Interview with a New Vice President

Bruce Pitts, CPMP, CSBA, LEED AP, was recently promoted to Vice President of Commissioning and Industrial Systems. With over 40 years in the industry and with Wood Harbinger, Bruce has a comprehensive leadership perspective and exceptional breadth of technical expertise. Bruce has led Wood Harbinger’s successful commissioning practice since its inception in the early 1990s.

Associate Principal Jeff Yirak recently sat down with Bruce to discuss how things have been going in his first few weeks in his new role, leading both commissioning and industrial systems engineering. Here’s what Bruce had to say:

Commissioning and industrial systems design seem like different things. What makes you qualified to lead both groups?

There’s actually a lot of similarity in how Wood Harbinger approaches commissioning services and industrial systems design. Both benefit when project stakeholders get involved early to set and confirm goals and expectations. For commissioning, early involvement is best because it gives the commissioning authority an opportunity to help guide the Owner’s requirements, provide design reviews, and be informed about a project before construction is underway. The commissioning program provides more value when started early, rather than being treated as just a functional testing exercise during construction.

Industrial systems are at the very heart of facility operations. They are the campus utilities generation and distribution systems – generators, boilers, chillers, fuel storage and piping, and the like. Their design and functionality affects everything else so it’s imperative that these projects be handled with a holistic approach that takes the bigger picture of the whole facility or campus into account. That’s where overlap with our commissioning methodologies can be effective.

central utility plant industrial systems

Industrial systems are the heavy lifters – generators, boilers, chillers, distribution piping, etc.

Commissioning, in its best practice (which is what I’ve promoted here at Wood Harbinger), is all about looking at the whole project process, seeing how the pieces best fit together, and ensuring the Owner gets the best outcomes, in design, construction, and in operations. Our Industrial Systems group already does a great job in designing from this perspective, and I can bring this approach deeper into all our work.

How did your first week as a Vice President go?

Unfortunately, I was sick at the time (asthma). Just before my promotion, I was in St. Louis for the NCBC 2015 conference. I came home and got sick (flying isn’t healthy). That added to the stress of taking on a new role. It wasn’t fun.

Have things gotten better?

Yes. The second week, I started meeting with the key staff in our Industrial Systems group and talking about their project assignments. I wanted to get a feel for each of them on a more personal level so I could understand their passions and drivers. Getting to know my staff on a personal basis helps me understand their fit in their project assignments.

I also asked them where they see themselves in five years (let’s call it “2020 vision”). Growth is important, and I wanted to them to think about how this change is going to affect them and how I can help them in their future career growth.

So, what’s your 2020 vision?

I’m excited to build new relationships with clients and with our internal groups at Wood Harbinger. Over the past year, the firm has been looking critically at how a project moves through our office and identifying how each individual role in the firm contributes to the process. We have taken the beneficial collaboration methodology of Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and internalized it into our own internal team relationships and processes.

From this perspective, I’m in the process of assessing the Industrial Systems Group staff strengths and weaknesses to refine our team’s resources. We can then work together to strengthen the strategic business plan for the group, which will be implemented over the next year. The goal is to more efficiently and more effectively utilize the combined resources, passion, and expertise of our multidiscipline firm.

We want to fully integrate our mechanical, industrial, and electrical engineering groups with each other and with our commissioning group to better meet our common goals: making facilities more efficient and effective for owners, operators, and users, and exceeding our clients’ expectations.

I feel there are great opportunities in the markets we serve to build new, more energy-efficient facilities that can utilize sustainable strategies like we did for the Central Power Station at the University of Oregon. Options like co-generation systems can take large energy users off the grid and maximize the utilities efficiency.

I do also want to retire someday.

Final thoughts?

I feel like I’ve successfully transitioned into this new role and we’re moving into the future. Changes like this give us all a chance to find new opportunities for success. My perspective will provide a different level of forward-thinking for my teams.

I’m working closely with the leaders in both groups, particularly the Industrial Systems Associate Principal, Mohammed Haq, and Commissioning Associate Principal Jeff Yirak (but you already knew that, didn’t you Jeff?) to reach out to clients and open new doors that haven’t been pursued in the recent past. This is an exciting time to build new relationships, and I’m really looking forward to it.


Follow Bruce and Jeff on Twitter @BPitts_WH and @JYirak_WH

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