You could say that Richard Alves’ career path to Sentry Equipment started with go-karts and laundry.
While studying for his degree in electrical engineering technology from Purdue University in Indianaollaborated with team members to plan and construct an electric go-kart, and helped design and install the mechanical and electrical systems.
Despite this love for this hands-on approach to engineering, after college his career started as an electronic quality project manager. He researched and reviewed quality data to develop and implement product improvements. But he really enjoyed collaborating with software integrators. This inspired him to participate in a Hackathon, an event that brings together computer programmers and software developers to collaborate intensely on new software projects.
Richard’s Hackathon focused on creating smart technology for laundry. His team developed an Android program that interacted with a Bluetooth dongle to remotely update settings on a washer and dryer. This interactive experience made him realize that he was missing the hands-on approach to developing new products and solutions.
And in 2016, that passion brought him to Sentry Equipment.
“When Sentry Equipment recruited me to join the company, the position they had for me felt much more aligned with my interests,” says Richard.
As a design engineer, Richard feels he can “flex his electrical engineering muscles” in software programing and electro-mechanical machine applications to develop hardware, software, IT, firmware and process improvements.
“I love the large breadth of touches, from project management, process improvements, testing, and more,” says Richard. “When I was at a larger company, I felt I had to focus on specific electrical engineering applications. But at Sentry, I get to work on different things every day.”
Three things he’d take on a deserted island: “A hatchet, a large pot, and my girlfriend and dogs.”
What does he do when he’s not working? “I love to be active and outdoors as much as possible, so I kickbox, mountain bike and snowboard. I go camping and take motorcycle trips. I also love to cook.”
If you could be or do anything else, what would it be? “Someday I’d love to build a ‘green’ cabin in the woods – a mostly off-the-grid solution that can plug into the internet with modern features, but be self-reliant for utilities”
Innovation for a superior customer experience
His role includes supporting manufacturing initiatives, such as when a rejected electronics component requires fixing. He’ll monitor data from the system, as well as known errors, to identify a pattern of behavior and kick off a design cycle to improve that component.
One of his favorite challenges is deciding how to develop value-added features on new products that truly solve a need in the market. Customer visits help him in this goal, as he can directly hear what customers need to apply those requirements to product development.
“We need to ask why a feature is needed, what do our customers want and need it to do, and how will it benefit current and future customers,” he explains.
Richard often works with customers to identify how a product is performing in the field to garner feedback that can drive improvements in function, information output and displays. He also works on software and hardware designs to ensure electronics work with both existing and new hardware or software.
“We focus on what is sampled, how you should sample and add technical expertise to support the customer. The goal is to fully integrate the systems they need for a beneficial end result,” he says. “We go beyond a commodity to become a true partner for our customers.”
Part of this focus on partnership means driving improvements within Sentry Equipment itself. “We’re implementing the transfer of technical knowledge and documenting processes to avoid tribal knowledge and foster interdepartmental communication,” says Richard.
His advice to new engineers is to “Be flexible, ready learn, and don’t be afraid to fail. You probably won’t get it right the first time, but how you respond when you don’t get it right is important. Be willing to keep improving.”
His biggest motivator is knowing that every day at Sentry Equipment will bring unique problems that need unique solutions. That includes developing brand new solutions while tweaking existing solutions, which requires problem solving skills, continuous improvement and positively impacting the customer.
“I love developing the right features for the betterment of the customer,” he says. “Development and problem solving is exciting – and as long as I get to continue to do that, I’ll be happy.”
He feels Sentry Equipment is the right fit not only for him, but also for the customers he works to serve every day. “Sentry Equipment is built to be a partner with our customer and all of our employees are committed to our partner’s success,” he says.
Employee-Owner Profiles is a regular feature that highlights members of our team. As an employee-owned company, Sentry Equipment believes that employee ownership makes a difference. Our employee-owners are dedicated to hard work, positive results and continual improvement and innovation to provide our customers the highest quality products and services.