up to date. And they're asking for more features. Like I said, I can't take credit for everything. A lot of it is coming from the client. They'll ask some crazy requests and we sit down and see what's in the budget and time. And a lot of these cool ideas come from the client and we're just implementing them.

Dave: What Phil just described is basically every single day here. That we work hard, we play hard. I mean, that's really SCS in a sense. Specifically within RMC, there's just so much collaboration that goes on of taking ideas back and forth. We're constantly trying to come up with new ideas. One of our control specialists was just on the phone with support today asking about something that we hope that Ignition was capable of doing and figured that it wasn't but we just wanted to double check on it. We're always pushing the envelope. Phil, in particular, one of the big reasons why we're bringing so many people on and so that we can give Phil the space and the time that just make everything blow up. He's just got so many awesome ideas and I think it's one of the reasons that we work well together is that Phil does the first of the kind type of thing and then we take that and then I run with it and spread it out to all the other sites that we've got. It's an absolutely great team that we've got here.

Justin: Yeah. That's awesome. You guys, from the case study that I saw, you looked pretty high tech. I was interested in those VR virtual glasses you guys have that you used with the drones. I'm assuming that you use Perspective with that as well, yeah?

Philip: Yeah. I'll talk a little bit about that. First of all, it was a Microsoft HoloLens. And so, we're running a Windows operating system and it has... You can run any browser. I'd bring up Perspective in the browser and you could sit there and touch the screens and it's in front of you. It's pretty cool. Visualizing, we mapped the whole site in 3D with the drones. We plugged that in with the Pix4D and integrated that in. You can be anywhere in the site and you can spin it, but with the HoloLens, yeah, you can bring up Perspective and see the interface we built. And we also did a lot of 3D renderings and I hate to compare it to a video game, but you can run through the site like a video game.

Justin: Yeah. That's what I noticed. It looked very video game-esque.

Philip: There again, that was the client. It was a request. A lot of times, they can't go to the site and they want to visualize a piece of... The landfill's constantly changing. They're building a man-made mountain and it's changing day by day. And sometimes it's easier if they can't make it down there to visualize it through the HoloLens or it's just another way of serving up an interface. And it's just, you can get as creative as you want.

Dave: Yeah. It's been fun for us to take it to conferences and allow people right there on the show floor to walk around a landfill gas flare to stick their head inside of a flare, which you only do in a virtual reality.

Philip: And Dave brings up a good point. A lot of people, you can visualize stuff that you normally can't. A flare is running at 1600 degrees and it's so hot. You don't even want to stand next to it. Well, we model the flare, Justin Stephenson, another SCSer, he modeled this flare up and brought it in and you could literally step into a flare and look at the burners, look up at the sky, or you can look at inside of a blower and you can visualize stuff you wouldn't normally be able to visualize. Historically, landfill has been a black box. We don't know a lot about what's happening real time underneath that landfill and we're adding sensors and we're getting a better sense of what's actually going on in real time, rather than historically. We're building this model. It keeps getting better and better at landfills and the liquid levels, the temperatures, the piping, and it helps you visualize solutions, too.

Justin: Yeah, you guys, I can tell you guys are having a blast doing what you do.

Philip: It's fun. Like Dave mentioned, I like going to conferences and people would be like in the middle of the floor just trying to grab stuff. You got to let them in.

Justin: Yeah. I can imagine. That's awesome. The Perspective model, it seems like it was definitely an important part of your firebrand award winning solution. What are some other interesting things you've been doing with Perspective?

Dave: Phil has touched on some of it. The automatic startup shutdown malfunction reports, and being able to do that, I don't know if you talked about it earlier, but we have an interface physically set up there in a panel PC at the flare station. The operator can stand there out in the field and fill out this form. He can also pull it up on his phone and do it. Basically, as we're building a Perspective interface, we're designing it so that it works basically regardless of how you're viewing it, whether it's on your computer or on your phone or on an iPad or something else. We're trying to make everything so that it says mobile user friendly as possible. Some of the other stuff we're doing is we're using, we're creating maintenance forms. I know it's something that Phil did in the firebrand project. We're incorporating Google forms. I believe the new version was app sheet. Is that what it was, Phil?

Philip: That's correct.

Dave: So integrating different software platforms into this, even beyond that, with our drones. We're integrating Pix4D, which is one of the drone processing services. And then we're building a lot of custom data analysis tools in Perspective as well. It kind of gets at the heart of what we were talking about before is that we're trying to make the owner and operators and engineers lives easier. Giving them tools to be able to analyze the data and make smart decisions with all the data that's being collected.

Philip: One thing I might add is, we've had customers with existing databases and data sets and we can very easily create an API and interface with those, 'cause it's seamless and it saves us a lot of time, saves the customers a lot of time. And we find that it's... I hate to use this word plug and play, but it's very close. The startup is very minimal in deploying to other databases.

Justin: That's great. Phil, can you tell us a little about the mobile forms and where you guys are going with those?

Philip: We get a lot of requests from our clients to fill out forms on the phone or the tablet in the field. We first started using, integrating with Google forms and we got led to Google Sheets, Google purchased App Sheet, and we found it very easy to integrate with Ignition and Perspective, the backend. The user takes App Sheet. We create the forms. That data goes to the database, and then the user comes on our admission Perspective dashboard. And they can query it, they can graph it, they can set alarms, and we can... That data can now play with the machine-to-machine, and automated, and PLC data. That arena has really taken off with our clients, and they're coming up with all types of crazy operational depth for the Ops teams. And in certain regions, their own technicians do this monitoring. It's not even our guys, it's the client's technicians filling out these forms and submitting into the database. And where all this data is, at the end of the day, it's mixing with the drone data, the liquids data, the gas data, it's all starting to play nicely together.

Justin: That's great. Anything to add to that, Dave?

Dave: To me, this all just reflects back to, really, the main purpose of RMC, and really what brought RMC to Ignition is that we were working hard to develop technology solutions, so that people don't have to work as hard. And Ignition is the interface that we found that the best enables us to be able to integrate all those things together. Some of the things are exactly what Phil was talking about, enabling people out in the field to instead of writing something down on a sheet of paper, on a clipboard, and then going back and entering it into Excel. And inevitably screwing some number up and dropping a zero, and all of a sudden, a million is now 100,000, and you've got all these sort of data interpolation issues. We're allowing them to do that in the field with a smart device. We're just really leveraging technology to lower operations and maintenance costs, to make owners and operators lives easier and to really help the environment. That if we're able to stop a pump station from overflowing, or to stop landfill gas from escaping into the atmosphere, we're providing a real service, not only to the client, but to the people that the clients serve in the local community.

Justin: Right. Yeah, thanks for that, Dave. Great. I know you guys are interested in expanding your company's social media presence. What are you doing to accomplish that exactly, and what advice do you have for fellow integrators in that arena?

Dave: One of the big ways that we're using social media to try to expand our group and our business is that we're producing videos. I've produced one or two of them, Mel Russo, one of our drone pilots has done quite a number of them. And we found that it works really well, because you produce it one time, and then you can get a lot of action from this one thing that you've produced. It's still out there, regardless of whether you're doing anything with it or not. You can release it on multiple different interfaces, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, your corporate website. And it's just been a really great way to introduce people to new pieces of technology and things that we're thinking about. That's one of the big things that we're doing. We also spend a lot of time going out to different shows and presenting at different conferences, and there's a social media piece to that as well. I guess me, in particular, spend a decent amount of time working with our communications people to get the word out about different wins that we've received and different awards. And then we work with different industry and trade organizations, and magazines, interview for different articles, and help to write different papers on different things.

Justin: And is that something that you head up, Dave, or do you guys have a whole team that does that?

Dave: It's a number of different people, but it is one of the things that I do. Yeah. We put together probably maybe half a dozen articles a year that we're a part of, and I personally present at probably two to three or four, five, six national or fairly large area conferences every year.

Justin: That's awesome.

Philip: And the one thing I might add is, you make a three or four-minute video on a concept, say the drone monitoring. And if a client asks you about it, either they call you up, "Send me some information." Yeah, of course, we have our flyer, like the printed version, but I can send them the video that's showing the drone in action, the deliverables, and it, that'll link to YouTube or a better, link to wherever we have it posted, and they quickly get the concept. I don't know how many times a client calls me up. I send them the link, they call me back. "Give me a price. Get down here." It's a quick way just to convey a concept. And anyway, as far as marketing dollars and investment, there's a little bit of production, and editing, and getting it all together, but it just continues to pay off. And I think videos, in general, are a good bang for your buck.

Justin: Yeah, especially with what you guys do. That was one of the first things when I saw your case study that kind of caught my eye was like the cool high-tech stuff you guys are doing. Whatever you can put on social media that highlights that, I think would be pretty fascinating. Now, I actually happened to go onto some of your social media, I went into your LinkedIn page. I noticed you guys had a Trivia Night not too long ago.

Dave: Yeah. I saw the results. I think there was a number of people in our Western Virginia office that participated, and had a good time.

Philip: They definitely do a lot of fun stuff and a lot of charity events. I know that they're raising money for things like COVID food drive. And I know SCS really pushes outreach with the community, and I try to instill that in the young engineers and young staff. You know, I personally am involved in Engineers without Borders. And the connections I've made with other engineers, and the experiences I've gained, man, it's helped SCS. SCS has gained from just their involvement with Engineers without Borders, so we always try to push that on social media, the community outreach and you know, helping out, especially in this time, you know?

Justin: What is Engineers without Borders?

Philip: It's similar to Doctors without Borders. The Engineers without Borders, they basically operate in third world countries. And I was involved in Honduras. We did a water project, we did a communications project. In the water project, they used to walk miles to a well, just to get a bucket of water. We did a pump with distribution lines to these communities to help their quality of life. There were some remote communities that I learned a ton about, radio transmission and going large distances with radios and wireless communications in Honduras. These remote communities and orphanages didn't have any communications and we brought pretty much telecom to them. That was another great project, to give an example. Engineers without Borders in Africa, The Bridge projects, the list goes on and on, but it changes your outlook, especially by engineering. You can't spec out a pump that you can get here in the US, you gotta get a pump they can get in Honduras, right?

Dave: Yeah.

Justin: Right. Wow.

Dave: And if I can jump on that train real quick, one of the other things that I feel like SCS is doing real well, is that they've developed a young professional group within SCS. And we're really investing in our next generation of leaders here. And one of the things that the YP group is doing is helping out with things like COVID relief. I know they're running through a drive right now, and it's been a real big win, I think for me, personally, to be involved with that and to help develop the program and to get to see some of the results that it's provided so far.

Dave: And then adding on to what Phil was talking about with Engineers without Borders. I personally have not been involved with Engineers without Borders but there's a similar group here in Pennsylvania at my alma mater, Messiah College, it was called the Collaboratory. And really, what they're focused on is doing what Phil was talking about, that they're providing appropriate technology solutions for, essentially, third-world applications. I got to go to Honduras as well, not a concurrently with Phil, but I did an energy audit there for Care International at one of their hospitals, so we were essentially trying to help them lower their energy bills so that they could take all the money that had been given to them and really put it to its best possible use of providing these pediatric orthopedic patients with the best possible care. The collaboratory... I mean, it's literally all over the world. India, Central America, there's a bunch of work going on in Africa, so I figured I'd put in a little plug for them as well.

Justin: Wow. Those sounds like some amazing organizations, that's awesome. I had never actually heard of them so I appreciate the insight guys. I wanna now transition to COVID-19 and how that's affected you guys, affected SCS, and your day-to-day jobs.

Dave: For me, it's fairly similar when I first started with RMC, that I was kind of a one-man army, with RMC for the first year or two. Thank God that Sam Race, he's one of our all-stars here, came along and pulled me out of my one-man army status so... Thank you, Sam. But I was working remotely and, during that time, I realized and identified really quickly that I had to be really intentional with my interactions with people, that I couldn't just respond to everything over email. I had to pick up the phone, I had to call people, I had to call clients. I had to really be intentional with the way that I was spending my time in the way that I was investing myself into people.

Dave: And I feel like that's carried on here into this whole COVID thing, in that, I've got a number of people that are working for me, and I know that I've got to be picking up the phone and talking with them, not only about the stuff that's going on with work, but also just seeing how they're doing on a personal level, see what they're having any struggles. Obviously, if they're feeling well, if they're having any health concerns, and then taking the time to talk with them about just life, in general, what's going on, what fun things are they doing. I know Phil and I are both spending a lot of time talking with our clients about work stuff, about home stuff. One of the fun things that we've been doing recently has been goofing around with the backgrounds in Microsoft Teams, I don't know if anyone's played with that yet. It's been a challenge, but I think it's also an opportunity just to kinda change up your mindset, change the way that you are approaching things.

Justin: Yeah, exactly. Cool. And then, Phil, anything to share on your end of things?

Philip: I just wanna say that I truly miss the office. Okay? [laughter] I never thought I'd really truly miss an office but you don't realize, working from home, my daughter's school work and there's motorcycles and trash trucks, and it can get pretty distractive and I'm looking forward to when we go back to the office. That's all I'm gonna say.

Justin: Yeah... Yeah, I'll just be honest here. I had... My kids got this bird, this small cockatiel, and I was literally trying to put it in places where I wouldn't hear it during this podcast.

Justin: I put it out the back, that wasn't working. I put it in the closet, that wasn't working. I put it in the far end of the garage.

Justin: Phil, I know that you were planning to travel to industry events to talk about Ignition but COVID-19 has caused most events to be canceled or go virtual. How are you adapting to that challenge and are you finding other ways to get the word out?

Philip: We had some conventions that were cancelled and there's some pretty disappointed clients and some of the organizations have moved their conferences online. I know Inductive has, and that's a great thing, and in trying to get the clients engaged to go to these online events is a little challenging, but you gotta be flexible in this environment and getting creative. You can't take the clients out to lunch anymore, so you have to find new ways to reach out to them and you just learn another skill set on communications.

Justin: That's true.

Dave: Right. I've... Just this morning, I was coordinating to do a video presentation for one of the conferences that has now moved online. Yeah, it's really all about communication. That's one of the biggest things with our jobs here is that, you gotta be able to communicate effectively and I think this whole COVID-19 thing is really just solidifying that, that you can't lean on being there in person, so you've gotta brush up on your phone skills, your team skills, and whatever else you're using to communicate with people.

Justin: Yeah, good point. Well, good, guys. As we wrap things up here, I wanna give you guys both an opportunity to say anything else that you didn't get to mention in our conversation.

Philip: I'd like to thank the support at Ignition. They're always there. They're prompt, they jump on calls. There's a lot of follow-through. One of the things that I enjoy about Ignition is the support and the backing. Thank you, guys. And SCS, thank you for the support and the flexibility to, they've given us the tools and the backing. So... Very grateful for that, and I thank my family for putting up with me invading the house. And... It's a lot to be thankful for in these times.

Dave: Yeah. I wanna echo that as well and I wanna specifically say that I've worked for a number of different companies throughout my career and SCS far and away is the best one that I've ever worked for, and I hope to finish out my career here, another 30-40 years or...

Dave: Hopefully, not quite that long, but however long. It really is a place that I found that is a place that allows you to basically set your dreams and then work towards making those dreams come true. And I feel like that's been reflected in my career here that I had an interest in controls, and I wanted to start doing more controls in the solid waste industry and they said "Sure, go ahead". I was literally building control panels in the office and a couple in my garage, and that blossomed into doing SCADA work or RMC systems and into where we're at now here with Ignition.

Justin: Well, it's our pleasure to work with SCS, and you guys as well, and I wanted to thank you very much for being on the podcast today.

Philip: Well, thank you for the opportunity.

Dave: Thanks, Justin.

Philip: Thank you, Justin.

Justin: Yeah, no problem.

Posted on May 26, 2020