Why Josh Engel of SUEZ Trusts Syncroness as a Design Engineering Partner
At Syncroness, creating lasting relationships, providing legendary products and services, and leaving a legacy are the core values at the heart of everything we do. We don’t just want to work for our clients; we want to work with our clients. We aim to build our design engineering business on a solid foundation of strong partnerships, like the one between Syncroness and SUEZ – Water Technologies and Solutions, Analytical Instruments, an industry-leading provider of water technology and process expertise for water, wastewater, and process challenges across the globe.
Syncroness has partnered with SUEZ since 2009 to support their goal of providing their customers with innovative products. Over the years we’ve worked with them on a variety of large and small design engineering projects, including several successful projects that ran simultaneously in 2020. We recently sat down with SUEZ’s Josh Engel, Senior Product Line Leader – Core Research, Industrial and Environmental Analytical Instruments, to get his insight into what makes the relationship between SUEZ and Syncroness so successful.
Can you introduce yourself and describe what you do at SUEZ?
I’m Josh Engel, the senior product line leader for the Analytical Instruments business at SUEZ – Water Technologies & Solutions. I’m responsible primarily for leading our efforts around our core R&D as well as our industrial and environmental product segment, which includes analytical instruments for the semiconductor industry, food and beverage industry, and chemical processing industry.
Can you tell me more about SUEZ and the products you develop?
The analytical instruments portfolio includes products that were originally from Sievers Instruments, which is a name you’ll see a lot in the product line today. Bob Sievers, Rick Hutte, and Misha Plomb founded the company 30+ years ago before we acquired them. They were professors at University of Colorado—at least Bob was—and they got a grant to design and develop the first total organic carbon (TOC) analyzer that went up on the International Space Station. From there, they evolved the TOC technology for use in the pharmaceutical industry. We’ve since developed other instruments, including TOC analyzers, a boron analyzer used in the semiconductor industry, and an industrial TOC analyzer called InnovOx. Most recently we’ve launched two products that Syncroness worked on called the Sievers Eclipse Bacterial Endotoxins Testing (BET) Platform and the M500 Series Online TOC Analyzer Platform, which perform endotoxin and TOC detection for the life sciences and industrial and environmental industries. The ultrapure water used in the pharmaceutical industry has four main parameters that are regulated by the FDA: conductivity, total organic carbon, endotoxin, and bioburden. We now have instrumentation for three out of the four of those. On the semiconductor or industrial/environmental side, many of the largest semiconductor manufacturers use our TOC technology in their water plants and monitor the ultrapure water that feeds their fab machines with our boron analyzer.
Can you elaborate on the InnovOx TOC analyzer project? What went exceptionally well?
The InnovOx project was one where we essentially started out with an unknown scope because we were trying to troubleshoot some issues with the analyzer. It was tough for the collective design engineering team (both Syncroness and SUEZ) because we had very limited information. One of the Syncroness systems engineers got involved and really tried to take the limited data we had, do an analysis of that data, and focus the team a little bit. As that evolved, one thing led to another and we ended up doing more root cause analysis in different parts of the system, again with very limited information. We went down a path of trying to rule things out to help determine what was going on. We finally got to where we were 90–95% confident we found the issue, then wrapped up the project to where the SUEZ team will pick it up. In fact, we’re in the process of kicking that off. What went well was the large degree of flexibility on the part of the Syncroness design engineering team. They used a lot of simulation, investigation, and electrical engineering theory to try to figure out what was going on, which ultimately opened our eyes to a few things. It reminded some people on our side of things that were seen in the past, and ultimately the collaboration with Syncroness led to a good answer and a good stopping point.
How would you describe the relationship between Syncroness and SUEZ? It sounds like you value Syncroness’ flexibility and ability to work through ambiguity—are those important, or is there something else that’s key?
No, that’s certainly key. One of the things you experience when you’re outsourcing design engineering is that you can spend days, weeks, hours, or months specifying something to the nines—which costs money and resources internally—or you can get it to a point where you think it’s good enough and you can send it out to a place you have a foundation to work from. That’s often what we do with Syncroness, probably much to the dismay of the developers! But that’s where the systems engineers and the methodology that your team uses comes in; that’s a role we want to emulate over time. And then really it comes down to the ability to deliver. On the local side, our stuff is pretty specialized. It’s a high-margin, low-volume suite of products with a number of Fortune 500 customers, and the fact that your team is local has certainly helped them become familiar with our products. I think the boron project that the Syncroness team is partnering with us on is the first one where we haven’t had an in-person team meeting together due to COVID. We have virtual meetings every week and exchange a lot of emails, and we honestly have not missed a beat. Otherwise, it’s about being able to speak the same language. The ability to be open with each other and understand each other are some of the key things that keep our communication and collaboration running smoothly. On the business side of things, that’s also something that’s important—the relationship between myself, the account managers, and the director of business development. The leadership team at Syncroness going all the way up to the CEO just have that ability to communicate openly, pick up the phone, and call each other. We’ve communicated over texts at all hours of the night when it was needed, and that get-it-done attitude is proof of the partnership we’ve developed. That is all really important. It’s about efficiency; it’s not just about the numbers in a contract at the end of the day.
So overall it’s about focusing on helping you guys get what you need in a way that’s open. There’s not a rigid attitude.
A hundred percent. That’s the way we work together and the reason it works so well is because there isn’t that rigidity. We follow set processes when necessary, but otherwise it really comes down to asking “What do we need to do to make this happen?” and that’s what this team does.
How would you describe working with Syncroness?
Easy, fast-paced, defining the issue and working through the various options and solving it. I just need to pick up the phone or send a text to the leadership team or the developers and the staff that you have is always willing to jump in and ask “How can we help? What do you need from us to deliver on what you’re trying to do?” There’s no nonsense. If there’s a dependency, it’s outlined and we understand who needs to do what. So it really is easy. It’s a pleasure.
I imagine that not having friction or bureaucracy makes your life much easier.
Exactly. It’s automatic. When we have something come up—which we do a lot—the question for me and others is “Alright, who do we call?” and the answer is just “Let’s call Syncroness” because we can make it happen within hours, not days or weeks. As the account managers and director of business development will attest to, there is an element of bureaucracy that we have to deal with being two large corporations, but we figure out what we need to do there and what we need to do to get the work done.
What were you and your team looking for in an outsourced engineering support partner?
We were really looking for a company with expertise in systems engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and software engineering. I would say the majority of our projects with you are software-based, but this year they’ve involved electrical engineering and systems engineering too. I think we look at the methodology that design engineering firms use, the expertise that they have, how quickly they can react, and if they can deal with change. Oftentimes we don’t really know what we want, which is where your team comes in. And then honestly—and I push this quite a bit—that local aspect. Even though we’re in this virtual, crazy world today, the ability to literally be 15 minutes away from each other, while it’s not a must, certainly has its benefits. I think it’s a combination of all those things. Once we started working together on a few projects it became clear that the Syncroness team just knows how to get it done. They can engage and deal with ambiguity. That’s why we continue to work with you all. There is a firm belief up and down, at least within the organization here, that this team understands what we’re doing. They’re familiar now with almost all of our products.
What type of advice would you give to a company that was considering outsourced engineering support? What should other companies look for in a design engineering support partner?
Obviously you need to have the right technical expertise in the partner you’re working with. You have to be somewhat aligned relative to process. Aside from that, it’s about flexibility, expectation-setting, the ability to evolve with change on the fly, adjust resources, and be open with each other about timelines and deliverables. There’s obviously the financial side to it, which you have to get through depending on the size of the contract and various corporate guidelines, but I think that’s doable with a company that’s looking to evolve a relationship on both sides and lay a foundation for the future. If you’re outsourcing engineering drawings for example, that’s a level of engagement that’s going to be pretty cost-focused. But when you’re getting into outsourcing arrangements where there’s a little bit more open scope and things that need to be defined, having that flexibility is important. It’s going to be less focused, at least from my experience, on what the contract and numbers say so you need to get to a mutually-beneficial point.
So it’s less focused on fulfilling the letter of the contract and more focused on fulfilling the spirit of the contact, which is helping both parties?
I think so. That’s one of the things that’s worked well here. Obviously that depends on the industry you’re in—if you’re working with medical devices things are going to be much more heavily regulated. If you’re working with government contracts there are more i’s to dot and t’s to cross. After that, you can get to a point where you get the finances out of the way, figure out how you’re going to work together, and be open with each other. I think that’s where the value comes in.
Speaking of being open, what feedback would you have for Syncroness?
There’s not a lot. I think the team is flexible and understands the expertise they have and knows where to get expertise where they don’t have it. The team is very open about saying “we don’t have that” or “we can look into it.” I think the team should continue to execute the systematic model that has been developed at Syncroness over time, including both the scoping model and engaging a systems engineer to funnel requirements down to the respective development engineers. And keep being able to have fun. That’s one of the things that I really, really value about this team, from the account managers and director of business development to the engineers and the leadership team. I know we can all have fun with each other while still getting all the work done, and I think that’s key.
I really appreciate everything the complete team across Syncroness does. It’s really fantastic and you guys are really just a pleasure to work with, which is very much appreciated. You’re essentially an extension of the Analytical Instruments business, and our leadership team believes that here within Boulder. Obviously we look forward to continuing to work together.
At Syncroness, our desire to provide legendary products and build lasting relationships motivates us to not only provide clients like Josh and SUEZ with a high degree of design engineering expertise, but to also work with them in way that creates a relational foundation for future business. We strive to be an easy-to-work-with partner that is flexible, communicates openly, effectively handles ambiguity, and has a get-it-done attitude that ultimately benefits both parties. Our goal is to be, as Josh would say, a team that “knows how to get things done” and is “a pleasure to work with.”
Are you looking for an engineering partner with technical expertise and the ability to efficiently work with an ambiguous scope? We would love the opportunity to work with you! Contact us today to discuss how we can support your unique engineering needs.