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Archive for June, 2010

The Future of Welding & Gases

Monday, June 28th, 2010

June 2010 Welding and Gases Technology I asked four IT professionals about the future of technology in the gases and welding industry. Here’s what they had to say:

Michael Chelgren, American Welding & Gas: “There is an opportunity for mobile applications to facilitate inventory management on our trucks. Our drivers would be able to print out invoices for the customers right from the truck. Orders and deliveries could be processed on a handheld device and transmitted back to our data center and go into the system without requiring any human intervention.”

Rodney Huber, Huber Supply Company: “E-commerce is growing, but it will never replace face-to-face sales, especially in our area. Even with our online orders, customers call us to make sure they’re buying the right part. They rely on us for advice. When it comes to welding equipment, customers want to have a salesman call them and have that personal interaction. Although e-commerce will never replace personalized sales, I think it will complement it and help us reach out to new markets.”

Allison Earlbeck, Earlbeck Gases & Technologies: “From an operational perspective, file sharing could help improve our efficiency. We have the capability now with our network, but we don’t have an organized system in place. Training our staff on the system would help things run smoothly. When you have 40 or 50 employees in the same pool, it can be a big problem if something is saved in the wrong place or is accidentally moved or edited.”

Chris Bennear, Dale Oxygen: “We can do a lot more with automation and with cylinder tracking. Using RFID and microchips can help us track our cylinders when customers don’t know where the cylinders are. We can save money and preserve good customer relationships by avoiding disagreements over lost cylinders.”

To learn more from these and other young IT professionals, see their complete profiles in the June issue of GAWDA Edge.

How To Take Your Gas & Welding Supplies Online

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

These days, a company website is an important part of marketing for a gases and welding distributor. How does your company’s website look? Where are you in the search engine rankings? Maybe it’s time for a face-lift.

For the June issue of GAWDA Edge, I had some great conversations with young IT professionals in the gases and welding industry about their companies’ Web ventures. Allison Earlbeck, corporate development and Earlbeck Gases & Technologies, is currently planning the design for an overhaul of the company’s website. Rodney Huber, production manager and Internet sales at Huber Supply Company, took on the challenge of creating an e-commerce site for Huber Supply.

Huber Supply's WeldingOutfitter.comBeginning in November 2009, Huber has sold to customers in 32 different states. One customer even purchased welding supplies to send to our troops overseas. (Talk about global reach!)

Here are some of the tips they shared for planning a website.

Embrace the Competition
When Huber set out to create a website, one of the best resources he found was the competition. “I talked to the owner of a welding company that has a successful e-commerce site,” Huber says. “He steered me in the right direction and gave me some pointers. He was happy to help me.” Earlbeck also uses the competition for inspiration. “I look at other companies’ websites to see what works and what doesn’t,” she says. “It’s good to find out what other people in the industry are doing.” As Earlbeck draws up plans for the company’s new site, she incorporates those features that are most effective.

What’s in a Name?
When planning a website, an important aspect to consider is a website name/URL. When it came to the company’s e-commerce site, Huber was concerned that the name Huber Supply might not be easily associated with gases and welding supplies. Instead, he chose the name WeldingOutfitter.com as a more search engine-friendly option. To customers, the website’s purpose is self-evident, attracting a wider audience. Earlbeck Gases & Technologies also has an e-commerce site, called Hypermax.org. They chose the name to reflect the fact that they carry Hypertherm products.

Instant Gratification
One of the biggest challenges for an e-commerce website is inventory. “Customers on the Internet want to get their orders fast,” says Huber. “They want to see their order shipped within a day, and they want to see it within 3-5 business days.” That kind of turnaround does not leave time to order products that are not in stock. “I pay attention to what customers are ordering and try to keep it in stock so that we can get it out the door right away,” says Huber.

Of all the tips the young IT professionals offered, one of the most important is to understand that every site is different. By letting go of expectations and getting your company out there, you can—with a little tweaking here and there—get the most out of your company’s Web presence.

What is your company doing to improve its Web presence? I want to hear from you.

Gas & Welding Tech: Bar Codes As Marketing

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Scan this code with your smart phoneThis image may look something like a miniature crossword puzzle, but it is actually a bar code. What’s so special about this bar code is that you don’t need a scanner to read it. It’s known as a quick response bar code—QR code for short—and you can read it with most smart phones.

For businesses, QR codes are the latest form of interactive marketing. When scanned, a QR code can perform a variety of directives, the most common of which is to take users to a specific website. For companies, it’s a great way to get customers to a specific area of a website without typing in a long URL. Instead of being limited to the main website, say www.gawdaedge.org, I could make a QR code to send you to my blog—or even a specific blog post.

In addition to directing web traffic, QR codes can be encoded to deliver coupons, text messages, contact information and much more. Imagine: a QR code on the back of your business card allows your contacts to store your information in their phone without ever typing a number.

Another example: fast food restaurants have started placing bar codes on product wrappers. By scanning the code, patrons can access nutritional information for their meals. How does this translate to gases and welding distributors? A strategically placed code on a hydrogen cylinder might give customers instant access to your Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS); another code on a MIG welder might provide detailed technical specifications and safety guidelines.

QR codes can be found throughout the pages of the summer issue of our sister magazine, Welding & Gases Today. These codes allow readers to interact and learn more about companies and their products. Information on how to read the codes with your phone is available in W&GT Online.

With the pervasiveness of cell phones, a phone-accessible code has a lot of appeal for businesses. In the space of a little more than a postage stamp, you can transmit a large amount of information in a variety of ways.

Do you have an idea of how gases and welding distributors can use QR codes in their businesses? Do you think the technology will catch on? Share your ideas in the comments section and they might be featured in the next issue of GAWDA Edge.

June GAWDA Edge Hits Virtual Newsstands

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

The June issue of GAWDA Edge is online today at www.gawdaedge.org.

Welding and Gases TechnologyFor our June issue, I spoke with four talented, young IT professionals about working in the industry. They shared their strategies for keeping up with technology and how they use it to increase productivity and sales. Has your company thought about branching out into e-commerce? Read about a distributor that has had great success online.

Also in this issue is a tutorial on becoming a search engine expert. Use Google to find out information on customers so that cold call isn’t so cold. Hone your skills and uncover information you didn’t know was available to the public (and probably isn’t supposed to be). If it’s out there, the Edge will help you find it.

Plus: What can your business learn from Milli Vanilli?

These are only a few of the features in our latest issue. Check back right here for exclusive bonus content from the interviews.

If you’re not getting the Edge by e-mail, sign up here.

World Cup: Is the Oxygen Working?

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

As you watch the world cup matches, I hope you are keeping an eye on the teams that used oxygen masks, chambers and tents in their preparations (See entry: Can Oxygen Spur World Cup Success?). The players are saying the altitude is negatively affecting their endurance, so the question is whether these preparations have made any difference. The big litmus test was England (oxygen user) vs. USA (non-oxygen user). At first glance, you might think the oxygen was a non-factor. If anything, England under-performed against the US squad. The 1-1 score line certainly suggests there was no difference.

Upon closer inspection, though, I would argue in favor of the oxygen. The US team started slow and England took advantage, scoring in the 4th minute! Using oxygen masks was all about adapting to the high altitude. Whether it was because of the thin air, the US certainly needed more time to get accustomed.

At the end of the game, England looked fresher than the US, who had several players dragging. The oxygen may have played a part in their conditioning, and there is little question that England was in better condition as a team.

The other two teams that made news with their use of oxygen chambers are Japan and Korea. And guess what? Both teams won their opening matches. Japan beat Cameroon 1-0, while the Korea Republic defeated Greece 2-0.

As the tournament wears on, I suspect the oxygen will have less impact as teams grow accustomed to the thin air. But for now, the damage is done. What could have been a dramatic win for the US is a satisfactory draw, leaving little margin for error. Will someone please send them some oxygen?

Can Oxygen Spur World Cup Success?

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Friday marks the official start of the 2010 World Cup, and many of the 32 teams are using oxygen treatments to prepare for the competition. Fitness training is a major concern for teams, and this year’s Cup in South Africa presents a unique challenge for athletes. Seven of the ten stadiums that will host the Cup are at high altitudes, ranging from 2,165 feet in Nelspruit to 5,751 feet—more than a mile above sea level—in Johannesburg.

You might be thinking, “If the Denver Broncos could do it in Mile High Stadium, then surely soccer players can handle it.” Probably. And FIFA (the governing body for the World Cup) agrees, saying that the altitude will make no difference. So why did FIFA entertain a ban on high-altitude games last month?

In reality, soccer players run roughly 6-8 miles over the course of a single game, and that’s more than the Broncos can say. And at this level of competition, high performance athletes will do anything to gain an edge over their competitors. To get that edge, teams are turning to oxygen masks, tents, chambers and the like, all in hopes of better adjusting to the altitude.

Athletes commonly use higher-concentration oxygen treatments to help recover from injuries more quickly. Tiger Woods even has his own oxygen chamber. However, in this case, players aren’t after the healing effects of higher oxygen levels. Instead, the masks pump a lower concentration of oxygen to effectively deprive their bodies of air. This helps them adjust to the low oxygen levels in places like Johannesburg.

England’s players have used oxygen treatments while watching TV—you don’t want the light-headedness while you’re running hard. They even had oxygen tents flown to their already high-altitude training site in Austria. Japan, Korea and several other countries are likewise pulling out all the stops to help their players adjust.

The U.S. team, however, has taken the opposite approach. They are training at Princeton, a whopping 98 feet above sea level, with no thought for masks or chambers. Coach Bob Bradley insists that his team will actually have an advantage because Princeton’s normal oxygen levels will enable players to train harder and recover more quickly.

Are we making a mistake by not joining in the oxygen frenzy?

I guess we’ll find out. The U.S. team’s first match is against England—at 4,920 feet—on Saturday. It’s only uphill from there.

Allow me to introduce myself.

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

My name is Devin O’Toole and, as the editor of GAWDA Edge, I will be writing the blog you see before you. I am taking over for Dan Vest, who was gracious enough to act the Edge’s interim editor while I familiarized myself with the industry and GAWDA’s member companies a little bit better.

As I get to know you, here’s a little bit about me. I am 25 and relatively new to the gases and welding environment. With your help, I hope to learn everything there is to learn and pass it along to you. Through this blog and in the magazine, I want to share your stories in fun and interesting ways. There’s nothing I love more than words. (Did you know? The word blog comes from the phrase “Web log.” Think of it like a log book for the Web.)

Now, share with me something I don’t know about gases or welding.

As I see it, the Edge is the voice of young professionals in the gases and welding industry. This blog is an extension of the magazine—a place where you can interact and make your voice heard.

Whether you are a follower of the blog or you simply stumbled across these pages, I invite you to take a moment to comment on my posts. Together, we can turn the blog into a great community, a place to share ideas and stay on top of everything going on in the industry.