The Role of Consultants…

I am often asked questions similar to the one I just received…

We are going to need some technical help… how do I determine whether I should hire another engineer or get a consultant?
My Response
We deal with technical issues within the plastics industry all the time. Although we openly advertise our expertise in creating employee development systems… we routinely visit companies around the globe to provide technical consultation for plastics, processing, and training.
In general, this question can be handled using four common approaches…
1) If you have a unique issue such as troubleshooting, equipment evaluation, or beginning a new program… a consultant is often the best way to resolve the situation. Many companies hire an engineer to help handle a specific situation… and then under use their talents performing routine tasks once the situation is resolved.
2) If you want to create a long term change in behavior such as 5S or process documentation… a consultant can often help you determine the best approach to determining the best behavior, educating your employees, and maintaining the behavior. Once this is established, it will be very easy to determine whether your current employees can implement the strategy… or if additional staff is necessary to ensure the success of the initiative.
3) If there are only one or two routine tasks which take place monthly or quarterly such as a tool design review or a molding trial… having a consultant on retainer may save you money in the long term.
4) If you have an established routine or series of complex tasks which need to be performed, hiring an engineer or technician is most likely the best course of action.
Additional Thoughts
Always try to hire employees and consultants with the intention of exploiting their talents… for example, hiring a consultant to measure and weight a large number of parts may not be cost effective… but hiring a consultant arrange outside testing, or to evaluate the results and help draw conclusions may be very helpful. Adversely, when our consultants help a company develop a strategy for training their employees, their engineers, managers, and supervisors are often the best people to implement and carry out this training with their employees.

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