It’s no secret that partnerships mean a lot in answering a client’s needs. Among the various ways, ARaymond chooses to make partnerships successful is through resident engineers. Kevin Wendelken, an ARaymond resident engineer at a large OEM’s Engineering Centre in the UK for nearly 20 years, knows how to make a difference from “inside the fort,” and that role is of course evolving due to the impact of COVID-19.
Improving development time
As a resident engineer, Wendelken’s role is to support the OEM’s engineers in coming up with appropriate solutions when confronted with a fastening requirement. Relying on a deep understanding of the OEM’s requirements, made possible by his experience in this position, he can offer a wide range of assistance. It goes from pin-pointing existing solutions to support the OEM’s teams in developing new products, by offering a complete overall service.
The direct benefit to the OEM? An immediate response in terms of time and expertise, available in-house. Additionally, being inside the company allows him to provide continuous support, instead of the “old fashioned” visit by appointment, thus considerably shortening development times for the customer.
Wendelken’s tasks involve many different disciplines. He is often referred by the OEM’s fastener department to support in a variety of subjects, which includes coordination with all FSP (Fastener Service Provider) representatives, where he has become a strong focal point of contact. Also providing on-site support for Tier 1’s, he often finds himself endorsed in the role of a fastener coordinator.
To sum it up, Wendelken said he has even been called the “fourth emergency service” by clients — a status that can only be earned via the trust created over the years by a resident engineer’s quality work and dedication. By always being there to help the client out of a tight spot, and being the “eyes and ears inside the fort,” a resident engineer’s input often extends to other product lines where they are not the designated expert, just from leading by example.
This type of dedicated support is invaluable, boosts respect between the resident engineer and client, and shows the importance of having a front-line coordinator so the customer knows issues will always be resolved quickly and accurately.
COVID has changed how resident engineers work
Just like in every industry and all aspects of our lives, COVID-19’s impact has led to big changes for how resident engineers are working in 2020.
“We’ve had to modify the way we communicate, and we lose face-to-face contact. It means you must rely more on the trust and the relationships that we’ve built up over the years, and that has really helped us,” Wendelken said. “I’ve noticed that a lot of guys who I’ve known for years come to me and say, ‘We need a solution.’ I may not have spoken for a year to them, but we reconnect and restart projects in new areas. It’s the product of years of work. We’ve picked up opportunities because of our experience and reputation, which is made possible by the resident engineer situation.”
Wendelken also said that in today’s distanced world with fewer face-to-face meetings, engineers need to be more adept at working digitally and come up with ways of communicating quickly and easily. There are probably more emails to start with, and then you get to the point where you need to have a Zoom/Skype/WebEx meeting to finalize, he said.
The lack of travel time is also proving beneficial for ARaymond, Wendelken said. “We’ve started more partnerships during the downtime, in part because of no traveling time, plus working at home in a quieter environment, gives our team a bit more time every day.”
Supporting young engineers
Another benefit of such close collaboration with OEMs via resident engineers is the ability to prevent young engineers from going in directions that have proven inconclusive in the past or from reinventing already existing solutions. Not only does the resident engineer’s position give them the necessary vantage point to do so, but Wendelken said it’s a much-appreciated role to help young engineers understand fastener requirements and appreciate the real-world, in-plant, and on vehicle applications.
“I provide a confidence level, so they get a better understanding of what they are meant to be doing,” he said.
Through the ARaymond resident engineer concept, the OEM also accesses the whole Network’s capability much more easily and, more importantly, in a way that is customized to its needs. As a resident engineer from ARaymond, Wendelken benefits from his company’s worldwide footprint and can bring forward a tailor-made global portfolio of relevant solutions in the shortest possible time.