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How Architectural & Engineering Consulting Firms Can Win More Work

By: William G Handlos, P.E.

Why do some Architectural and Engineering consultants perennially get their choice of work?

Let’s face it, most of the time; all of the invited and interviewed teams have the requisite experience and competence to accomplish the stated scope of work. You’re pretty sure that you have checked all the boxes on your Statement of Qualifications and your written proposal is complete and clearly shows your team has the design solution experience relevant to the task at hand. So why do you not have more wins?

Let’s take a look at how clients really make decisions.

Here is how we think that we choose. Does the consultant have:

  • Unimpeachable character
  • Relevant solid experience
  • Exhibits problem-solving skills
  • Outstanding communications skills
  • Excellent interpersonal skills


Most consultants also believe that the best way to reach success in a presentation is to build the case for their side using reason and facts. Of course, there always needs to be a fundamental foundation of experience and qualification as a cost of entry. Written proposals are much more objectively weighed. However, neuroscience tells us that the factors that really affect decision-making are more emotional than logical.

Here is how we really choose:

  • Do I feel that I can trust them?
  • Do I feel like we would work well together?
  • Do I like them?
  • Will they be open to my ideas?
  • Will they give me cover, make me look good?

Even though we put together systems to help us focus on the facts such as checklist, rating grids, attribute grades and well documented scorecards—our biases towards emotions are driving our decisions even as we go through our systematic approach.

One particularly powerful obstacle to be chosen as a successful consultant occurs when the presenter is perceived as unwilling or unqualified to present options. A typical client will want to play a role in the decision-making and will resent a candidate who appears to be interested in only one solution. The client doesn’t typically know it, but they will give more credence to a candidate who appears to have more than one arrow in their quiver.

Returning to the original question. How do you get more wins?

Differentiation. You need to make your firm memorable. One way to leave a lasting impression on a potential client is to show that your team has knowledge and access to both traditional solutions and to proven nontraditional solutions.

For example, you are asked to make a proposal to solve severe slope stability issues for steep slope conditions in an erosive soil condition. You include examples of terraced wall solutions using gabions to retain the soil. You show several success stories in case study format.

Rather than stopping there, you include a less mainstream solution that allows for green vegetation on the face of the walls utilizing geocell technology. While your clients will not always choose to employ specialty geosynthetic options, they will be impressed by consultants who offer options and most importantly—you will be remembered as a knowledgeable, innovative, and creative service provider.

The first step in becoming a memorable firm starts with exposing your professionals to new ideas.

Our professionals on the Geosystems Technical Team and our worldwide network of trained distributors are happy to present unique solution sets that are responsible for saving owners millions of dollars in reduced excavation & base preparation costs; contractors countless days off schedule; and we help engineers differentiate themselves from the crowd.

Win more work. Make yourself memorable.

Contact for more information.

Why would you put nails in an aggregate porous pavement?

Written By: Bill Handlos, PE

Every one of them. Each and every one of the spikes required to anchor this “invisible” product has pushed up. If consistency is the hallmark of excellence, then the maker of the gravel pavers that comes on a roll—“nailed” it.

Take a look at what mother nature does, after each winter, to 8 inch spikes that were intended to hold down the ultra lightweight gravel paving product.

For those of you who are blessed to live in an area where there is not frost each winter, let me explain. Whether you get 12 inches or 3 feet of frost, the frozen ground pushes up rocks, pipes, fence posts, garden lanterns and, yes, 8 inch nails.

As a result, the parking area constructed in Wisconsin, whose specifications call for the use of spikes that are intended to stop the material from moving under the rotational torque loading of pneumatic tires (or for you non-engineers, tires) — well, that parking lot has just become the local tire repair center’s best friend.

Tires do not like nails. Tires especially do not like nails that are sticking out by about an inch firmly held in place waiting to attack a twisting parking tire.

Here’s the worst of it! The 8 inch nails didn’t even stop the material from coming up when subjected to rotational forces. The following photo shows why a rigid planar aggregate porous pavement is a better choice.

We recommend the GEOPAVE® aggregate porous pavement system. Requires no maintenance, no worries and definitely no nails.

For more information, see

Railroad ballast performance improvement using GEOWEB®

Every year, railroads dedicate a great deal of capital and maintenance expense towards the creation and upkeep of high quality ballast layers. Enduring well-designed ballast is quite literally the foundation on which a successful rail line operates. With ballooning rail traffic carrying heavier loads than ever, GEOWEB cellular confinement (Geocell) effectively takes the pressure off critical ballast systems.

Oregon State University (OSU) recently performed state-of-the-art, three-dimensional dynamic Finite Element modeling to analyze the reinforcing benefit of GEOWEB geocells in railway applications. This study was completed in cooperation with the University of Kansas (KU) who simultaneously performed a testing program of Geocell reinforced ballast placed over weak subgrade material using HDPE GEOWEB material.

The digital modeling results were reinforced by the laboratory tests and showed a significant decrease in settlement of the railway ballast when GEOWEB confinement was used. The use of GEOWEB technology not only decreased settlement, but reduced pressure on point-to-point aggregate load transfer contact which in turn resulted in less damage to ballast aggregate particles leading to less progressive deformation and longer maintenance frequencies of the entire ballast embankment. In short, more cycles means less track down-time for maintenance.

The research results were clear. The benefits of applying GEOWEB Geocell confinement for reinforcement of real ballast over weak subgrades includes:

  • Significant decrease in settlement of the railway ballast. GEOWEB confinement influence reduced settlement by to up 50% under heavy freight loadings over weak sub grades.
  • Decrease in subgrade interface pressure by nearly 50% for weak subgrades. The decreased pressure in subgrade results in lower subgrade settlements.
  • Increase in ballast resiliency after many cycles—resulting in decreased rate of cyclic settlement.
  • Decrease in lateral heave and movement of the ballast material.
  • Redistribution of vertical stresses on the subgrade—resulting in higher shear strength and reduction in plastic deformation.
  • For the largest loading conditions used in the analysis, the strains in the GEOWEB geocell were low (less than 1%) and within the elastic range for typical geosynthetic materials. The maximum tensile strains were localized at the bottom corners of the GEOWEB cells, illustrating the importance of adequately durable seams.
  • Strains in the GEOWEB ballast layer were low (less than 1%) even under heavy, freight loadings over very soft sub grades. Stress concentrations were found at the seams, highlighting the importance of GEOWEB seam strength during loading condition.

A Better Built Ballast

The benefits of GEOWEB confined ballast are substantiated through rigorous testing. Conventional ballast reinforcing materials (eg geogrids, Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA)) do not have the strengthening attributes that GEOWEB geocells can provide, especially in soft subgrades. Building a more stable ballast layer with less settlement, higher shear strength, and less maintenance requirements is possible when built with GEOWEB geocells.

For more information, see
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Why Geocells Outperform Geogrids for Road Construction

Written By: Bill Handlos, PE, Director of Presto Geosystems

Geocells (cellular confinement) offer a more effective and practical 3D design solution to load support challenges than multilayered 2D geogrid efforts. Geocells transfer applied loads instantaneously, delivering practical soil stabilization in a product that is fast and easy to install.

Blog: Geogrids Product      Blog: GEOWEB Geocells Unpaved Roads

How do geogrids work?

Geogrids rely on rutting, displacement and lateral movement of the road material to activate the load support reaction of the product. As shown below, failure of the driving surface must occur before the geogrid reacts. As a result, rutting and soil displacement is a prerequisite reality to the system. Since the geogrid is two-dimensional, material not located directly within the plane occupied by the geogrid is free to move, shift and displace.

Blog: DiagramIt is essential that geogrids are placed in a flat or a pre-tensioned manner—but that is not practical in a construction environment. It is common to see geogrids unrolled over a prepared grade with an undulating surface. As aggregate is placed over the top of the geogrid, the material kinks and waves, further warping the 2D plane. The geogrid is rarely pulled tight during installation which does not allow full tension under load.



Geogrids are difficult to install in soft subgrades

In cases where subgrade is particularly poor, over-saturated, or already damaged by rutting, geogrids are even more difficult to place flat and tight as recommended. Soft subbase does not support medium or heavy construction equipment to place and spread the base layer over the geogrid without deforming the geogrid even further. The overall deformation creates an uneven geogrid layer that is poorly suited to function as intended.

Often, geogrid manufacturers recommend two, or even three layers of geogrids to create a stiffened aggregate cross-section. This approach improves load support performance of the geogrids, but is time-intensive, as each layer must be unfurled, covered and compacted separately. Cost of installation and materials double and triple with the additional layers.

How do geocells work?

Geocells are 3D structures that utilize the cell hoop strength, passive earth pressures, and particle confinement to create a stiff mattress layer that resists wheel loads immediately upon impact and without the partial driving surface failure required by geogrids. Load induced stresses are transferred from the infill particles to the cell wall and counteracted by hoop resistance and passive resistance of adjacent cells.

Blog: GEOWEB Geocell Load Support Diagram

Workers expand geocells over the subbase quickly and easily and it is not critical that the geocells be pre-tensioned or placed perfectly on-grade. Loaders, bulldozers and bobcats are employed to fill the geocells. Loaded dump trucks can back over ‘just-filled’ geocells with no damage to the product and no effect on the performance of the material.

Unlike geogrids, geocells are effective with a wide variety of infill, and are not limited to the high quality aggregate required for geogrids. Sand, fine aggregate, gravel or breaker run, all see their properties enhanced by the strength of high density polyethylene (HDPE) geocells. The ability to use on-site infill or locally available materials can yield increased savings to the project.

Geocells are ideal for installation over soft soils

No equipment is necessary to expand geocell sections, so they can be placed over the softest of subbases and low-pressure equipment is not required to infill the cells. Simply back up full-size loaded dump trucks, empty the payload and spread the granular material in and over the geocell.

Geocells Proven Performance

Geocells have been successfully improving road life of paved and unpaved highways, access roads and work platforms for 40 years. Since the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) co-developed the technology in partnership with Presto Products, thousands of GEOWEB® geocell load support projects have saved millions of dollars in construction costs and provided three-dimensional stabilization simply not available with the use of traditional geogrids. Browse our project case studies, photos and videos here.

Request an on-site technical presentation to learn more about the GEOWEB® Geocell Confinement System.

Bringing Stability to an Unstable World

With this summer’s extremely wet weather conditions across the country, building access roads is a major challenge.  Muddy, soft ground is causing construction delays when it comes to moving heavy vehicles and equipment over the soft soils.

Presto’s GEOWEB® Soil Stabilization System offers a way to build roads even with these site challenges using low-cost, local fill—and has been doing so for over 30 years. In fact, the GEOWEB system is the go-to solution for many oil companies in remote areas like the Canadian oil sands and the Amazon basin. Recently, EnergyNow Media featured an article on GEOWEB roads addressing the latest access challenges in the energy sector. The EnergyNow article is republished below.

Reprint of recent article written by “EnergyNow Media” (North American Energy Magazine)

Presto Geosystems: Bringing Stability to an Unstable World

Geoweb Cells with Infill

Oil and gas is a tricky business. Everything from resource extraction to site management to processing is fraught with difficulties, challenges, and trials. However, one often-overlooked aspect within this industry is that of simply being able to access the resource site in the first place. Once access is established, it’s crucial that there is a clean, stable platform to work on and transport resources back out. As anyone familiar with the industry knows, energy resources are rarely discovered in local, easily accessible areas. Rather, oil and gas drilling most often takes place in the most far-flung reaches of wilderness imaginable, where even constructing safe, reliable roads and working platforms can be a near-insurmountable challenge.

In these situations, Presto Geosystems truly excels.

Established in Appleton, Wisconsin, Presto Geosystems specializes in soil stabilization and cellular confinement technology. In 1978, Gary Bach developed the Presto Geosystems crowning achievement: the 3D geocell. Since then, Presto Geosystems has lead the way in their field, culminating with the most recent iteration of their flagship soil stabilization product: GEOWEB®, which offers the highest and longest-lasting performance of any geocell stabilization system on the civilian market today. The GEOWEB product is designed to handle the abuse from repeated heavy truck and equipment loading over some of the worst, wet soft soils.  Able to use local on-site fill – even sand – makes the 3D geocell system the quickest way to build roads and platforms in remote areas with limited aggregate resources.

“It’s critical that the weld is consistent so that you can count on the strength of these systems, and know how much load you can carry,” Presto Geosystems Director, Bill Handlos, explains. “The tensile strength of the strip is important so that it’s not too stiff, or too soft…there’s a blend that’s just right. This is what we’ve perfected.” It’s this dogged pursuit of excellence that has made the Presto Geosystems name synonymous with quality and stability when it comes to building site access roads, oil pads, work platforms, surface pipeline protection, construction mats, and much more.

In addition, Presto Geosystems works to provide project support from the very inception of an endeavour all the way up to the completion of a satisfactory installation. “We shine because we’re willing to start during the project conception and vision,” Handlos states proudly. “We do a lot of work with engineers to define the problem and give them evaluations to get them started. As (loadings) become more defined, we often refine and revise designs. We take a journey with our clients without asking for a dime. As they purchase the material, we go to the site with them to give them tips and tricks to help lay down the product faster.” It takes an incredible amount of commitment and dedication to provide so much hands-on assistance even once the product has been sold and shipped out the door, but for Presto Geosystems, that’s simply another part of day-to-day operations.

Providing outstanding levels of client support is one thing, but that doesn’t amount to much if the end product isn’t up to standard. As in all things, however, Presto Geosystems holds itself to an exceptionally high level of excellence and quality when it comes to the materials it develops and advocates for. “We’ve proven that our products work for almost four decades,” Handlos confidently states. “The fact that we invented the product speaks volumes as well. Our models are spot-on in forecasting how the product will hold up, and we have the experience and knowledge to quickly get the product in the ground.”

More than that, Presto Geosystems is made up of team members who have a profound level of respect for the environment, and encourage green practices and policies whenever they are able to. “Our most successful people are those who value the lower carbon footprint that our product creates,” Handlos tells us. “You’re using less natural resources, and saving money all around. We are the green solution, and that matters quite a bit to oil and gas companies, as they are trying to do things with as little impact as they can. We play a role there.”

Ultimately, everything circles back to the outstanding, innovative line of products and services that Presto Geosystems has created and continues to offer to the world stage. “We’re in 60 countries with our products, and are proud to offer free designs for our customers, as clients see the value in these savings,” Handlos lets us know. “We stabilize an unstable world. We are a solution when others won’t work, or are too expensive to deploy. We make it easy to design and construct. We stand behind our product. We’ve set the standards for our industry.

For more information on the pioneering services and products offered by Presto Geosystems, visit them online at, or contact Bill Handlos at 1-800-548-3424 or

Choosing the Right Geocell

Written By: Bryan Wedin P.E., Chief Design Engineer, Presto Geosystems

Not all geocells are created equal. While most manufacturers can provide similar-looking written specifications, you need assurances that the material delivered for your project is of the high quality that you expect. Important factors in the success of your geocell project include:


The geocell material is proven, strong, and will last

  • Require only the highest quality virgin High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) resin
    • Low quality or recycled resin can lead to weak and/or inconsistent seam strength, putting the success of your project at risk.
    • Non-HDPE materials cannot match the nearly 40 years of in-ground experience of HDPE geocells and plastic alloy proprietary blends can mask cheap stiff filler materials.
  • ISO Certification
    • Important, but the manufacturer sets the testing protocol for the certification. Require a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for the material that is shipped to your project. An ISO certification that does not require continuous testing is lacking.

Integral Components

The complete solution includes proper components

  • Non-corrosive, high-strength panel connection method (ATRA® Keys vs. weak staples or zip ties)
  • Anchors that provide secure connections to the geocell (ATRA® stakes vs. J-hooks)
  • Load Transfer Devices for tendon applications that are non-corrosive and offer a secure connection to the cell walls (ATRA® tendon clips vs. washers, knots or pipes)


The geocell material “as shipped” meets proven industry standards

  • Insist upon signed material certs showing the proper testing/certification for your application
  • Unscrupulous providers supply special material for testing and ship lower quality material

Design and Specification Support

You receive proper tools and engineering guidance

  • Require the manufacturer to provide project design assistance for their specific material. Variations of resin and of anchoring and connection methods on the market make it “critical that designs from one manufacturer not be used for alternate material.”
  • Require the manufacturer to provide a complete specification/submittal package

Installation Support

The contractor receives proper installation tools and training

  • Many contractors are not experienced in the installation of geocells. Require pre-construction training and on-site field supervision by a certified manufacturer’s representative to ensure your project is installed correctly and economically.


Your owner and your reputation are protected

  • All of the above factors combine to provide you the level of confidence you expect from the material you specify. Why risk this certainty for the small savings (savings that come from the use of inferior resin, non-engineered components and a lack of project support) that come with allowing inferior, alternate material suppliers?


Bryan Wedin P.E., Chief Design Engineer, Presto Geosystems
P: (920) 738-1342

Creep Not a Factor for Geocell Load Support

Written by Matthew Kuester and Bill Handlos, PE

An accurate understanding of creep resistance is essential to proper material selection when using polymers, and in the case of geocells, this science is being misapplied.  The definition of creep deformation is the tendency of a solid material to move slowly or deform permanently under the influence of mechanical stress.  Creep is something that creates fear and uncertainty with all designers where the possibility of creep factors exist. Yes, creep can occur in almost all materials including plastics, metals and concrete.  In cases such as bridge and building design, it is important to properly understand creep factors and account for creep in engineering calculations.  Yet, in the case of designing with geocells for load support, creep factors have no relevance.

What Causes Creep?

In order for creep to occur there must be; a constant load applied and a sustained deformation.  Creep only applies when there is a sustained load on a material for an extended period.  In a case of repeated on and off loading, this would be governed by fatigue and not by creep.  The second required factor for creep to occur is an ability to undergo sustained deformation of the material.  When a polymer has a load applied, the molecules of the material start to pull apart and stretch which leads to elongation of the material in one direction and typically a thinning of the material’s thickness.

Creep not a factor in Load Support

Now, consider a geocell load support application.  The geocell material is expanded out on site and then an infill material is placed into the cells.  At this point, there is not an applied load or deformation occurring in the material.  Next, the infill material is compacted.  This compaction applies a load to the cells, but this load is removed as soon as the compaction equipment is no longer positioned over the cells.  In addition, as an individual geocell is loaded it exerts a force (as it starts to bulge slightly) but each of the adjacent cells around it push back on it (passive resistance) and prevent any sustained deformation.  Thus, at the time of compaction, there is not a constant load nor is there a sustained deformation.  Thus far, the material is successfully installed without any creep effects.


After the geocell load support system has been installed, the two types of live loads that will affect the system are driving loads and stationary (parked) loads.  When a vehicle drives over a geocell system the load is applied vertically and as the geocell distributes the load laterally there is a temporary load applied to the geocell material.  The load is not a sustained load and therefore would not have a creep effect.  In the case of stationary loads, the load is continually applied to the geocell so it meets the first criteria for creep.  Due to the pressure from all of the adjacent cells surrounding the loaded cell(s) there is no ability for the cells to move enough to have any appreciable sustained deformation.  Therefore, creep cannot effect this scenario.

ASTM D6992 Creep Test Not Applicable

Those who make claims about potential for creep in load support have cited ASTM standard methodology.  ASTM standards provide an accepted means for standardizing testing to be able to directly compare products.  It is important to review the intention and scope of a test to ensure that it is appropriate and will give relevant results.  The Stepped Isothermal Method (SIM) is used to accelerate creep testing.  ASTM D6992 uses the SIM method to predict the expected deformation of geosynthetics over time when used for reinforcement applications.  This method can be effective yet it is not suitable for polyethylene geocell evaluation.  ASTM D6992 5.3 Note 1 states, “Currently, SIM testing has focused mainly on woven and knitted geogrids and woven geotextiles made from polyester, aramid, polyaramid, poly-vinyl alcohol (PVA) and polypropylene yarn and narrow strips.”  Additionally, the note continues with a warning against expanded scope of the test saying, “Additional correlation studies on other materials are needed.”  So while this test has applicability for geogrids and geotextiles, the test is not intended for evaluating geocells and correlations for polyethylene have not yet been established.

Further, D6992 cannot be considered in isolation.  D6992 states, “Results of this method are to be used to augment results of Test Method D5262 and may not be used as the sole basis for determination of long term creep and creep-rupture behavior of geosynthetic material.”  This reinforces the importance of reviewing each test standard to ensure that the product is within the scope of the test and that the results are relevant and complete.  In the case of geocell evaluation, using ASTM D6992 is inappropriate as it has not been properly correlated to provide accurate evaluation of polyethylene and without ASTM D5262, it provides an incomplete overall evaluation of the product.

HDPE’s Long History of Success and Repeatability

HDPE has been used as the industry standard material for geocells since it was invented over 40 years ago.  HDPE is a material that has been extensively researched by independent scientists throughout multiple industries which allows for a complete understanding of its performance capabilities.  Using a virgin HDPE material allows for direct verification of resin consistency through laboratory testing to ensure that each manufacturing location and production lot have consistent material performance.  This laboratory verification also allows for the comparison of the material to independent scientific results and not just manufacturer’s claims.

Inelastic Materials

A few geocell manufacturers are promoting a Fabricated Inelastic Blend (FIB) to cut manufacturing costs and increase material stiffness utilizing recycled and other unpublished polymer materials.  These FIB based materials can vary widely, even for the same product.  Due to the vast number of combinations possible with these FIB materials, they pose two key problems when included as a material choice: validation and consistency.  Due to the unpublished nature of the blending mixture there is no way to validate this material in comparison with published testing.  Any testing of FIB materials must start from the beginning without any experience to rely on for long-term performance.  The second concern with FIB materials is controlling consistency of the blend.  Because each FIB blend is so variable, there is no way for a 3rd party tester to fully determine consistency of the blend between different manufacturing plants or even between different production lots.  This inability to determine consistency creates uncertainty because there is no way to determine if there has been improper blending or changes to material blend.

Manufacturers using FIB materials promote the advantages of increased material stiffness.  This stiffness is often a function of multiple generations of recycling.  It is important to review the differences between elastic and inelastic materials and how they affect geocell performance.  An elastic material is able to undergo a deformation (strain) and then spring back to its original state without permanent (plastic) deformation.  Conversely, an inelastic material ends in catastrophic (complete) failure.  Many of engineering’s worst failures have come due to catastrophic failures of inelastic materials that were loaded in unexpected ways.  This absolute nature of inelastic failure puts projects at great risk because it does not give indication prior to collapse.  Conversely, with elastic materials as material limits are reached the material will stretch and yield prior to complete material failure.

True HDPE Performance vs FIB Results

FIB materials bring a new uncertainty to the geocell market.  These materials are of unverifiable composition so connecting material to performance is nearly impossible.  Ultimately, these FIB materials beg your trust in their performance touting their unnecessary creep resistance.  They hide the truth that creep resistance comes at a cost – inelastic material that can fail catastrophically.

After 40 years, HDPE continues to be the industry standard material for geocells.  Presto Geosystems’ proudly pioneered the use of HDPE material in its Geoweb products due to the well-understood performance and reliability of that material.

In the 40 years Geoweb has been used for load support projects all around the world, there has never been a failure due to creep effects.  While this consistency of performance may sound very impressive, it should not be surprising because creep forces simply do not matter in these applications.

The day-after disappointment of substitute materials.

by: William G.  Handlos, P.  E.

Most everybody can relate a story of disappointment at Christmas time as a child. You’ve asked Santa for a specific toy or boot or piece of sporting equipment and you visualize what it will be like to open that gift. Then the moment comes and you open up the package and feel the initial excitement as you realize you’re actually going to get what you asked for.

Then as the wrapping paper is pulled away from the box… you get a sinking feeling. How could this happen? Your list was clear. You supplied details… Specifications… Related exactly what you wanted. But this wasn’t the real thing.

star wart Image-1

When poor substitutes arrive at a job site, the disappointment can be just as real. But, the stakes are higher. Reputations are at stake and sometimes property damage or public safety can be compromised when poor look-alike products are allowed on the job.

This morning, with the Yuletide just days away, I witnessed the collision of Christmas with the disappointment of a poor substitute product collide in an email string in which I was included. First, overnight I received along with hundreds of other recipients the following email from a Chinese vendor (name partially redacted).

Dear All ,

Here Christmas is coming, I wish you all guys a wonderful Christmas and New Year holidays May the New Year new hope and new promises. Wish you, your family and everyone at your side happy Sparkling New Year of May your New Year be filled with special moment, warmth, peace and happiness 

Also thank you for your support in the past year to xxxxxdong Ninxxx Xinxing Chemical Co.,ltd. ….

Lets work together to make 2017 more business and more happiness.

Cheers !

By all outward appearances, a nice holiday message with the typical Chinese grammar and spelling problems… But it’s the holidays and it’s the thought that counts. Or is it?

A couple hours later, early in the morning this reply went out to everybody on the initial email recipient list.

Thank you Amily:

But when will you be paying back the $25000 that you misled us into buying your inferior product that breaks in use, and now you and your directors refuse to correspond with this company.

You have caused great harm to the good name of Chinese companies 

 The ghost of Christmas disappointments past had struck once again! I am sure that this UK company had made clear their specifications for the product they expected to open up when it arrived at the site. But the problem with specifications is that they mean nothing without reputation and experience.

Here’s hoping that you and yours get what you want and what you deserve for this holiday and for the coming year!

The Case for Millennials in Your Organization

Written by William G Handlos, P.E.

We have become accustomed to reading about the challenges in hiring, satisfying and integrating millennials into your organization.  First, it needs to be said that all twentysomethings are not alike.  Still, there are some common characteristics that seem to show up in most young employees… and from what I see it’s pretty good.

They are genuine.

They definitely are WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get).  Because their lives have been lived in a terrarium called the Internet, where everything they do is exposed to friends and family, there is seldom any pretense and rarely any shame about who they are, what they believe in, or what they think of us.  We could do a lot worse in the workplace than to have a group of people who value honesty and decency in their dealings with customers.

Millenials are genuine

They are full of optimism.

Youthful idealism is not new and I am happy to say that the latest generation exhibits this characteristic.  Promotion, sales and service works best when the messenger is happy and upbeat.

They think outside the box.

We’ve heard plenty about the downside of the generation that was told (and believes) that they can accomplish anything.  But, the upside to their buy-in of invisibility is that they’re not afraid to find alternative solutions and their eagerness to ascend the corporate ladder assures that they’re not shy in sharing those ideas.  Previous generations often feel that it’s not their place to make suggestions.  Not so with the Millennial.

Think outside the box

They are well-educated.

Some say this generation is overeducated and overleveraged in debt for that education.  Instead, might I suggest that they are flush with preparation and fiscally motivated to do something with their diploma?  Dig a little deeper and you’ll find a strong liberal arts basis that offers them the tools to relate to people of different backgrounds and cultures with ease.

They are flexible.

It is easy to find managers who lament the need to be flexible as a prerequisite to holding the most recent entrants to the workforce.  The other side of that coin is that the employee who demands flexibility also is flexible when it comes to staying on to see a project through late into the evening, working outside of their job description, and bending with the needs of their employer.

They are multitaskers.

It is plain to see why they can juggle so many tasks simultaneously.  They have grown up in a media rich environment, with distractions abbondanza.  They think nothing of the overwhelming communications that are a reality in the workplace today.

They are social.

Social media is more than just a buzzword to them.  A generation that gripped the social media also grows up social.  While there are some idiosyncrasies to their social skill set, they know how to build connections and are so accomplished in setting up networks that they don’t even realize that they are doing it.

Millenials are social

They are team oriented.

They don’t just respond well to collaboration, they demand it.  Managed properly, this generation can integrate with the generations that came before them to create a well-rounded team.

It is not possible to maintain a business team of any size without hiring millennials and why would you want to exclude a group so rife with talent?  Moreover, the same generation is moving into positions of purchasing and decision-making.  You might want to start thinking about how you go to market and what you can do to reach them.




Use Product Differentiation for Good, Not for Evil

Written by William G Handlos, P.E.

Product differentiation is often thought of as a way to create a competitive advantage.  Typically, a company decides to focus and promote upon a certain attribute(s) of a product making this attribute a key feature of their value proposition statement.

For example, a major automobile company might focus and promote a rear lift gate automatic opener actuated by the movement of the driver’s foot under the rear bumper.  This inexpensive addition to an SUV’s feature set may be the difference in a buying decision between competing automobile brands, particularly in a market with fierce competition and similar option sets.  In this case, the manufacturer has created a product differentiator that truly adds benefit to the customer.

Product Differentiation is important during the buying cycle

Presto Geosystems® developed the original geocell in the late 1970s and GEOWEB® Geocell product enhancements have been developed every few years, always with the intent of offering benefits to their customers with each refinement.

For manufacturers who sell to contractors who bid on projects that are based upon engineered plans and specifications, the waters can be murkier.  Is product differentiation created for the benefit of the customer or is differentiation simply crafted to create a unique set of specification characteristics for which other competing manufacturers cannot deliver?

Not all product differentiation poses consumer benefits

Presto developed the textured strip, perforated wall, use of tendons for slope applications, stacked Earth wall retention systems, the ATRA® Stake Clip used over rebar, the ATRA® GFRP Stake, the ATRA® Driver system for installing stakes quickly, the ATRA® Tendon Clip, and the ATRA® Key for quick, stronger geocell connections.  Each of these enhancements added to the value proposition and improved the product strength, installation speed, durability or product performance to the customer.  These are all examples of product differentiation used for the good of the project and the customer.

This history of product differentiation puts pressure on fast follower geocell providers and those manufacturers typically have only one arrow in their quiver, and that is price.  Clearly, supplying only geocell, without the benefit of features or accessories, is less expensive… but provides an incomplete solution and delivers no differentiation.

Enter stage right the appearance of artificial differentiation.  Geocell has been manufactured in 3, 4, 6, 8 and 12 inch depths and in 3 standard cell sizes for over 30 years by a multitude of manufacturers.  These standards benefit the industry because specifications built on these standards allow competitive bids by multiple manufacturers.  Faced with mounting market share loss, a few manufacturers have turned to creating differentiation that brings no value to the customer.

Sometimes the road less traveled is not a good thing

An example of this is the recent offering of nonstandard depth geocell.  From a design perspective, there is very little to be gained by this offering.  This effort is solely driven by the desire to create a specification for a product that is not offered by other companies and for which there would be no bidding competition.  Differentiation?  Yes.  Value to the customer?  Negligible.

Distinction Without a Difference

When a manufacturer offers a differentiation without substantiated benefit, it is a merely a differentiation tactic to gain advantage – a tactic that is not only potentially harmful to the customers’ project, but also the industry.

Specifying engineers would be best served by avoiding meaningless distinctions and better served by specifying products  that deliver differentiation that is intended to benefit the customer and the project.