The evolution of problem solving “black rhinos”
If you want to succeed in business, you have to think like a rhinoceros. At least that’s Scott Alexander’s theory in his book, Rhinoceros Success, targeted at aspiring entrepreneurs. The book was self-published in the 1980’s and divided the world into two groups – rhinos and cows. According to Alexander, “I realized the rhino has got it all. He’s got thick skin. They weigh six thousand pounds. They’ve got a mass behind them. They charge. They’re famous for that.” Essentially, entrepreneurs are the rhinos of the world poised to charge into any situation all the while expecting the best possible outcomes.
The book inspired a motivational, business philosophy with a worldwide following. A local adherent is Windcreek, a Wyoming-based company that’s focused on offering a wide range of turnkey solutions for the energy, municipal and manufacturing industries. According to Jason Scallen, Sales Manager at Windcreek, “It’s a great little book. Its main directives are plan what you’re going to do, be aggressive, don’t let the naysayers beat you down and be successful.” It encouraged Windcreek to develop its entrepreneurial and innovative chops to address oil and gas industry problems in real time – quite a feat.
Windcreek even took it one step further, choosing the black rhinoceros as their official mascot. “It ties into the book, and they’re rarer, an endangered species. All of our trucks are black, and all of our equipment is as black as possible.”
What do self-proclaimed “black rhinos” and “problem-solving” partners do? Scallen says, “We’re a solutions provider, though it’s hard to put a definition to ‘yes.’ We just say yes. On the rare occasions we say no, and we refer the customer to another service provider who can do the job, which is essentially still saying yes.”
Windcreek and its rhino charging attitude didn’t always merge with their innovative ways and their ready “yes.” The company originally began as an oil well services company. Its focus and scope deviated following a challenging water line connection project for a town’s water main. To connect the pipeline, four men had to get into the trench, a rather dangerous activity. Windcreek takes safety seriously and knew there had to be a safer way to connect the pipeline. The result? A tool custom designed and built to allow workers to finish the job.
Innovation drives strategy
Inventing the solution to the pipeline problem, they discovered that had a knack for innovation in the construction and energy arenas. That’s not all, as it turns out. It’s also a niche field. As Scallen says, “There was definitely a need. In the oil fields in general, you don’t find a lot of well-engineered projects. You’re not going to find a general run-of-the-mill contractor who’s willing to put their neck out there to say this is how you need to do it.”
Windcreek’s ability to innovate became one of their greatest assets. It’s so integral to their problem-solving process that they created an innovation department. Their sole focus is to come up with creative, unique ways to solve their clients’ problems. “We have a whole team whose only focus is innovation. That’s all they’re expected to do on a day-to-day basis. Right now, there’s only two full-time employees, though 30 percent of the company participates in this department at least part time,” says Scallen.
Windcreek’s Fluid Management Systems (FMS) illustrates their fluency in innovation. It began as a subcontracting job to help build a large 2-3-million-dollar plant. While on site one day, to observe the action of some water pumps, one of the owners showed up. He walked into the plant and found it covered in dripping, oily water from floor to ceiling. This was highly unusual. His immediate response registered on the anger continuum. “What happened? Why is this thing filthy?!” he fumed. This was understandable, given the plant was only three weeks old. The cause was quickly determined. The filter sock hadn’t been replaced according to specs, causing it to crack and spew oily water everywhere.
The owner insisted there had to be a solution to which Windcreek replied with their signature “yes.” Windcreek tried consulting the filter’s manufacturer who told them it couldn’t be done. They promptly proved him wrong by creating one, which consisted of mobile filtering, called FMS. It allowed companies to recycle and reuse water on site. “We took the filter out to a drill out, which is a process in completing a well that uses a very high volume of water. Normally truckers would line up for miles, some bringing in fresh groundwater and others taking out the dirty water. The FMS process we developed reduces trucking by 75%, though it actually decreases a company’s costs way more than that. Trucking is horribly expensive, and it’s dangerous,” says Scallen. Just another typical day at Windcreek, where creative, thoughtful solutions are the norm.
UL listed control panels up the ante
Given their track record for providing creative solutions to the energy industry, Windcreek will certainly do the same for manufacturing. They’ve even added a new product, UL listed control panels, to their list of 23 different product lines. This enables Windcreek to offer a whole services package approach. “We can offer turnkey solutions that meet all of their needs, such as the pipe fitting work, the electrical work and the control panel work. It definitely benefits clients to work with whole solutions providers,” says Scallen.
UL listed control panels are unique in that they carry an independent certification. This guarantees that panel components and construction meet high levels of quality and safety criteria. When asked about the importance of the UL listing, Scallen answered, “Yes, absolutely. UL listing definitely increases panel quality and adds to it project execution. This means your Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) goes way up.” It also means that any company offering UL listed panels must meet certification standards to use the UL label.
There are many benefits to having a UL listed control panel. They’re safer and ensure higher quality parts and construction. However, the most important feature is that it provides a trail of accountability, which is useful in the event of a malfunction. This helps locate the cause of malfunctions. Scallen agrees. “It leaves that trail of accountability. It gives the industry a place to set that benchmark and to know when and if they need to change it.” Being able to change benchmarks, under the burden of evidence, is crucial should the malfunction be related to a panel or power source that was built or used according to UL specs. It allows the UL governing body to continue to look at real world situation and data to ensure an ongoing high level of safety.
Windcreek not only offers UL listed panels as standalone products, but they can also custom build panels as part of a whole solutions package for larger and more complex manufacturing projects. The automatic self-cleaning filter control panel is available off the shelf. “We re-engineered a way to clean the filter to increase the efficiency of the automation and UL listed the panel. We sell it as a standalone product, meaning you don’t have to buy any of our other products. You don’t even have to buy the automatic filter from us. We’ll just sell you the automatic self-cleaning filter control panel so you can bolt it to your filter and away you go,” says Scallen. The next UL listed panel product line will serve the energy industry well, though it’s still too early in the planning process for a public announcement. Needless to say, stay tuned.
It’s ideal to work with companies that have a UL listing certification, especially since figuring out what kind of control panel is needed can be confusing for many manufacturers. “So often we get customers that don’t know what level of controls they need. Do they need a full blown PLC SCADA system DCS, or do they only need a couple of relays, a couple of switches and a motor starter? Even then, they might not need a UL listed control panel, which could knock four percent off the price. However, the panel still needs to be built in a shop with UL 508 listing, which ensures that it meets a certain standard,” says Scallen. This is where Windcreek is happy to be of service. They walk clients through the process of figuring out which control panel they’ll need to get the job done. Clients should talk freely about any and all other problems. Chances are that that Windcreek’s innovation team will be able to solve them, too.