The office at Applied Sciences Group is both simple and complex.
Few partitions fill the space in part of Building 6 on the Calspan campus along Genesee Street in Cheektowaga. An organizational project chart with dozens of potential software design scenarios sits above two white boards in the conference room, which also contains a projector and teleconferencing system that helps this 42-person company serve clients across the country.
Paul Buckley is the maestro here. The 57-year-old Elma resident – who holds degrees in biochemical and systems engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy – became president of ASG in 1996, three years after the company was founded.
“Back then, mainly we were doing software development for the manufacturing industry; writing the software that controls the machines that make the products,” he says. “Praxair was a big client, Emerson Controls up on Grand Island. Parker International and many that have long since closed their doors in this area. We recognized with the downturn in manufacturing that we had to diversify or die.”
That diversification included a move into medicine and pharmaceuticals, as well as automotive, food and beverage, military, municipal, energy, non-automotive industrial, retail and commercial.
“Today, we work in a dozen different markets,” Buckley says. “We were marginally impacted by the recession because as some markets dried up, others expanded, and we were able to take advantage of that.”
How did the company morph into the health fields?
Knowledge of that field plus the emergence of the (University at Buffalo) Center of Excellence were the two things that allowed us to enter into that industry. So my goal when the COE and Hauptman and Roswell expanded into the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus was to get to know who those players were. That in turn allowed me to meet others, especially start-ups, that needed support in software development.
What sort of diverse background do you have among the staff?
We have one other person who’s dual degreed in biology and computer science. We have a number of people who come out of other industries, like mechanical engineering, or worked for other companies. The fact we were getting involved in multiple markets also made it important that the types of people we were going to hire had multiple disciplines and had to be able to juggle multiple projects. It turned out that one of the most telling questions we asked during the interview process was, ‘How many hobbies to you have?’ Because if they have a lot of diverse hobbies, then their career path into this company will provide them with the same lifestyle they already enjoy.
Can you talk about software you’ve created for an often-used medical device?
One of our most visible local projects was the smart pill, an ingestible, computerized capsule that records data within the digestive system. The data is radioed to a receiver, which is then stored and analyzed on a PC. That particular one measured pressure, temperature and pH and the output had to be on a computer where a clinician or doctor could interpret it and tell you if you had irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease or something else.
We probably developed two-thirds to three-quarters of the software. There was software inside the capsule, inside the receiver and inside the PC.
The floor space in here is open and you call your employees team members. Why?
We work together. No one here knows everything, but collectively, we know an awful lot. In fact, it sort of goes with the open office concept. There are no partitions here. We want staff to overhear each other’s conversations because, more often than you would think, someone else in the room says, ‘Oh, I did that when I worked for Northrop Grumman, here’s how I solved that problem.’ … So I don’t at all mind water cooler conversations.
It sounds like your team is very involved in fitness.
In my circles, wellness is a daily topic. Every time I go out and meet with people, we end up talking about health and exercise. That has influenced our own staff to go out and do stuff, too, to either get in shape or stay in shape.
We also have two marathon runners. … We have a number of runners, a semiprofessional cyclist who coaches cycling, we have a kung fu artist, we have a couple weight-lifters, a member of the West Side Rowing Club and one guy who weighed 370 pounds a couple years ago and is down to 250 because of moderate exercise and diet.
Because all of us sit in our chairs virtually the entire day, we provide reminders to staff and encourage them to get involved in a fitness program one way or another, and we even encourage them to do that in the middle of the day. A bunch of us go down to the (Calspan) fitness center Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m. When you think about it, 10 a.m. is a pretty weird time to go down to go work out, but they see the boss doing it so they know they can go down and do it, as well. I encourage wellness and fitness because in the long run, a healthy employee is a happy employee.
On the Web: Read more about how ASG projects get done at blogs.buffalonews.com/refresh