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Archive for November, 2010

Better Dialogue For A Better Industry

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Like many of you, we’re always looking at ways to do what we do better. The new WGT website has been up for 2 ½ months, and the feedback has been very positive. To enhance the offerings of the site even more, we’ve added some new features. Here’s a look at what’s new:

One of the most important changes is the rebranding of our blogs to Executive Dialogue (or e-Dialogue). The new name positively reflects the professional value of the blogs. My colleague Dan and I will still be delivering the content you’ve come to expect, but with a renewed focus on what you, the members of GAWDA, are saying, in hopes of generating some dialogue. We invite you to comment on our posts and share your feedback and opinions.

On that note, we’ve added the ability to post comments anonymously. We hope this will encourage any of you who are hesitant to voice your opinions to join in the conversation. Your discussion can only enhance the value of our e-Dialogue (blogs) as a resource and may even help generate future topics for blogs or articles for the website and the magazine. The option of anonymity also extends to all of the online articles on the main site, so you can confidentially voice your opinion about our controversial “On the Edge” stories and our magazine articles. To post anonymously, simply leave the “Name” field empty.

Another change is the addition of our Young Executives e-Dialogue. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, we’ve got 4 of the industry’s brightest up-and-comers, who are writing about what it’s like to be new in the gases and welding industry. They are Abydee Butler, marketing director at Butler Gas Products; Ryan Morton, outside sales associate at Conroe Welding Supply; Colleen Mahoney, marketing communications manager at Noble Gas Solutions; and Brandt De Vries, junior VP at Welding Industrial Supply Company. The Young Execs e-Dialogue is underway and it’s already generating a lot of great discussion among members.

E-mail Scammers Are Back

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
From: purchase@graybarelect.net
Subject: Products Enquiry

We introduce our company GRAYBAR ELECTRIC CO.,INC , We have extend this
offer to you to provide us with a price quote for the items listed below .
We are interested in the following Items:

1)Victor Journeyman 540/510 with ESS4 Edge Regulators – All Fuels   VIC0384-2036
2)Victor 15FC Heavy Duty Handle
Item# VIC0382-0034
3)Victor H315FC Heavy Duty Handle
Item# VIC0382-0316
4)Victor CA2460 Heavy Duty Cutting Attachment
Item# VIC0381-0816
5)Victor CA2461 Heavy Duty Cutting Attachment
Item# VIC0381-0817
6)Victor CA2470 Heavy Duty Cutting Attachment
Item# VIC0381-0823

Our payment method is Net 30 term
We look forward in doing business with your company
Regards
Richard Offenbacher
GRAYBAR ELECTRIC CO.,INC
Tel: 314-723-5000
Fax: 877-406-9074
Email:purchase@graybarelect.net

Yesterday I received a heads-up phone call from Bill Brancato at AGL Welding Supply, located in Clifton, NJ. He received an e-mail request for a product quote and after a little digging around, discovered that it was a scam. He was hoping to warn other distributors who might be targeted as well. Brancato says, “If they’re contacting us, they’re probably targeting other distributors as well.”

The e-mail claimed to be coming from a senior VP at Graybar, a supply chain management company, and requested price quotes for several products. Brancato’s suspicion was aroused by the fact that the e-mail was coming from graybarelect.net, when Graybar’s website is graybar.com. Just to be sure, Brancato called James Tonelli at Graybar’s Teterboro, NJ, office, who assured him that the e-mail was indeed a hoax.

Such messages may seem harmless at first—afterall, they just want to buy your products—right? So how does the scam work? The message is consistent with a “shipping scam” wherein the scammers work with a private shipper to collect your money. They attempt to pay you the cost of goods and private shipping, either by bogus check, stolen credit card or other such method, and ask you to pay the shipper out of the amount they sent you. When the money doesn’t check out, you lose out on the shipping money, the products and the cost of the goods.

If you receive an e-mail like this, take a hard look to determine if it is real. In an article published in Welding & Gases Today, Victor Fuhrman, CIO at AWISCO, provides these tips for identifying scam e-mails in his article, “They’re Back!”

1.      Rule of thumb: If it sounds too good to be true, it is!

2.      If you have a suspicious request, “Google” the address or phone number in quotation marks plus the word “fraud.” Example: “718-555-1212”+ fraud.

3.      Poor English (grammar, structure, spelling) is an immediate tip off.

Along with Fuhrman’s article, learn how you can protect yourself from other scams in Avoiding Fraudulent Credit Card Transactions from Welding & Gases Today.

Welding In The News—But Not For Good Reasons

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Associated Press PhotoWelding has been making international news headlines this week, and not for good reasons. A fire devastated 150 families living in a high-rise apartment building in Shanghai, China. Authorities believe the fire was caused by misuse of welding equipment by unlicensed workers. According to the Associated Press, the welders were performing “energy-saving” renovations to the building. The current death toll from the disaster is 53—and some reports are calling this a conservative estimate. Another 70 people were injured.

Although such events are out of our control, it is not only saddening, but damaging to the image of welding. However, there may yet be some good that can come of this disaster. China is already responding by ramping up fire safety regulations. And the reports I’ve seen all highlight the fact that the welders were unlicensed.

So while the accident may deter some from welding, it may also push more into proper welding training programs. And that’s good news for distributors who do have training programs in place. As distributors, you can help your customers be safer. They may not thank you for it, but you can sleep well knowing you’ve helped. And hopefully we can avoid a disaster like the one that just happened in Shanghai.

To put an end to accidents at your own company, Welding & Gases Today has 6 steps to an accident free year.

A Veterans Day Thanks… And Welding A Tank Limo

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Tank Limo, copyright Tim HawkesIn honor of Veterans Day yesterday, I want to extend a belated thank those of you who have served our country at one time or another. In the past couple of months, I spoke with two young industry leaders who did serve in the military, and even just from speaking with them, I could tell they had a strong sense of leadership.

One of those young professionals, James Garner, is regional manager at Ozarc Gas in Cape Girardeau, MO. He says, “While in the Navy, I learned a lot about leadership. From officers who led by example and took pride in their service, I learned how to gain the respect of others. Just as important, from other officers I learned how not to lead.”

Not only does the military equip many of the industry’s young professionals with the skills they need to lead, the gases and welding industry provides skills and tools that help the military. Without welding and gases, how would we have stretch tank limos like the one above?

But seriously, the gases and welding industry and the military go hand-in-hand. Welding & Gases Today wrote about some of those soldiers who have used their gases and welding skills in the military, and how their military skills have aided them in the gases and welding industry. It’s a great read, and one soldier shares his tale of giving an impromptu class on proper handling of cylinders to a platoon of soldiers.

If any of you (my readers) are veterans, leave a comment and let me what your current position is in the gases and welding industry and when you served. And thank you once again for serving our country.

To celebrate casual Friday, enjoy the behemoth that welding built: a tank limo. In case you were wondering, this is available to rent for weddings. Watch the video here.

Looking To New Leadership

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

In speaking with GAWDA distributors for our industry forecast, everyone was abuzz about last week’s elections. I talked to most distributors only a couple of days before the big vote. No matter what side they came down on, one thing was clear: members were looking for the outcome of the elections to inspire some confidence in their customers, to get people spending again. We may not see an impact for a while, but some of the uncertainty that’s in the air just before an election has cleared. We know who our leaders are and where to look for answers.

One week removed from Election Day, GAWDA announced a new leader of its own. John Ospina, director of conventions and event services with the American Welding Society, will head up the association as executive director. We are looking forward to working with him very closely in the future, and you can look for his column in the next issue of Welding & Gases Today.

Our first quarter issue will also feature the first column from 2010-2011 GAWDA President Lloyd Robinson. We profiled his company, AWISCO, in 2009, and learned a lot about his leadership style. His company has been involved in a number of fascinating projects, including the new Yankee Stadium and the Meadowlands stadium. Get to know your president a little bit better by reading “The AWISCO Advantage.”

While leadership in the government and association can help your business, it’s the leadership at the distributor companies that will make the biggest difference. In my conversations, I spoke to a lot of great leaders. They have a lot of great ideas when it comes to motivating employees, doing more with less, and overcoming challenges. With this kind of strong leadership in place, I’d say the industry is well positioned for 2011.

What Really Makes A GAWDA Member

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Over the past two weeks, I’ve spoken with almost 30 GAWDA distributors about their outlooks for 2011 as we put together our much-anticipated industry forecast issue at Welding & Gases Today. In talking with distributors, I’ve been learning a lot about the industry, the challenges distributors face and especially how unique each distributor is. When I started working on GAWDA Media, I knew there was a range, but I had no idea how diverse GAWDA members are.

There are a variety of reasons for the diversity, and a lot of it, from what I’m learning, is customer-oriented. The fingerprint of each market is uniquely defined by the different industries in each respective region. The result is that some GAWDA members put greater emphasis on gases, some on welding, and many on other product areas. Sometimes it’s medical equipment, safety products, propane, even swimming pool equipment.

Tommy Hagan, president of Logan Hagan Welding (Statesboro, GA) says, “If you go back far enough, we were a Southeast Georgia representative for Campbell’s Soup.” Logan Hagan’s diversity, he says, is due to the size of the market. “There’s not enough business strictly selling welding equipment and gases.” He adds that they are no longer in the soup business.

When members tell me that they don’t fit the typical mold of a welding and gases distributor, I’m finding more and more that such a mold does not exist. Especially during a tough economy, some distributors are considering customer requests for products beyond the scope of what they typically carry. It all comes down to going a little farther for customers. This kind of service is the one thing that is consistent across the board with everyone I’ve spoken to, and it’s the one thing that truly defines GAWDA members.

And because I’d hate to deprive you of your casual Friday video, here’s a video consistent with the theme of breaking the mold. Behold: a man lifting two gas cylinders with his moustache.

Caltech Halloween Tradition Is A (Cryogenic) Gas

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Photo courtesy of Graeskar

With Halloween in the rear view, we’re now into the month of November, unbelievable as it may be. If you don’t have access to a compressed nitrogen pumpkin cannon, you’ll be left figuring out what to do with those pumpkins before they rot.

Students at California Institute of Technology have figured out how to make use of their pumpkins while using cryogenic gas along the way—the school is known for an annual tradition called the Millikan Pumpkin Drop Experiment. It’s named in honor of a former Caltech professor, and involves freezing pumpkins with liquid nitrogen—and then dropping them from the highest point on campus. Every year, crowds gather to watch the falling pumpkins in hopes of witnessing a phenomenon known as triboluminescence, where the smash creates a visible spark. It’s the same principle behind the sparks created when you smash Life Savers Wint-O-Green mints in the dark.

According to witnesses from previous pumpkin drops, the spark is elusive, but every once in a while it is visible. I don’t know how the tradition was ever conceived—my guess is that it involved college students with some extra pumpkins and a little too much time on their hands. So long as they’re using gases, I’m not going to complain. It just reinforces what I said in my last post—pumpkins and gases go hand in hand! If you’re interested, the precise liquid nitrogen freezing procedures followed by Caltech students can be found here.

Science experiments may not be something you think of targeting, but it is definitely a niche market for gases and welding. What niche markets does your company target? Are there any that you are pursuing? Let me know by leaving a comment or answering a brief member questionnaire.