Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.nbsp;Arthur C. Clarke
What does it take to turn a highly detailed concept into reality?
Turning any concept into reality can be a tall order on any scale. That is especially true for leading scientific research organizations in need of intricate high-pressure vacuum systems or corporations that need precision equipment for the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals or processed foods. Transforming complex designs into equipment that can be shipped in modules, assembled with zero tolerances, and capable of performing at exacting standards for decades with very little maintenance can require nothing short of magic.
But we are not magicians. We have an in-house team of engineers who can make the incredible a reality. And this month, we’re continuing our “focus on jobs” series with a very special installment highlighting one of the most crucial roles here at Anderson Dahlen – engineering.
To help us understand more about Anderson Dahlen’s team of engineers and their process of designing and building industry-leading equipment, we spoke with Kaushik Das, Director of Engineering at Anderson Dahlen.
Tell Us About Yourself
I’ve been at Anderson Dahlen for almost two years now as a Director of Engineering. Before Anderson Dahlen, I worked for companies like Ford Motor Company and Eaton Corporation as an engineer as well.
Why In-House Engineering?
For the equipment we build, it’s impossible to outsource and maintain quality, conduct factory acceptance testing (FAT) and maintain accountability throughout the many steps it takes to build even simple equipment.
Thanks to our engineering team, we are able to provide an entirely unique service for our clients. Because of our in-house engineers, we can deliver to our customers anything from a concept to highly detailed prints of equipment. Especially projects that are conceptual, we turn [those] into reality using principles of design and top manufacturing practices.
That’s a level of engineering that simply cannot be outsourced.
What Are Some of the Top Services Engineers Provide for Anderson Dahlen’s Clients and Projects?
Number one is the quality of our products that leave our shop.
Our team of engineers ensures their equipment is more than just what’s in the designs. We also include a little more than what our clients expect. We like to surprise and delight our clients with not just outstanding craftsmanship but the details, like finishing things with attention to everything, including polishing the equipment more than what’s necessary for the equipment’s function. So aesthetics and workmanship are very important.
And we also play a crucial role in safety and making sure it’s always a top priority for us. And finally, with help from our team of project managers, which I am also part of, we do everything to deliver our equipment on time and on budget.
Is Safety a Real Priority at Anderson Dahlen?
We’re extremely big on safety, yes. Our Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Manager runs the safety committee, which consists of people from different departments on the shop floor and engineering. They meet once a week to review plant safety and any updates needed. They also identify near misses and how they may indicate an area or procedure that needs to be improved.
But safety is not just an internal issue. Our whole manufacturing process is informed by safety — safety of our equipment, safety of the people who use our equipment, and safety of the products our equipment manufactures.
Say you work in pharmaceuticals. There is only so much you can do to control for safety. You can ensure safe procedures and a clear chain of production so you can easily investigate and identify variances in your product. For the equipment, you can make sure you’re treating it well, using it properly, and cleaning it over the years.
Our whole manufacturing process is informed by safety — safety of our equipment, safety of the people who use our equipment, and safety of the products our equipment manufactures.nbsp;Kaushik Das, Director of Engineering
But you have limited capability in the materials used to build your equipment and where it was sourced from. So having an in-house engineering team helps to carry out Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) to verify the equipment is built and operating in accordance with design specifications.
We transform raw materials into tubes, plates, and pipes. We build equipment that is very complex. Transforming that raw material into the final product is 100% on us. We have full control over that. So, any manufacturer can buy good quality stainless steel. But it’s what we do with that that counts, using a high level of accuracy and craftsmanship, from our welding practices, our finishing practices, and even cutting and engraving with lasers.
So, safety and accountability are our top priorities. And that comes from a culture that is dedicated not just to safety in-house, but to safety every step of the way.
Any Challenging Projects You’ve Worked on Recently?
Yes, definitely. We recently designed and built equipment for a client that was very large. The equipment consisted of three different levels: To give you an idea of how large this equipment was, that’s as big as a house that’s three stories high! Just imagine all the piping, electrical work, and structural frames included.
Once it was assembled, it had to go through FAT testing here on site. We had people crawling all over the thing, doing all the tests. Once everything was checked and signed off as running accurately, then we had to disassemble the equipment for shipping.
So, imagine disassembling this equipment that is three stories high, all those connections, piping, and electrical work. We took the three levels apart and loaded it onto a truck, drove it 1200 miles, and reinstalled it on site.
Logistically, that was incredibly challenging. We needed to make sure everything lined up properly. When you’re taking things apart and putting them back together on that scale of complexity, you have to have everything labeled and marked properly. And as we’re putting them together, we’re working with tolerances that are fractions of an inch over the height of three stories of equipment, so all the pipes and everything had to line up exactly on the mark.
That was quite challenging, but we managed to get it done on time and within the budget and everything. So yes, very challenging, but a great project.
Anything Unexpected in the Manufacturing Process? How Do You Deal With That?
When you build the kind of equipment we do, there is always something that can be done better, or something comes up you didn’t expect, and you have to think quickly and dynamically to find not just a solution, but a better solution.
In one particular case, we had a design provided to us by a customer. But along the way, we found several things that would have made the equipment better for the customer. It would have made the equipment stronger and last longer. But you can’t just call them up on the phone and suggest the change. You need to draw up designs and offer something the client can look at as we’re making those suggested improvements.
And likely, those changes can have a cascading effect, and you need to ensure everything down the line is not adversely affected by those changes.
So that is a value we add to the process that can be hard to quantify but is extremely important. How can we make this better, stronger, last longer, and still keep this in the scope of the project.
What Are Some of Your Favorite Things About Working for Anderson Dahlen?
Oh, I would have to say the people. Absolutely. In my career, as I said, I’ve worked for large publicly traded companies, and Anderson Dahlen is the first private, family-owned company I’ve worked for.
Here we have a sense of teamwork, a sense of belonging. We take pride in the work we do. So, coming to work every day, you’re challenged with different things.
Here we have a sense of teamwork, a sense of belonging. We take pride in the work we do. So, coming to work every day, you’re challenged with different things.nbsp;Kaushik Das, Director of Engineering
Our president is extremely accessible and also knowledgeable. He can run every machine on the shop floor if needed. And he does do that from time to time, actually. Even on the engineering side, he will look at your drawings and make changes and even improvements. So it’s great to have executives that are so involved in every step of the manufacturing process. It’s something you just don’t see anywhere else.
And in addition to sponsoring STEM Summer Camps at Hamline University here in Minnesota, we recently started a summer internship program. This summer is the second time we’re doing internships. We’ll spend the summer with our interns from universities and colleges around the area. They’ll get to work with us and learn some things (and maybe teach us some things too). That is a really exciting and meaningful way we can give back to the community and help to build interest in engineering and manufacturing at the same time.
Learn More About Engineering and Our Careers at Anderson Dahlen
Thank you, Kaushik Das, for taking the time to help us learn more about engineering and the process of manufacturing at Anderson Dahlen.
If you’d like to learn more about engineering at Anderson Dahlen, or any of our other challenging and rewarding careers, contact us today.