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New Chapter at UCDS

This past month has been very challenging for me with my shoulder recovering from rotator cuff surgery.  I managed to fly to Switzerland, Zurich and get a train to Neu Chattel or in English Newcastle.  I was doing a study for a new control room.  The visit went very well apart from needing help getting into and out of my FRC’ – try it sometime with your arm in a sling!

The journey home started well, I left the hotel at 6.00 am on Friday expecting to be home on Friday evening at 6.30pm.  When I tried to do an on-line check-in, I received a message saying discrepancy please call this 1800 number and that is the last thing you want to hear at 9:30 pm when you want an early night.  I called US Airways only to be told I had seats but no ticket!  I am used to a ticket without a seat but not visa-versa.  After over an hour on the phone the agent told me when they changed my flights on the outward journey they had not changed the tickets correctly and I would have to take my original flights which were cancelled by the agent in the USA the night before I travelled.

After several long discussions I had to explain that I now could not get to Zurich in time for that flight as I was getting the first train in the morning which would miss the connection by 2 hours!  After upgrading to a Supervisor and explaining they had changed my flights not me, she attempted to fix problem, after 2 hours on the phone she told me it was complicated and was taking some time and suggested I went to bed turn up at the airport and she would have everything fixed by the time I arrived.

So, I confidently went to bed and the following morning I got a train and arrived on time at Zurich airport, still a bit worried I thought I wouldn’t stop for breakfast even though I had 2 hours until my flight.  I thought just in case I would go straight to check-in.  Well things soon fell apart and my flight had mechanical problems and did not make it to Zurich on-time and I would not miss my connections in the States so they had rebooked me in coach on another flight!  With my arm in a sling and a big pad, both I and the agent realized I would need 2 seats in coach to make this work and they had overbooked the flight as usual.

So now the Supervisor sent me to a local hotel for the night in Zurich to get the flight the following day and she made me new connections.  Well the first flight was on-time, a good start to the day’s travels, and the only open flight they could get me on was the night flight which would mean a 7 hour delay in Philadelphia, only to find my next flight was delayed another 2 hours so I got home at 2.00 am Sunday morning.  Who said, travel was romantic and exciting?

Well I made a good start on my reports and I did get them out early so that was positive!

Dave has been busy doing reports and an updated staffing study for one of our existing customers. This seems very popular this year, and I must consider a maintenance program!  Dave also started new employment elsewhere this month, good luck to you Dave.  Dave will be doing some staffing models this next month for a new customer also.

Well it seems the economy is starting to turn after a hard year for all of us. I am grateful to those customers that kept us busy during the hardest recession and we welcomed a lot of existing customers back.

I have decided to take a more active role in the leadership of UCDS and have worked a new initiative with CCE Interiors and taken the company back.  We will continue to be working with CCE in the future and I want to thank Ward Hayworth and the other folks at CCE for all their help and support over the last 3 years especially Angela Farley who has been a great resource and kept me out trouble.

What does this mean to our customers?  No real physical changes except that we will be operating under a new tax id number and bank account.  We will continue to offer the same range of services but we may expand more in to the controls side of the business which is a core competence for us. I  am grateful for the support of some  of my previous clients who have now retired and want to work some part-time hours back in the industry like Harlan Graf who previous was refinery site manager for ConocoPhillips at the Rodeo Refinery. With the support and experience like Harlan who has been intimately involved in many central control room projects, we can offer our customers more than just an engineering solution, we can bring operations insight and many years of plant experience on every job we do.

This last few weeks I have sent out over a dozen proposals to customers, so we have to be prepared for the change in pace as the economy recovers.  We are now laying the foundation to take on that challenge.  I am excited to have people who, like myself, have a passion for this industry and not just doing a job but doing the very best we can to make sure our customers succeed and we reduce human error and improve operations performance.  Anyone can design a control room, and they do, but not many people can design a control room for good situation awareness in a cost effective manner.

I just received an invitation to do a keynote address for a conference in Norway.  A customer we just completed a massive new job for with a new Centralized Control Room will be presenting a couple of papers and taking the group back to show off their new control room which is outstanding and will serve them well for many years to come.

I am also grateful to our technical team led by Jason who behind the scenes moves, updates and optimizes our website and blog, and make it transparent to you our readers.  To Melinda who has been managing the UCDS office and keeping the accounting under control even during the recent birth of twin girls, good job Mel.

Keep watching and reading and see what is new with UCDS as we prepare for the next chapter in our lives.