Stephen Lichter – EAD
As American manufacturers tackle growing production demands and heightened safety requirements—both of which have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic—finding the right engineering solutions has become critical.
It’s an issue that Stephen Lichter and his team at EAD are working hard to address.
Short for Engineering, Automation and Design, EAD’s services are used by clients in sectors ranging from pharmaceuticals and logistics to food and beverage manufacturing. Since its founding in 2001, the company has broadened its services to include project and construction management—two areas that remain in high demand.
“Most of our clients are Fortune 100 companies,” says Lichter, EAD’s CEO. “They call us at all hours, day and night—and oftentimes after everything else has failed.”
Offering everything from packaging and systems controls to inventory sorting, managing capital projects and plant design, the company has expanded its clientele well beyond North America, tackling projects as far afield as South Africa, Latin America and Antarctica.
According to Lichter, EAD’s services cover both greenfield projects (where the company builds something from scratch) and brownfield ones (building inside an existing facility).
In either case, the goal is simple: to help clients maximize the output of their facilities.
“Our primary job is to be an extension of our client’s business,” Lichter says. “We work to understand the challenges they are having daily so we can solve them.”
But while process efficiency remains an EAD hallmark, in light of the current health crisis few issues loom larger than facility safety—particularly with respect to biosecurity.
Long seen as an industry leader in helping mitigate the risk of pathogens in food and pharmaceutical production, EAD has been contracted by numerous companies to help develop biosecurity solutions for their facilities.
“Right now, in terms of the safety services we provide, bio-security is at the top of our list,” Lichter says. “But it’s not just biosecurity. It’s also human safety.”
More specifically, that means ensuring compliance with Occupational Health and Safety Administration regulations: hazard communication standards, machinery safety, respiratory protection and so on.
Covering all the bases
For Lichter, safety and efficiency needn’t be a binary choice. If anything, they’re inextricably linked.
As companies in the food, pharma and parcel industries look to gain an edge over their competition, demand for specialized engineering consulting work has grown considerably, he says.
“Qualified consultants typically need to have years of industry experience and professional credentialing,” Lichter explains. “Unfortunately, that can be pretty tough to find.”
That growing demand, coupled with EAD’s second-to-none track record, is creating the perfect conditions for future growth.
Given the scope of its services, the company’s strategy has evolved from focusing on targeted projects to taking a deep dive into the client’s business. Advanced controls, the internet of things (better known as IoT), predictive maintenance and business consulting all loom large in EAD’s future.
“We have a unique opportunity with the projects that we do to see inside of our clients’ businesses across multiple markets and to be able to leverage that understanding to help them drive efficiency to their bottom line,” Lichter says. “It’s a new area of our business that we have started focusing on, and we have seen some impressive results helping our clients drive profitability in their facilities.”
From the inside out
No doubt, such strategies have played an outsized role in EAD’s considerable success.
They’re far from the only factor, however. Asked what makes EAD tick, Lichter points to the organization’s strong company culture. Despite the seismic changes happening across the industry—an aging workforce, quantum leaps in technology and so on—he credits his employees for being able to adapt on the fly.
“Right now, a lot of our clients are running at above stated production capacities,” Lichter notes. “So, we’ve gotten really good at being creative with design, programming, construction and project management to adapt to our clients’ needs. From day one we try to teach employees that nothing is impossible.”
To help foster that idea, Lichter and his team created Think Tank, an internal initiative wherein EAD teams are challenged to come up with solutions to new and emerging issues. Say a client wants to reduce production costs by 20 percent or needs a solution to automate a certain part of their process. EAD teams will come together in the Think Tank, developing solutions to present to the client.
The goal, Lichter says, is to encourage creative problem-solving—and keep EAD squarely on the cutting edge.
“There’s always a solution,” he says. “Just be creative enough to open your mind to the possibilities. If we keep expanding our awareness to a solution, we’ll find it.”
Outside the workplace, EAD employees are encouraged to volunteer their time and talent in their local communities. In return, the company makes donations on behalf of its employees.
“EAD has a goal of donating $1 million in time, talent and treasure over the next several years,” Lichter says. “This not only helps our communities but helps our employees serve others in a meaningful way.”
In it for the long haul
That emphasis on company culture extends to how EAD works with its clients. For Lichter, understanding the intricacies of a particular business—not just what it makes and how; but how it operates—is just as important as fostering his own.
To that end, EAD will often embed staff directly in a client’s facility, ensuring the team has a greater understanding of project goals while also absorbing the latter’s unique culture and business practices.
That relationship doesn’t end when the project is completed, however.
“We still work on a daily basis with our first client, almost 20 years later,” Lichter says. “Not a lot of companies can say that.”
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