Figuring out how much liability coverage to buy isn’t easy, but it’s very important.
General liability covers an entity for bodily injury, property damage, personal and advertising injury, and medical payments to a third party because of negligence of the insured. So, adequately selecting the appropriate limits provides defense costs and indemnification to that third party, which will properly indemnify that claimant.
“As an organization, ask yourself, ‘If my limits are not enough to cover the injury, what happens?’” says Andrew Rowles, vice president at SeibertKeck Insurance Agency. “You hope the insurance company will offer a settlement at your policy limits or you might look at out-of-pocket costs.”
Smart Business spoke with Rowles about setting limits of liability.
How can business owners know what limits of liability to purchase?
First, review the limits that your vendors and customers have on their insurance requirements. Many businesses purchase a $1 million occurrence policy with a $2 million aggregate limit for the general liability policy. From there, adding an umbrella or excess policy provides additional limits over your original policies.
The question becomes how much is enough. It’s a balancing act between purchasing exuberant limits that exceed industry expectations or leaving your company on the short side and potentially exhausting policies. If policies are exhausted, you could be covering claims yourself.
More exposed industries will need to buy higher limits, such as manufacturers that produce products with the potential to impact many people or those who face class action potential.
The challenge for many startup companies is having enough capital to cover the cost of purchasing adequate limits. As a well-established company, it is important to look at the cost-benefit of adding additional umbrella limits. In addition, when looking at job contracts, it is critical to make sure your limits match those of the subcontractor or contract requirements.
How can you use benchmarking to help discover the best liability limits?
A benchmarking report is a tool, not an exact science. It takes into account many different factors, such as location, industry size, revenue, employees, etc., to compare companies in the same industry segment. Benchmarking an organization against its respective industry can provide a range of insurance program premiums, limits and retentions commonly used in the industry.
Having this important tool should allow business leaders the piece of mind that they are adequately insuring their company at a competitive cost. Also, in the event of a claim, it can justify the limits purchased if the claim should exceed that limit.
An informal way to benchmark is by attending trade associations or other industry events, so you can ask peers for their limits of liability. Networking is a great way to understand how liability limits are affecting others, before you have to deal with it.
What do marketplace trends like severability tell business owners?
The severity loss trend — the change in size of an individual loss over a period of time — is staggering. According to Chubb, in 1973, a moderate brain damage injury award was $1.24 million; today, that same award is closer to $5 million.
Chubb reports that in 2010 the median compensatory award in Ohio was $13,000, while nationally 12 percent of all jury awards are $1 million or more. In addition, 57 percent of the total awarded damage for commercial/industrial product liability verdicts is for the plaintiff; the remaining amount is for additional costs. These costs include the rise in mass litigation, the high cost of defending product suits, the need for many experts in complex situations or additional awarded damages. This means $1 million of coverage is not always enough to cover the actual injury. The costs associated with a claim are far greater than what most people perceive as ‘enough insurance.’
There’s no easy answer to finding the right liability limit. It may seem ridiculous for a small company to buy $25 million in limits, but what if it has a large automobile fleet? In the end, the most important tool is to have a proactive relationship with your agent. An experienced client advocate will responsibly inform a client on how to properly balance its limit of liability and dollars. ●
Andrew Rowles is vice president at SeibertKeck Insurance Agency. Reach him at (330) 867-3140 or email@example.com.
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Ohio’s shale gas region has slated capital projects valued at more than $12 billion, with the industry expected to add 66,000 jobs and $5 billion annually to the state economy starting this year, according to economists at Cleveland State University.
More than 3 million acres have been leased for drilling, with gas and oil companies pouring nearly $7.5 billion in bank accounts for the right to drill. The oil and gas industry, and the legal issues surrounding it, are going to have a profound economic impact on Ohio.
That activity has led to disputes about ownership of oil, gas, and mineral interests.
“There’s a developing area of law regarding the Dormant Mineral Act of 1989, which was amended in 2006,” says Christopher F. Swing, a partner at Brouse McDowell, with more than 22 years of experience in real estate law and litigation, focusing on title, land, mineral interests, and oil and gas disputes.
Smart Business spoke with Swing about the Dormant Mineral Act and how courts are addressing it in cases involving ownership.
What is the Dormant Mineral Act, and how was it changed in 2006?
Ohio’s Dormant Mineral Act operates to ‘abandon’ sub-surface mineral rights, in favor of the surface owner, in instances where the surface and sub-surface rights previously were severed. Under the 1989 version of the statute, as originally enacted, owners of oil, gas and mineral interests must take some action to enforce or preserve those rights within a 20-year period, or the interests may be deemed abandoned. Under the 1989 version, therefore, abandonment may occur based upon nonuse alone. The 2006 amendment, on the other hand, requires notice to potential mineral rights owners, and a mechanism for recording notices and affidavits, so that a potential mineral interests’ owner first is made aware of any intent to declare those interests abandoned.
Two predominant issues have emerged, creating uncertainty in the statute’s interpretation and application: first, which version of the statute applies in a given set of circumstances? And second, is the 20-year window ‘static’ or ‘rolling’? For example, there is case law that says you need not apply the 2006 version of the statute (provide notice, among other things) if the mineral interests already may be deemed abandoned, based upon nonuse alone, under the 1989 version.
How have courts applied the legislation?
Although cases have interpreted and applied the legislation differently, the case that appears to most thoroughly explain the proper public policy and legislative rationale, in both interpreting and applying both versions of the statute, is a case decided last fall in Carroll County, Dahlgren v. Brown Farm Properties. In Dahlgren, the Honorable Judge Richard M. Markus ruled that, under the 1989 version of the statute, an actual abandonment claim, based upon nonuse alone, must be made prior to the effective date of the 2006 amendment for the mineral rights to be declared abandoned under a static 20-year look-back period contained in the 1989 legislation. Markus applied the 2006 version of the statute, because there was no actual claimed abandonment prior to the 2006 enactment, notwithstanding the undisputed nonuse of the mineral rights in the preceding 20 years.
Markus also found that, unlike the 1989 version, the 2006 amendment contemplates a rolling 20-year savings window, calculated from the date the mineral rights owner receives notice of intent to declare those rights abandoned. Interestingly, he adopted the nonuse feature in the original act, and the notice and recording features in the amendment, suggesting their combination would pass federal constitutional due process scrutiny.
While the case is on appeal, what makes the opinion potentially attractive, ultimately, to the Ohio Supreme Court is that the judge accounted for the need to have an effective means of clearing land title (so as to encourage the development of these natural resources), employing an interpretation and application of the statute that addresses three key issues: nonuse, recording and constitutionality. ●
Christopher F. Swing, Esq., is a partner at Brouse McDowell. Reach him at (330) 535-5711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Brouse McDowell
More midsize companies are seeking to do something extra for a select group of employees, usually executive-level staff.
Nonqualified deferred compensation plans, which are not subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, have no discrimination restrictions, so employers can choose to whom they offer the plan. The plans also have no restrictions on deferral amounts, unlike qualified retirement plans.
“The economy has been getting a little better, and top talent is very valuable,” says John Carey, CPA, J.D., associate director of tax at SS&G. “Companies want to take that extra step to keep people and offer them an incentive to stay a little longer.”
At the same time, participating employees can defer income tax. Although they are performing the service now, the compensation is not subject to tax until they are actually paid, which might not be until they retire and are in a lower tax bracket.
“The tax environment has become more complicated, and tax rates have gone up,” Carey says. “You can have a rate of more than 40 percent in just federal income tax. People are looking to cut that — if they defer some of the income that would otherwise be taxable now, it gets them into a lower bracket and they are not subject to some of these extra add-on taxes.”
Smart Business spoke with Carey about what to consider when setting up nonqualified deferred compensation plans.
How do these types of plans work?
A nonqualified deferred compensation plan is a contractual obligation between the employer and employee to defer the receipt of compensation until a time in the future. IRS code section 409A governs these plans. They should be in writing and entered into before any services are performed that the compensation is based upon.
There are two types of nonqualified plans — elective and nonelective. With an elective plan, the company tells the employee, ‘You have the option to defer up to X amount of your annual salary.’ Under a nonelective plan, the company offers X dollars in the future in addition to the employee’s salary. It can be tied to performance criteria or remaining with the company for a certain time period.
The company decides which plan type to offer, often with employee input. It’s critical, however, to have good advisers discussing and planning out strategically what you want to put into the plan, what you want to accomplish with it, and what it can and cannot do.
How can employees get the most benefit from nonqualified deferred compensation?
Compare your current income with where you could be in the future when getting paid the deferred compensation. Do you project that it will be to your benefit due to being in a lower tax bracket in the future?
It’s also important to pay attention to the Social Security tax. The government imposes Social Security taxes on deferred compensation when there’s no longer a substantial risk of forfeiture, or when a benefit vests. Although income taxes are not imposed on the deferred amount until paid, with elective and certain nonelective plans the benefits may become taxable for Social Security. So, it’s better for both the employer and employee if the benefits vest in periods when the employee is making more than the Social Security wage limit, which is $117,000 in 2014.
Nonqualified deferred compensation plans have to be unfunded. What does that mean for plan sponsors and participants?
As an unfunded plan, it’s subject to the risk of the company’s creditors. Even if an employee did his or her job very well, if the business gets sued and goes bankrupt, nonqualified deferred compensation funds would be available to pay creditors. It’s a risk that plan participants take, so they need to consider the company’s stability.
Many companies use an informal funding method, such as a rabbi trust. The plan sponsor sets up a trust to put the money aside, and it cannot arbitrarily grab the money, but the funds are still general assets of the company so creditors can get at the funds.
Even with the risks, more executives today are asking companies to look at nonqualified deferred compensation plans, which are an incentive to retain and attract talent in today’s tax environment. ●
John Carey, CPA, J.D. is associate director of tax at SS&G. Reach him at (330) 668-9696 or JCarey@SSandG.com.
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Subtle adjustments to the claim adjudication process have led to managed care organizations (MCOs) being asked to start collecting expanded data on new injuries.
“An employer’s MCO plays a key role in initiating claims,” says Lance Watkins, AVP, Client Services, CompManagement Health Systems. All injury reports are routed through MCOs to ensure that the required data is in place before a claim is reviewed by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) for allowance.
Smart Business spoke with Watkins to better understand how MCOs will operate under the new process.
What is changing in the data collection process for MCOs?
Previously, standard incident reports included only the basics: the employee’s name, address, birth date, employer information and injury description. Additional details, such as the injured employee’s marital status and normal work hours, would eventually be pursued, perhaps by BWC after the allowance was determined.
MCOs are now being asked to gather more data before the claim is submitted to BWC. While this may often require a phone call to the employer, having more claim details in BWC’s hands before they make an allowance decision is a good thing.
What new information is required?
Among the new information MCOs are asked to collect is the employer’s certification or rejection of the claim. This question may be posed before a thorough investigation has been conducted. It may be appropriate to withhold this decision until better information is available. The claim can still be submitted to BWC for adjudication. However, there may be cases where the incident and injury are not in dispute, and an early certification may accelerate treatment for the injured employee.
How are additional allowances being treated?
Another area where BWC is asking MCOs to play a larger role is in the consideration of additional medical conditions on a claim.
Usually, when a treating physician seeks to expand the allowances and treat new conditions, it is an indication that the claim may be growing in complexity and cost. When the request for new conditions is submitted through the MCO with a treatment request, the MCO is to provide a recommendation on the existence of the condition. It is an awkward position to be in because the question of causality — whether or not the accident caused the condition — is what BWC will ultimately use to determine if the condition should be allowed on the claim.
One of the roles of the MCO is to reconcile the treatments to the medical conditions and move the claim toward resolution. MCOs study medical documentation daily and typically have faster access to sound diagnostics reflecting the condition of the injured employee.
What do these changes seek to accomplish?
Ultimately, the goal is to help injured employees return to the workplace as quickly and safely as possible. The most powerful cost driver in workers’ compensation claims is lost time, and the speed and clarity of information is a vital part of the return-to-work process.
BWC leans heavily on MCOs to resolve claims from the medical side and evaluates each MCO on their effectiveness in helping injured employees get back to work. BWC provides quarterly evaluation data on MCOs, called Measurement of Disability Scores (MoD), which reflect the MCO’s return-to-work performance compared to established benchmarks. With the MCOs and their client employers having a vested interest in the return-to-work scores, it is appropriate that MCOs be empowered to help accelerate the process and establish the informational framework for resolving claims. ●
Lance Watkins, AVP Client Services, CompManagement Health Systems, can be reached at (614) 376-5524 or email@example.com.
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The Treasury Department made it a little easier for companies to comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by delaying the employer mandate to provide health insurance for companies with 50 to 99 employees.
Those businesses will have until January 2016 before facing potential penalties, while companies with 100 or more full-time equivalent (FTE) employees still face a Jan. 1, 2015, compliance deadline.
“Some of it was about giving companies time to come into compliance, but they also don’t know yet how penalties will be enforced or collected. The law doesn’t allow the IRS to collect any penalties, so they have a real challenge trying to figure out how to collect the money,” says William F. Hutter, CEO of Sequent.
Smart Business spoke with Hutter about changes in the ACA and what they mean for employers.
What break have companies with 100 or more employees been given regarding the first year of the employer mandate?
For 2015 only, instead of being required to extend coverage to 95 percent of employees they have been granted a grace period and only need to offer coverage to 70 percent of employees.
But plans still have to meet minimum essential coverage standards and have to be affordable.
While companies are getting that break, one of the most difficult aspects of the ACA is the complexity of the reporting and tracking requirements for companies. Most companies with 100 or more employees are already meeting these criteria, but it’s really a challenge for companies with variable-hour workforces.
It can be pretty challenging for retail and hospitality businesses. When you have 70 full-time employees and 50 part-time employees, tracking those variable-hour employees to get your FTE count can be pretty challenging.
What do businesses need to be doing now?
A lot of the administrative details — creating your policy, and your measurement, administrative and stability periods — need to be done now. Make sure your HR and payroll systems can handle the necessary reporting because it’s going to be virtually impossible to track it with a pencil. You need a way to extract that data from your system in a way that matches the reporting criteria.
For larger companies — 100 employees or more — their look-back period to determine employee eligibility for coverage starts this year, correct?
Yes. A large retailer based in Columbus, Ohio, decided a few months ago that employees would either be full time and eligible or part time, never working more than 27 hours a week. More companies will adopt that tactic because it’s easier. They don’t want to worry about who might become eligible in such a volatile environment as retail.
Almost every company has part-time employees who could become eligible based on the measurement period. Let’s say they work 40 hours a week during peak season, are offered and take benefits, then drop back to 20 hours a week. Normally under IRS code, going from full-time to part-time status would create an open enrollment period. But the ACA says they’re still an eligible employee because they met the criteria during the measurement period, and the change to part-time status no longer produces an open enrollment opportunity because of the stability period.
We’re trying to figure out if there’s a nuance in the ACA that address this issue, but haven’t found it. The IRS says you entered into a contract for benefits until the next open enrollment period or change in family status. So the employer would still have to provide coverage and the employee would have to pay his or her share, even if it’s too expensive on a part-time salary.
That’s one of the challenges with the ACA — it’s constantly changing and evolving. Once you digest and understand the implications of it from a business operational standpoint, it changes again. Because of the latest delay, businesses with 50 to 99 FTE employees don’t need to worry about it for a while and can probably wait until things calm down. ●
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Gordy Opitz had to find a way to keep ComDoc’s employees focused after they lost what took 21 years to accomplishWritten by Adam Burroughs
When Gordy Opitz talks about ComDoc Inc., he starts at the beginning, explaining matter-of-factly that Walter G. Griffith founded the business equipment sales and service company in Akron in 1955. He traces its financial growth into the millions of dollars and outlines its industry’s evolution.
But the part of the story that elicits the most enthusiasm from Opitz involves the ComDoc employee stock ownership plan, which took 21 years to make its 615 employees 100 percent owners.
“We took an unbelievable amount of pride in being able to say to people that when you are working with ComDoc, you are working with people who own the company,” says Opitz, the company’s president and CEO. “That was an incredibly exciting time for us.”
Those exciting times, however, would come under threat. ComDoc was facing two serious obstacles in 2008: The great financial chill that had befallen the economy, and the loss of its largest product supplier, Ricoh, which was acquired by ComDoc’s biggest competitor, ostensibly pitting the former partners against each other.
Here’s how Optiz lead ComDoc through a turbulent period by ignoring the noise that could have silenced the company.
As ComDoc was moving toward 100 percent employee ownership, it was keeping its eye on Xerox, the industry leader, benchmarking with it to determine a fair share price for its own stock.
“As long as we could stay within 5 to 7 percent of that share price, we were going to keep it as an employee-owned company, which we were able to accomplish,” Opitz says.
ComDoc, at the time, was generating about $125 million in annual revenue. It had a great 2007 and was having a great 2008 when mid-year, Xerox inquired about ComDoc’s interest in being acquired.
Xerox’s midmarket customers had been a target for ComDoc. According to Opitz, “We built our business by going after Xerox placements.” But Xerox adjusted its strategy.
“Xerox recognized that the independent dealers, the ComDocs of the world, were closer to the street, closer to the customer, more effective, more efficient, had better billing processes and better service to their clients — all the things that we had done in building ComDoc,” Opitz says.
Simultaneously, the economy was cooling and ComDoc’s primary product supplier decided to sell direct to the customer. It was then that Xerox made its offer.
“Xerox put something in front of us and we knew it was our fiduciary responsibility to do the right thing for all of our shareholders,” Opitz says. “And we sincerely believed, given the circumstances in front of us, that making sure that our people who had been a part of this organization for many, many years were going to be secure. And that’s exactly what happened.”
ComDoc agreed to be acquired by Xerox, and the deal was finalized in February 2009.
It was a difficult decision to let go of the ESOP the company had worked so long to achieve, Opitz says, but the acquisition had a strong appeal.
“Our employees never had to worry about whether that stock price was going to decrease by 15 or 20 percent in one year, and how long it would take to recoup that drop,” he says.
Xerox was going to allow ComDoc to operate within the culture it had developed over the years, though it was under the new corporate ownership. The move, however, wasn’t without some turbulence.
“As we made the transition, I would say for the leadership group, there was angst involved because we had built succession plans moving forward for the future. Many of us on the leadership team had worked together for 20-plus years. We had been excited about what the future held for ComDoc,” he says.
For the most part, the company was able to retain its key people. Though there was some loss.
“I could probably count on one hand how many people ended up leaving ComDoc because of the transition,” Opitz says.
The hardest transition
While it was able to retain most employees as it transitioned from ESOP to corporate ownership, ComDoc was still facing the loss of its No. 1 product supplier, Ricoh, which, at the time represented about 80 percent of ComDoc’s business.
IKON Office Solutions, a multibillion-dollar company, and ComDoc’s biggest competitor bought Ricoh. Having lost its primary supplier, ComDoc got to work learning the product line of its new corporate owner, Xerox.
Technicians on the service side of ComDoc’s business were somewhat accustomed to servicing different products because there had been many iterations to the company’s product line, which foundationally was 3M, transitioning through Harris 3M, Lanier and Ricoh.
“So we had been used to selling and servicing different products. It was always at our speed, though. In this case, the race came to a quick halt in February 2009, and we could no longer sell Ricoh, so we immediately had to switch to the Xerox product line,” Opitz says. “That was the hardest transition, and I’m going to call it the learning phase — learning the product and then training all our service technicians in being able to service it.”
The task of servicing a brand new product line in a very short time was daunting. Coupled with the company’s sagging morale and the challenge was even more difficult. To get his company headed in the right direction, Opitz had to help his employees manage the problems individually and keep the lines of communication open.
“If you think about communication, it isn’t about all the times when things are going right, it’s also about finding out how people are feeling, what they’re thinking, being able to listen to them and help them understand and provide perspective,” Opitz says.
By having those conversations, he found that what was an issue to some people was irrelevant to others.
“But you’d never know unless you really stopped and asked the question,” Optiz says.
The next step was to reduce all the challenges the company faced into manageable tasks.
“You can’t allow it to become so overbearing that it consumes your thought process,” Opitz says. “We’ve always approached business that way — break it down into its simplest form and take these factors as they’re given to you. What are the pluses? What are the minuses? How do we sort through it? What are the strategies and tactics to push through it? And when you really break a task down, it sure becomes a lot easier to get after it.”
Learning to walk again
That philosophy was applied to training. Service technicians learned the product line at ComDoc’s service training center where they’d work on the product for three to five days to become proficient, and then follow up on their training in the field.
To train its sales force, the company utilized training webinars and developed matrixes of e-learning for each product.
“We would set matrixes up for each of our people with the products. They could do e-learning two hours a night from 5 to 7 p.m. So there was a lot of personal pride, there was a lot of time commitment by our people to get that accomplished.
“We had more than 200 technicians who had fully trained on certain products. I believe the first year we had more than 12,000 hours of training,” he says, which includes both the sales and service sides of the business.
“We had a big vision of what to do and we continued to break that down into small tasks, small focus areas, and we just made our mind up that we weren’t going to let external things influence our company,” Opitz says.
Though it’s a simple philosophy, it was still a very difficult transition. The year the company was acquired was flat compared to the prior one. But once the company started to understand Xerox and its product line, it started to expand, seeing its managed print business grow exponentially during that period.
ComDoc increased its revenues and profitability every year between 2009 and 2013. It grew from $125 million to $155 million in revenue during that time frame and its employee count has increased to 675 employees. ComDoc’s customer base continued to renew and grow year-over-year.
“And every year we just continue to challenge ourselves to continue to get bigger and stronger,” Opitz says.
A tough lesson
Once a company suddenly has the odds stacked against it, there are some simple steps to take to address the issue.
“Communicate early and often with your people,” Opitz says. “Make sure you have shared buy-in for what you’re trying to accomplish, and help people break down their challenges or tasks into small pieces and work hard at getting a resolution to them.
“Don’t let people become overwhelmed with what they believe might happen or what they believe might change.”
Opitz says he just tried to do the best he could every day and tried not to make the circumstances out to be an alarming issue so his colleagues didn’t become overly concerned.
“In my mind, at that time, ComDoc had more than 20,000 customers that had been great, loyal, ComDoc customers who knew our people personally,” Opitz says. “And if we were doing all the right things by our customers while in a product change, I just truly believed in my heart of hearts, that our people would find a way to work through it.” ●
- Communicate early and often.
- Breakdown challenges into manageable tasks.
- Do what’s best for the company and its employees no matter how difficult.
The Gordy Opitz File:
Name: Gordy Opitz
Title: President and CEO
Company: ComDoc Inc.
Birthplace: Meadville, Pa.
Education: He received a bachelor of arts in education from Westminster College.
What did you learn from your days as the assistant general manager for the Atlanta Braves AA team? It’s very simple. Be willing to do anything. I was a shortstop and third baseman for the Westminster Titans. The front offices for minor league teams 30 years ago were small, so, when I say be willing to do anything, I mean there were some days where we did all the marketing for the club. There were days we helped sell tickets. There were days that if it rained we helped cover the field. It was a ton of fun. I realized it doesn’t matter what your title is. If the job needs to be done, you’ve got to figure out a way to go accomplish it.
Who has done the most to inform your perspective on business? Retired ComDoc Chairman Riley Lochridge and former ComDoc President and CEO Larry Frank. They taught us the business, and all the things I’ve talked about before — let’s make sure we continue to do things the right way, make sure we continue to attract and retain the right people in the organization. And ask, ‘Are we building a culture that is going to allow us to grow and sustain our growth?’
How would you like to be remembered at ComDoc after you retire? I’d like to be remembered as somebody who helped make a difference and helped make ComDoc become a better place; somebody who helped fulfill our vision of being a great place to work and a great place to be a customer.
Learn more about ComDoc at:
Richard Carpenter, professional surveyor and president of Accurate Technologies Inc., can’t understand why 3-D laser scanner technology, used in industrial surveying to create accurate 3-D models of objects or environments, isn’t more prevalent in the U.S. — but he has a few ideas.
“We don’t jump on new technology,” he says. “Some of the people who come out of college in mechanical engineering are lucky if they even took one 3-D CAD class. Some of the architects coming out of school haven’t had a full semester of 3-D CAD. So we’re a little bit slow to get on this, but it’s an incredible technology.”
Carpenter should know. He has been running his own industrial surveying business since 1987, having worked in The Timken Co.’s steel mill engineering facility for 10 years, where he learned the mechanical aspects of surveying.
“Years ago, most industrial firms had their own engineering departments and they provided most of their own services. They really didn’t go to outside people,” he says. When Timken, and other industrial companies, reduced staff in their engineering departments, the mechanical surveying that had once been provided in-house wasn’t available. “It went from a market where 90 percent of the work was done in-house to probably 90 percent of the work now is subcontracted.”
That’s when Carpenter started getting calls to do mechanical surveying work.
“I started getting enough part-time work that within a few months I was busy full time,” Carpenter says.
Finding a niche
When Accurate Technologies first got started it mainly helped install equipment to achieve the higher accuracies that the industrial firms were demanding. The company would work with mechanical equipment installers to put in mill equipment. The contractor would get the equipment within 1/16 of an inch, and then call Accurate Technologies to get the final alignment.
“When you’re dealing with moving parts, heavy equipment and high horsepower motors and gearboxes, misalignment creates problems,” Carpenter says. Misalignment could damage product as it comes off the machines, which means a company could be scrapping product because the equipment is not aligned right.
“And that’s the No. 1 reason people call us,” Carpenter says. “For us a good project is when someone says they’re scrapping 6 to 7 percent of what they run, and we get done and they’re scrapping 0.5 percent or 1 percent. That happens to us quite often with steel mill equipment or any industrial equipment.”
Matching people with technology
In order for the company to grow with the work that was available, it had to train employees to do industrial surveying from within because people with those skills weren’t prevalent in the market.
Land surveyors, those who have the closest skills to industrial, are taught to make ground measurements that are accurate to 1/8 of an inch, far from the 1/1,000 of an inch accuracy needed in industrial work. In addition, much of the equipment and processes used by land surveyors isn’t suited for industrial survey work. Now, with laser trackers and scanners, it’s especially true — the equipment is very different.
The 3-D laser trackers employed by industrial surveyors use laser systems to “draw” surfaces it comes in contact with. It provides 3-D coordinates that translate to 3-D positions in space.
In addition to the tracker, industrial surveyors also have 3-D laser scanners. The equipment can shoot 900,000 points per second for every 1/16 or 1/8 of an inch, and each point has an XYZ position. This results in a point cloud — billions of points interpreted by software that analyzes common features in the points. These commonalities could translate into cylinders, flat surfaces, piping, etc. The result is a 3-D drawing of all the elements of the space being shot.
“Jobs that used to take me one month I’m doing in two days with this scanner, and giving 100 times the information I had before, if not 1,000 times,” Carpenter says.
In the past it took a high-precision surveyor to do industrial work because everything was done with optics. Optics means using traditional instruments — a surveyor’s transit — and relying on a surveyor’s ability to read a scale to 1/64 of an inch.
“But maintaining accuracy with the optics is very difficult,” he says. “When you deal with optics you have to have two instruments, you have to have a transit to shoot a straight line and an optical level to get the elevations. So whenever you’re using optics you’re really not in a 3-D world.
“Probably 90 percent of industrial work is still done with optics. But the laser tracker can far exceed the work you can do with optics. The speed and the ability to 3-D document what you’re shooting versus handwriting things in field books is quite a difference.”
Seeing into the future
The largely digital technology is allowing Accurate Technologies to undertake projects for engineering firms in Canada and Germany. One of its projects, a steel mill, was scanned entirely so it can be designed on three different continents.
“They’re going to have different engineering people all over the world looking at that information and designing it in unison,” says Carpenter.
“I know this is the future,” he says. However, he says not enough people are being trained properly to enter the field.
“We’re going to be in a 3-D CAD world,” Carpenter says. In the bigger picture, he expects the floor plan of a building and its utilities will get interpreted through geographic information systems, or active 3-D models.
Architects and engineers of the future may walk though a 3-D model of a building and see it in its entirety as it exists. It also allows the user to attach databases, drawings and spreadsheets so he or she can access any information about a facility.
“And there’s already software out there that makes that happen in 3-D. If you had a 3-D model of your facility you could have the ability to look up, down and around and see everything in a model. I think we’re really going to get to that 3-D world fast.” ●
Having a job or a career can be central to a person’s self-confidence. Coleman Professional Services Inc., a nonprofit provider of behavioral health and rehabilitation programs, works to find jobs for those who may have more trouble finding a job than most — those who are mentally challenged or physically disabled.
CPS offers job placement, training and temporary work for those with barriers to employment while helping employers connect to this segment of the workforce through recruiting and outplacement. When successful, it means getting people off entitlements and helping them become more productive members of the community.
Smart Business spoke with CPS’s President and CEO Nelson W. Burns to learn more about the organization and the impact it has on those it serves.
SB: Where is CPS headquartered and what geographic areas does it serve?
NB: Coleman is headquartered in Kent, and serves individuals in seven Ohio counties that include Trumbull, Portage, Stark, Summit, Allen, Hardin and Auglaize.
SB: Whom in the community does CPS seek to help with its employment services?
NB: Coleman’s employment services are designed to serve any adult more than 17 years of age who has a disability.
SB: What services do you offer these individuals and what do you hope is the end result of their involvement?
NB: Our employment services work to support a final outcome of employment. However, Coleman might provide a wide variety of services to help facilitate employment. These services might include skill training, job experience, education support and employment aides such as clothes or transportation vouchers. Coleman operates businesses that actually hire people with disabilities. Coleman employs more than 80 people with disabilities in its Coleman Data Solutions business, a document management service.
SB: How would individuals with barriers to employment be affected if these CPS services suddenly vanished?
NB: These individuals with employment barriers would rarely be able to find employment or keep employment. Without employment, individuals with disabilities would remain on entitlement funds and less likely to contribute to their families and the community.
SB: What misconceptions does the organization spend much of its time overcoming?
NB: Many people think that people with disabilities are lazy or ignorant. The truth is that many of these individuals are very reliable and loyal employees.
SB: How do you quantify the benefits a community (business and social) experiences when these individuals are able to get jobs?
NB: The key benefits from employment are reduction of entitlements, active participation in the community without idle activities, proper model behavior for their families and more discretionary money to participate in the economy.
SB: What does it mean to someone who otherwise might have trouble getting a job to be employed?
NB: Employment is an important factor of our self-concept. With a job, people feel more confident about themselves and their contribution to the community. In a recent testimonial, a woman of 40 years of age commented to me how her unemployment resulted in deep depression and hospitalization. These conditions can lead to broken families, mental illness, addictive behavior and expensive health care.
SB: Other than funding, what is CPS’s most critical need?
NB: CPS continues to have challenges in helping people navigate through complicated systems of public aide, Medicaid and a complex system of governments and fellow nonprofit organizations.
SB: Why should a company consider employing individuals with the disposition(s) you serve?
NB: Companies can hire a reliable individual who will remain in employment. Our clients have a history of loyal and focused work experience. A company can win in business as well as helping a person and helping the community.
SB: How can companies get involved with CPS?
NB: Companies can call on CPS’s employment services for their special needs in their business. ●
How to reach: Coleman Professional Services, (800) 673-1347 or www.coleman-professional.com
On a daily basis, I see how the work of the private sector and the work of the nonprofit sector are inextricably intertwined — all a part of the same big picture. The more we understand that fact as a community, the more we can align our investments and leverage our strengths.
The GAR Foundation is a private foundation created in the late 1960s by Galen Roush, the co-founder of Roadway Express Inc. Roush was a standout leader in the industry who had grown the small local trucking firm he launched during the Great Depression into a national powerhouse.
When he and his wife Ruth set up the GAR Foundation to fund nonprofit organizations, they did so with the understanding that a high-functioning nonprofit sector supports the success of a business like Roadway.
As businesses grow and innovate, they need a well-educated workforce. The nonprofit sector’s many investments in education help to ensure that Greater Akron’s businesses have a ready supply of world-class, “homegrown” talent.
As businesses work to attract great talent to their teams from other places, they need the kind of cultural vibrancy that makes Akron a distinctive, quality place. The nonprofit sector’s investments in arts and culture support community vibrancy and quality of life. Businesses seek to locate and grow in high-functioning, healthy communities where citizens’ basic needs are met and all people have an opportunity to have a productive life.
The nonprofit sector supports the basic needs of Akron’s citizenry, helping to make this a community we can all be proud to call home.
One hand washes the other
We can see some ways in which a high-functioning nonprofit sector supports a healthy private sector. And yet the benefits run at least as strongly in the other direction — from business to nonprofits.
Businesses provide leadership talent to nonprofits through board service and volunteer hours. Every successful business person in Greater Akron can support the well-being of the community by volunteering his or her time and talents to nonprofits.
Moreover, as funding for nonprofit work contracts and its needs expand, cutting edge business practices become increasingly important to the operation of successful nonprofit enterprises. Practices long favored in the private sector — from the strategic use of data for performance management to rigorous outcome-based budgeting — are becoming commonplace in nonprofits.
So while many see the private sector and the nonprofit sector as “two different worlds,” they in fact have a close, symbiotic relationship. Nonprofits help to support the community conditions in which businesses can thrive and grow; thriving businesses in turn create prosperity and opportunity for the entire community. ●
Christine Amer Mayer is president of the GAR Foundation, which awards grants to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in Summit and adjacent counties in the areas of education, arts and arts education, health and social services, and civic and nonprofit enhancement. She can be reached at (330) 576-2911 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.garfoundation.org.