'It's about creating value and sharing some wisdom.'
GROWING SOMETHING: EPAC Software Technologies CEO Paul Oberg co-founded the company with Robert Lane in 1999. Last year, the company was awarded the Product of the Year award by trade publication Plant Engineering.
Business leaders often wear several hats and Paul Oberg, president and CEO of EPAC Software Technologies, is no exception.
Part innovator, part designer, part team leader, he’s also, at times, a traveling salesman.
“I don’t travel to every one of our clients,” said Oberg, recently speaking from Colorado, where he was on a client-driven business trip. “But when I do have the opportunity, it’s about creating value and sharing some wisdom and experience. I find they are usually thrilled because it shows that we care.”
That’s how Oberg, alongside business partner Robert Lane, built what started as an idea developed with a former co-worker into a two-business enterprise that serves clients in all 50 states and about a dozen countries and boasts a 95 percent retention rate.
A Rhode Island native who’s lived in the state most of his life, Oberg entered the field of manufacturing consulting after earning a bachelor’s degree in engineering at Northeastern University in Boston and an MBA at Providence College.
Working at KPMG, the Boston-based accounting firm that had spun into consulting, he met Lane and the two teamed to form Copley Consulting, their first joint venture, in 1989, focusing on manufacturing-consulting services.
“We felt we could service the market better and provide a better value to the client base at that point,” said Oberg. “We started to think about where we might be best suited [to set up shop] and it was just more affordable in the Rhode Island area.”
Doors were opened in East Greenwich, where they still work form today.
Copley, which now has approximately 20 employees, is run mostly by Lane.
Oberg focuses his attention on EPAC Software Technologies Inc., the duo’s second business that was launched in 1999.
A few years into things, Oberg and Lane had built a reputation that was impressive enough to garner the attention of Gillette Co.
The firm needed consultation on maintenance-management software.
“We found it was really difficult to find software that was really user-friendly and dealt with the needs of the user, and we [thought] it looked like an opportunity,” said Oberg. Then they decided to do it themselves, sort of.
Rather than design and build the software from scratch, they acquired the source code and tweaked it to match their idea.
That’s how EPAC was born.
They began with four employees. Today there are 15.
“There’s been ups and downs both on the Copley side and the EPAC side,” said Oberg. “What happened was … in 2001 we started a real challenging time in the economy, particularly in the manufacturing sector. But we stuck it out … and we’ve been able to grow since that point on both business ends.”
It’s EPAC that’s garnering extra attention right now, however.
The company in late March was awarded the 2011 Product of the Year Award for top overall product by Plant Engineering, a trade publication for plant managers and maintenance professionals.
The award was given for EPAC’s Maintenance Performance Index, a new feature of the company’s EAM/CMMS software that assists in grading a company’s maintenance performance according to workforce productivity, materials management and financial performance.
The software is used in several industries, including manufacturing, government, health care and hospitality.
Bob Vavra, content manager at Plant Engineering, said EPAC’s software was selected by a group of “qualified … subscribers. They are the most qualified people you can find to understand how new products reduce energy costs, ensure safety and improve productivity on the manufacturing plant floor.”
Oberg regards EPAC’s success as the result of 20 years of trying to bring service, product and value to his clients, who include the Chicago White Sox/U.S. Cellular Stadium, Dallas Mavericks/American Airlines Center, Kohler Co., Lexmark and the U.S. Department of Defense.
He still travels – some 40 weeks a year when speaking engagements at industry conferences are added in – but also shares the work travel with his employees.
“I always use the analogy that a surgeon has to operate on someone first, but you don’t want to be that first patient,” Oberg said. “The people we put in front of our customers are people who are experienced and there’s a comfort that they’ve done this before.
“When you’re in the consulting business, there’s a credibility issue, an experience factor,” he continued. “You want to make sure that the people you are advising [are getting] good advice.” •