Home | Executive Dialogue | Carole Jesiolowski

Archive for April, 2011

More Than Just Welding Art

Thursday, April 28th, 2011
Cee Kay Supply turns trash into art.

Cee Kay Supply turns trash into art.

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to talk to several distributors taking part in some amazing and unique events. My most recent entry about Ozarc Gas’ Weld-A-Thon is a perfect example.

Another distributor, Cee Kay Supply, took part in its hometown of St. Louis’ Clean Stream event. The focus of the event is picking up trash from the local parks—and after that the fun starts. A group of local artists pick from these found materials to turn trash into art. Not only did Cee Kay Supply provide gases and equipment to support the event, two of its employees even participated. Heath Wells, regional vice president of sales, was kind enough to share some photos of the blue heron sculpture he created with Area Manager Dave Teson.

Rebar legs and a log made from found pipe

Rebar legs and a log made from found pipe

As he explained the process of creating the piece—a flap wheel to bring out the shine, a torch to tint the metal—I began to realize that welding art is much more than welding. Depending on the piece, it may encompass many processes including those mentioned, along with cutting, brazing, soldering and others. With all of the attention on welding, some of the other processes in fabrication and finishing are overlooked.

Proving furthermore that it’s not all about welding, I recently came across an artist named David B. Harton who focuses on plasma cutting art. You can check out a video of his work here. His structural artwork requires some serious technique and skill.

Distributors Go Back To School

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Students compete at Ozarc's Weld-A-ThonAt the Spring Management Conference, GAWDA President Lloyd Robinson emphasized the impact generated when distributors partner with schools. “We have a tendency in today’s economic environment to get bogged down with the bottom line and forget about what is really important,” says Robinson.

I’ve spoken to several distributors who have worked with schools in a variety of ways, the latest just a few weeks ago. Ozarc Gas held its 2nd Annual Weld-A-Thon event, which combined a welding competition and job fair into one. Nick Garner, sales rep at Ozarc and Weld-A-Thon organizer, says the job fair was added this year to help students understand the breadth of welding as a career. “They get to see that it’s not just manual welding, but also things like robotics and virtual training,” he says.

Students compete at Ozarc's Weld-A-ThonAccording to the AWS Foundation, the welding industry is expected to have some 238,000 new jobs by 2019, and nowhere near enough welders to fill the positions for welders, welding technicians, welding engineers and welding inspectors. Events like Ozarc Gas’ Weld-A-Thon play an important role in getting young people involved in welding. As Garner says, it’s important for students to see what welding really is—and how pervasive it is. And it doesn’t hurt to get them excited about welding with a little fun competition.

To find out the keys to getting involved with schools, be sure to check out “Back To School,” where 3 distributors dish on how to get the most out of school partnerships.

How is your company partnering with schools? Share by leaving a comment below.

Gases And Welding Take The Mound

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Gases and welding made a mark on America’s Favorite Pastime this week. On Wednesday, April 20, a robot threw out the first pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies using a burst of carbon dioxide gas. The robot, named PhillieBot, was built by students at the University of Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, the ball fell short of home plate—and was subsequently received with jeers from the crowd. Certainly, this was not gases at its finest, but it was still a historical moment of sorts. Many firsts—be it inventions, businesses or what have you—end in failure. Hopefully the PhillieBot will be retooled and invited back next year to show the full potential of gases (I’m expecting a 100 mph fastball). If nothing else, it drew some attention to the gases industry. Check out the video below.

Robots themselves are becoming an important part of the gases and welding industry. Many manufacturers are turning to robotic welding automation. According to “The Future Of Welding In Manufacturing,” about 14 percent of nonautomotive manufacturers have implemented robotic automation, and that number is growing fast. The author, Brian Doyle, explains that some workers are concerned that they will be replaced by robots, but the truth is that even robots need human expertise and guidance. Major League pitchers need not fear for their jobs—yet.

Distributors Wear Many, Many Hats

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Recently, I’ve been reading Michael Marks’ book, Working At Cross Purposes. Marks, as you might know, was a speaker at GAWDA’s Spring Management Conference. Although I’m starting to get a grasp on the world of gases and welding, Marks’ book has really given me a greater understanding of distribution.

Mr. DistributorI would bet that most customers have no idea about all of the important roles a distributor plays—especially those who are driven by the lowest price more than anything. In his recent article in Welding & Gases Today, “Teaching The Rep A Thing Or Two,” Marks breaks down the many hats a distributor wears.

  • Distributors serve as market makers by acting as selling agents for suppliers and buying agents for customers in geographically defined areas.
  • Distributors fill a cost-transfer role through various elements of physically distributing products.
  • Distributors can add value through product customization because they physically possess products.
  • Distributors act as banks, playing a large role in financing the growing economy.
  • Distributors provide post-sale service and support.
  • Distributors fulfill a very valuable information transfer function.

GAWDA members love to brag about their service, and with good reason. But as Marks points out, there are many more things they provide along with that service. As he says in his book, “These traditional functions have stood the test of time because the distributor could provide them more effectively than either the producers of products or the consumers of products.”

At SMC last week, Marks echoed the importance of the distributor: “You can eliminate the distributor, but you cannot eliminate the work the distributor does.” He described distributors as “the classic middlemen,” but clearly the role of the distributor is far more complex than a simple exchange of product for money. Between SMC and reading Marks’ book, I’ve gained an even greater appreciation for the work GAWDA members do.

What do you see as the most important role of the distributor? Leave a comment below.

Lessons Learned At SMC

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

The Spring Management Conference wrapped up today, but not before we squeezed in a little more networking, two speakers, and three forums. One such speaker, Christopher Guest, had some great stories to tell about climbing Mt. Everest, and it was amazing to hear about all of the challenges he overcame to accomplish his goal. If you didn’t have a chance to see Guest speak (or even if you did) you might be interested reading “Outlasting Everest,” an article about his journey from an issue of GAWDA Edge last year.

For me, the definite highlight of the day was the Consultants’ Forum, where GAWDA’s consultants provided updates on what to look out for. The biggest news to me came from Michael Degan, GAWDA’s joint defense fund coordinating counsel for welding fume litigation. He says the industry is not out of the woods yet in terms of litigation, particularly with the emergence of suite related to asbestos-containing products. Having seen a trend in welding fume litigation moving in favor of the industry, and with several cases overturned last year, it appeared that things were quieting down a little.

Overall, the best part of SMC for me was talking with GAWDA members between events, getting to put a face with the names, and getting to meet new people. I wrote back in January that my New Year’s resolution was to become better connected with members, and SMC was a step in the right direction. There was also a lot of talk among distributors about getting more involved with social media. It’s not only big companies talking about social media. It was a hot topic at Wednesday’s technology forum, the young professionals forum and even on the shuttle to the President’s Reception. In part, I think the SMC really drives home the value of dialogue. Why not keep the dialogue going year-round through these venues?

Social media can also lead to better dialogue at events like SMC. There were a number of people who I recognized—or who recognized me—from interactions on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and this very blog. Although I was in a new environment among people I had never met in person, things were a lot easier with this frame of reference. Now imagine how much easier it would be to cold call a customer you’ve connected with online. For me, these last few days stood as evidence to the power of social media.

For those of you who were at SMC, what were the best takeaways for you? Leave a comment below.

Banding Together In Tampa

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Now that day 2 at SMC has had a little time to sink in, I wanted to follow up with some more thoughts. One program I didn’t get a chance to talk about earlier was the Young Professionals forum, where Britt Lovin of Andy Oxy, Tom Biedermann of Airweld, and Steve Castiglione of WestAir shared their experiences as members of a family business, among other topics. I admit I am not part of a family business, but many GAWDA member companies are, and the issues of family businesses permeate the industry.

The questions raised were many, from estate planning and succession to dealing with difficult situations. I was really impressed with the discourse that GAWDA’s young professionals engaged in—it was a great forum for this dialogue, and I was impressed with the willingness of the panelists to talk openly and candidly to help the young members of the industry.

What I saw was that GAWDA members do not see each other as competitors, but rather as colleagues in this industry. They are eager to help one another grow and become better distributors. This is the spirit of GAWDA that comes out at SMC. Back home, distributors may be competing for the same accounts in the same territories. But here in Tampa, everyone bands together for the purposes of becoming better business people, and it’s a very powerful thing.

Now I see why distributors always cite “networking” as one of the greatest benefits GAWDA has to offer, but today’s events show that it goes well beyond simple networking, and really comes down to mentoring and two-way communication. I was glad I had the opportunity to be a part of it.

SMC Retrospective, Day 2

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Today I found out what SMC is all about. The day got started with a networking breakfast, where I got to meet more members and talk with them about what they do. Soon after, we were treated to a host of speakers. GAWDA President Lloyd Robinson announced the recipients of the 2011 Gives Back Program, an amazing program that really showcases the generosity of GAWDA members. This year, the beneficiaries are the PENCIL Fellowes program and the FDNY Fire Family Transport Foundation. Young Executive blogger Abydee Butler, from Butler Gas, joined Member Services Committee co-chair Amy Milligan, of Dynaflux, to talk about the efforts of the committee. (Great job, Abydee!)

Michael MarksThe first of the headlining speakers was Michael Marks. He brought a unique, no-holds-barred approach to the supplier-distributor relationship, and really challenged attendees to rethink the dynamic. It really stuck with me when he said, “You can eliminate the distributor, but you cannot eliminate the work the distributor does.”

Next, Bruce Tulgan took to the stage, bringing an energetic style to his presentation about managing a new generation of workers. He suggested that Gen-Y employees are the highest maintenance work force yet, but will also be the most productive, due to the information available to us young folks. Tulgan made reference to some of the management myths outline in his article, “It’s Okay To Be The Boss.” What do you think—are Gen-Y workers as high-maintenance yet highly productive as Tulgan suggests?

After the morning business sessions, I sat in on Michael Marks’ distributor owners’ lunch, where he addressed how to create shareholder value in wholesale distribution. Again, he was really insightful, and brought up some great issues, such as the question of whether a small, independent distributor should have a board of directors. Any of you have a board? What do you think? His presentation also focused on the importance of targeting the right market segments. “Sales is getting rid of what you have,” he says. “Marketing is having what you can get rid of.”

Believe it or not, that was only the first part of the day. I don’t want to be long-winded, but I don’t want to short-change the other great programs, so check back for more on everything going on at SMC.

SMC Retrospective, Day 1

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

GAWDA members at the Florida AquariumJust wrapped up a great first day at GAWDA’s Spring Management Conference. The setting for the conference is beautiful here in Tampa, and it made for a great backdrop to meet up with all of the GAWDA members in attendance. I started out with the First Timers’ Reception, and got to meet some great young distributors and suppliers, along with the veterans who were there to welcome us newcomers. We met up outside the Florida Aquarium. Among other things, I learned what stud welding is (it seems so obvious now that I know—it is basically the welding of studs).

Next we moved indoors at the aquarium to mingle among the fish. It was great to meet everyone, and it was great to hear that so many of you are reading my blog and following me on Twitter. Keep the feedback coming!

SMC Day 1I hope to meet many more GAWDA members tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to connecting with some of our Young Executive bloggers. Also looking forward to the great speakers on tap for tomorrow—I’ve been reading Michael Marks’ book, Working At Cross Purposes, and it’s been extremely educational when it comes to understanding the roles of distributors and suppliers (I’ll write about the book in more detail in a future blog post). Anyway, If you’re here in Tampa, please say “Hi.” If you’re reading the blog, let me know what you think.

Getting Ready For SMC

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Spring Management ConferenceAs you may know, next week is GAWDA’s Spring Management Conference. This will be my first experience at any GAWDA event (the first of many), and I am really looking forward to it.

Looking at the schedule, there are a lot of great things on the slate. As something of technology enthusiast/geek myself, the technology forum immediately drew my attention. The Young Professionals event will be a great way to meet the industry’s up-and-comers. The Contact Booth Program should be a great learning experience, where I can see the industry technology and see the distributor-supplier dynamic in action. Several of the SMC speakers had articles in the latest issue of Welding & Gases Today (Michael Marks and Bruce Tulgan), and I’m looking forward to hearing them in person.

More than anything, I’m looking forward to meeting you, the members. I’ve spoken to many of you on the phone, and you’ve all been gracious and helpful. I’m looking forward to making connections and getting your feedback. If you see me, please say “Hi” and tell me what you think about the blog and the magazine.

Leave me a comment and let me know if you’re going to be in Tampa next week for the SMC. What are you looking forward to most?

Also, be sure to check back here and on Twitter (@GasWeldEdge) throughout SMC. I’ll be posting updates regularly!

April Fools’ Day Is A Gas

Friday, April 1st, 2011

In honor of April Fools’ Day, I wanted to share a video with you that’s on the “lighter” side of the gas industry. This video was created by WestJet to announce the launch of a new money-savinging initiative—it’s clearly a hoax, but it’s very well executed. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, I’ll just say that it involves gases in its premise. Check it out below.

Also, baseball season is officially underway as of Thursday, March 30. With that in mind, I highly recommend revisiting an article that appeared in the April 2010 issue of GAWDA Edge, which was all about spring training. “Softball—The Secret To Success” explains how you can learn everything you need to know about your co-wokers on the softball field. The article was written by ESPN.com’s Jim Caple. Very funny, and right on key.

Spring training may be over, but training never stops for GAWDA members. The Spring 2011 issue of Welding & Gases Today is out now, and it has a lot of great articles, including more than 10 contributed by GAWDA members themselves. That’s the most in recent memory, and straight from the experts who know the industry best. Even if you don’t get a copy of the magazine in the mail, you can read the entire issue online. Let me know which article you found most beneficial.