What started in 1987 by Howard & Wendy Huffman in Lincoln as a specialized engineering firm seeking an industrial niche, has expanded into a multi-state engineering and controlled services business with 42 employees and a record that has led to national exposure in pharmaceuticals and life sciences, food and beverages, water and wastewater and the electrical and natural gas industries.

“What we do is get results, build relationships, on time and within budget,” said President and co-owner Howard Huffman.

His wife of 41 years, Wendy — CEO/CFO/co-owner — said an important element in the firm’s continued success has been “the quality of our documentation,” which is done to meet the changing standards and regulations of agencies ranging from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the United States Department of Agriculture and the North American Electric Reliability Corp. —which regulates the power grid.

As control systems engineers, Huffman Engineering utilizes manufacturing equipment and robotics hardware and combines them with software applications to allow processes to be automated, run smoothly and be in compliance with regulations. With a considerable investment in engineering expertise and the utilization of different software platforms, data is sent to remote sites in order to allow plant managers and engineers to monitor their work systems to ensure everything is running smoothly.

Essentially, the Huffmans market their company as the provider of the brains behind most of their customers major utility and production systems.

Howard Huffman said the family-owned start-to-finish engineering firm stays with a project from conception and first conversation with the customer on through its final installation and handover of detailed documentation.

Huffman Engineering is headquartered in a 19,000-square-foot building at 5301 N. 57th St. Space at that structure is almost fully utilized. In 2016, a five-employee branch was opened in Englewood, Colorado.

Complex Systems

Wendy Huffman noted that what Huffman Engineering does is extraordinarily complex — and many Nebraskans might not realize what control systems integrators do. The result, however, is that by having systems talk to one another and execute at a high level, the public has to worry less about the safety of their food or medicine or the quality of the water they are drinking and cleaning with.

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“We work on a lot of high-profile and incredibly complex projects,” she
said, noting that Lincoln has surpassed Ireland as the best-to-practice location for
global pharmaceutical companies.

Engineering/IT Manager Keith Mandachit led the initiative to plan and
develop Huffman Engineering’s state-of-the-art testing and training facility.
“In addition to the latest technology, the training room is important in that
we use it to explain the legacy equipment, which we still support,” he said.

That investment has been important as Huffman Engineering has
expanded to include more projects across all industries, said Pharmaceuticals
Industry Manager Toby Varner. He has served as account manager for Novartis
Consumer Health, a Huffman client since 1998.

“We are really the brains behind most of our customers major utility and
production systems,” he said.

Varner has completed training across multiple platforms including
AOL, and Faceplates, IQ, OQ and PQ Validation, and Industrial Ethernet
Connectivity, among others.

Pharma and Life Science

Howard Huffman cited the vaccine and medication development,
manufacturing and packaging for the pharmaceutical and life sciences as a robust
portion of the firm’s business. Years ago, Huffman Engineering adapted to
specializing in an innovative trend in the pharma world and has been solidifying
its presence ever since.

“We’ve automated the process of making animal vaccines and human
everyday medicines,” he said.

Other clusters of concentration include in the food industry with processes
involving food mixing, refrigeration, production, and packaging; water and
wastewater with water filtration, sewage control, monitoring and flood control,
lift stations that reroute water supplies; work for electrical and natural gas utilities
that involve keeping water and wastewater supplies clean and healthy filtering of
waste; and electrical and natural gas utilities, which involve monitoring energy
usage, renewable energy and energy storage, liquification, delivery odorous
injection metering and monitoring.

Howard Huffman said the goal is to help produce and deliver natural gas
(used to run a wide range of vehicles) and electrical utilities for electrical power.

Mandachit said when the 2019 flood hit eastern Nebraska and public sector
systems were down for several months, Huffman Engineering assisted the city of
Omaha with the work of its sewerage facilities.

McCook native Bernie Lyons, as Huffman Engineering’s shop manager, is
involved in projects that range from small one-technician equipment testing and
maintenance to much larger projects such as an expansion of a pharmaceutical firm
that will take as many as two years to complete, with the setup of new equipment.

“We design control systems and document their performance,” Lyons
said. “Collaboration between engineers and technicians is vital.”

Wendy Huffman said teams of multiple professionals are involved in the
projects, sometimes involving four, five, six or more persons.

“The quality of our documentation is the most important thing,” she said.

Continued Training

“Our largest investment is in our people, their training and taking the
time for them to continue to learn as they often will need to attain different
professional certifications,” Wendy Huffman said.

And the attention to employee development has paid off in a big way.
Huffman Engineering has been named 2022 System Integrator of the Year, a
global award in the small business category, by Control Engineering and Plant
Engineering, industry journals published by CFE Media and Technology.

Broad categories for the nomination packet and selection committee
included business skill, technical competency and customer satisfaction.

Huffman Engineering is the only Nebraska firm to win the System
Integrator of the Year award in its 18-year history.

Huffman Engineering is featured on the cover of the December issue of
Global System Integrator Report.

Howard Huffman credits his wife, who has been involved in the daily
operation of the family business since its creation, with much of its success.
“I’ve listened to her and the business continues to change from 10 to 20
years ago,” he said. “We’ve also listened to the customers to determine where
we’re going.”

He said that while Huffman Engineering has from 80 to 90 competitors
nationally, the number of their employees and the higher levels of their industry
certification differentiates the Nebraska-based company in a big way.

“Often we’re the only one in Nebraska with as many specialized
certifications,” he said.