Lincoln’s Huffman Engineering is further carving out an edge, as the 25-year-old engineering design and build company focuses on its highly specialized projects, which include work for industrial, utilities and municipal clients, according to President and Founder Howard Huffman.

Its control system integration may include the likes of custom designed and built electrical control panels, operator interface programming and instrumentation.

The firm, headquarted at 5301 N. 57th St., resides on the short list of engineering design and build companies in the region to be recommended by global industrial automation control and information solutions provider Rockwell Automation.

Huffman said the process, which comes courtesy of successful audits exploring elements like a firm’s experience, training, performance and work type, works like this: A company approaches Rockwell, requesting to work with a local firm. Rockwell names those firms whose favorable audits resulted in their being named “Recognized System Integrator.”

“We are also the only recognized process integrator in the state,” Huffman said, noting the former is a “baseline designation,” with the latter requiring the fulfillment of additional steps to achieve such status.

Huffman, who is joined in the business by his wife, CFO Wendy Huffman, also noted that it undertakes some commercial work. A lengthy list of customers on its site runs the gamut of life sciences and waste, wastewater and power organizations, to food and beverage, material handling and automotive enterprises.

Huffman stressed that the Rockwell system integrator programming auditing is a retooled version of an earlier authorization program offered by the organization.

He said such changes have proven to be good, as some firms have ventured into different areas, resulting in the “right people getting on the right bus,” he said.

The aforementioned “process” speaks to it specialization, in that the terminology refers to any liquids or gas that flow through a pipe, Huffman said, as opposed to a machine application – like paper running through a printer.

Its automation solutions, as an example, have been applied to large companies’ flour mill operations.

“We work with customers to make them more efficient,” Huffman said, noting, from there, the organizations or communities find value in what the team has to offer.

Huffman said his company is the only process integrator in Nebraska, and one of three in the Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota region. In the face of a turbulent economy that makes it difficult to achieve consistent growth, its reach has also proven beneficial. Huffman said its solutions have been shipped overseas to copper mines in South America, as well as other regions, including Europe and Asia.

Huffman also credits its growth in trying economic times to the relationship it has fostered with the Control Systems Integrators Association, of which it is also certified.

Huffman indicated that engineers are not “born business people.”

CSIA helps to sharpen business acumen; the nonprofit notes its key mission is to provide member companies with methods and opportunities to “help them improve the operations of their business.”

And, certainly, Huffman Engineering hit the ground running. According to company information, the business started out of a 600-square-foot space and, a year later, it expanded to a 2,500-square-foot facility.

It has outgrown its existing space 10 times, working on not only more projects but increasingly complex projects with each expansion.

Turning from the brick and mortar to the people side, the company also has a co-op program, which administrator Abigail Powers said works similarly to an internship. Recently, a student from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology started with the program, and will remain through August.

She said co-ops of the past have resulted in full-time job opportunities.

Reprinted with permission from the publisher of MBJ Inc. from the February 17, 2012 issue of the Midlands Business Journal.