Some people look at a problem and don’t understand what is going on; why a machine is not working as it is supposed to, not providing the results they expect or wish it could be improved. Baffled or frustrated, they walk away and pick up the phone, seeking help.
Then there’s Richard Heaps, Technical Sales Rep at Anderson Vreeland Canada and possessor of trouble-shooting, problem-solving and solution-finding DNA. He is known for developing new approaches to a problem and for looking at existing products and asking, “what if we did it this way instead?” His mind works in the realms of mechanical and electrical machinery, the physics of motion, and of talking with people to find ways of improving the devices before him while solving the challenges the devices may present to people using them.
“I know that people without electrical or mechanical backgrounds can be intimidated by many of the machines we use in flexographic printing. It looks like a straightforward process but there’s a lot going on that isn’t readily apparent.”
Sometimes this can be relatively logical things that come to light when talking with business owners and press operators. For instance, recognizing that some operators would benefit from an automated mechanism for lifting the top of an Orbital-X plate processor, Richard designed one for the Anderson & Vreeland-built machine that was soon offered as an option on the processor.
Other needs can be more involved and require in-depth knowledge of several inter-related processes. To find answers he methodically analyzes problems, eliminates elements that would not be part of the challenge and narrows down the possibilities to find a solution. It can be a process of elimination, plus a mix of knowledge, persistence, and hard work. For example, one customer had an intermittent electrical fault that seemed impossible to trace. Based on the way a machine was performing, Richard suspected a poor connection. The culprit came to light after a day’s work inside a cabinet stuffed with wire bundles. Sure enough, the problem was a deeply-buried connection that was shorting out and was poised to be a source for an electrical fire.
Two decades at a large, wide-web flexographic printer gave Richard plenty of hands-on experience that was augmented with courses in performance training, Lean Six Sigma and more. The life-long learner continually combines everything he learns with the accumulated insights and practical know-how he had gathered over the years.
“One way or another, it all applies today,” he says. “Customers come to me with a challenge. They say ‘I want to do this. Can you help?’” Usually the answer is ‘yes’.”
Don’t assume for a minute that Richard is just about technology. One of his prime assets is an innate ability to relate with people, an attribute that makes him an asset to customers across Canada. In one instance, a customer was installing a new system but had not gotten buy-in of the entire staff, leaving a couple still resistant to the new changes. Frustrated, the business owner was not sure what to do next. Richard told him not to worry about it, and spent some time working with the reluctant employees. Before long—just a couple jobs later—the resistant pair had realized the new solution was a wise move and that learning new things was good all around. It was another challenge solved, by Richard Heaps.
“My years in this industry give me a perspective on the people, the technologies and the processes,” he notes. “There is always a way to do something just a little bit better. Maybe it’s electrical or mechanical. Maybe it’s helping people adapt to a new set of processes. All of us only get better by moving forward. And finding that ‘better,’ whatever it is, is the fun part.”
You can reach out to Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org.