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Archive for July, 2011

YouTube As A Research Tool

Friday, July 29th, 2011

In covering the gases and welding industry, I sometimes have to write about processes and equipment with which I am unfamiliar. There’s no pretending I know the ins and outs of cutting with propylene, for example. Reading up about these things online is helpful, and GAWDAwiki can provide some guidance where I may not know technical terms. However, talking to GAWDA members is, of course, the best way to get first-hand information and develop a better understanding. But doing some research beforehand can help so I know what questions to ask.

One of the newer forms of “research” is YouTube. With a quick search, there’s a good chance I can see a process or piece of equipment in action. The video below is a perfect example. Although I had a general idea of what laser welding was, I had ever seen what it actually looked like. Thanks to S. J. Smith for sharing this video on their Facebook page—I now know exactly what laser welding looks like. And who knows, if laser welding comes up next time I’m having a conversation about PLC or improving customer efficiencies, I might just know to ask whether it’s a solid state laser or a gas laser. The more details, the better the story. And the better the story, the more it can help GAWDA members.

How do you use YouTube videos for training and/or research? Share by leaving a comment.

Watch the video below, or watch on YouTube.

Should You Be On Google Plus?

Monday, July 25th, 2011

In the last few weeks, I’ve been reading a lot about Google+, the search engine giant’s latest answer to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Although its previous attempt, Google Buzz, was a flop, Google+ seems to be gaining momentum. In its first two weeks, Google+ already had about 10 million users. Gases and welding distributors are having success with social media. In “Connecting With Customers,” five GAWDA member shared social media success stories. So should your business be on Google+?

The short answer is that Google+ currently does not allow businesses to have profiles. Last week, Google booted several brands that had set up pages, including Ford and Sesame Street. The message sent to one such business stated, “Please remember that we are currently limiting profiles to real people and will be launching a profile for businesses and other entities later this year.” However, Google+ does allow individuals, and those individuals can represent your company. For example, my blog and Twitter accounts are set up with my name, but I use them professionally. Personally, I think this is a great way to form personal relationships with followers.

Even so, it may be a little too early to invest time and money in Google+ as part of your social media strategy if you’re a gases and welding distributor. 10 million is a lot of people, but it’s only a fraction of the 600 million on Facebook or 300 million on Twitter. And I’d venture to guess that most of those 10 million also have accounts on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. At some point, Google will have to look for a way to distinguish itself from its competitors. For now, those differentiators are not entirely obvious. However, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on Google+, especially once they unveil business profiles.

The Welding And Gases Behind Classic Cars

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

1930 Ford Woody via rightcoastcars.comOver the weekend I went to the Syracuse Nationals, a massive car show right here in Syracuse, NY. By massive, I mean more than 8,000 classic cars and 80,000 people. Wouldn’t you know, the show was a hotbed for gases and welding. I saw four GAWDA members at the show: Haun Welding Supply, Airgas, Lincoln Electric and Miller Electric all had booths set up.

Naturally, classic cars involve a lot of welding, between frames, bodies, etc. My soon-to-be father-in-law has built/restored a few cars, and has even offered to show me how to weld. His 1930 Ford Woody is pictured at right, on display at the Syracuse Nationals.

Along with classic cars, the show had a selection of amazing custom cars. The before and after pictures are amazing (unfortunately I could only find an after photo), but some of the cars were cut down by several feet in length. You’d never know it with the quality of the welding.

Gases were in action at the show as well. There is a large pinstriping exhibit, where artists from all over the world show off their skills. Their booths were stocked with cylinders that looked to be compressed air for airbrushing. I was told that some artists prefer nitrogen gas because the cool temperature creates a better flow. Their work was amazing, and all freehand.

Also of note, but not a gases and welding connection, I saw the Fonz (Henry Winkler) at the show. Aaaaay!

Pinstriping, via rightcoastcars.com Custom car, via rightcoastcars.com

Photos via RightCoastCars.com

Responding To The Unexpected

Monday, July 18th, 2011

What do you do when the unexpected happens? This was the question we set out to answer when we followed up with ten GAWDA distributorships after the fire at Carbide Industries plant in March. We checked in with them over the next few months to see how they responded and adapted to the constantly changing situation. The result was the article, “What To Do When The Sky Is Falling.”

I think it’s a fair assessment to say that no one expected this to happen, but this is part of business. Expect the unexpected, as they say. It could take any shape or form, be it a weather-related disaster, a product shortage, a computer virus, etc. Disaster planning is something that is easy to overlook. A 2010 survey reports that 40 percent of small businesses don’t have an emergency response plan. But your response to a disaster is something that will determine the fate of your business. How you respond affects not only you and your employees, but the livelihood of your customers, too.

Carbide Industries recognized that their customers counted on them as one of only two North American suppliers of calcium carbide. In case you missed it, we shared their message to readers of Welding & Gases Today in the editor’s notes of our Summer Issue. “We want everyone to know that we remain focused on the rebuilding of our furnace operation and returning to the business of providing a quality product,” the company says. “Working closely with customers to meet their specific needs is an important part of our efforts.” You can read the note in its entirety in “The Customer Connection.”

Opening The Door For Honest Feedback

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

As Colleen Mahoney wrote on the Young Professionals blog yesterday, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool. The Noble Gas Solutions marketing communications manager says she has used it to find contacts at cold calls and to build the distributor’s network. I couldn’t agree more with Colleen’s assessment.

In fact, for our latest Welding & Gases Today cover story, we used LinkedIn to reach out to welding and gases end-users. Traditionally, social media has been used to keep in touch with people you know. But here’s a little secret: social media is the perfect way to get introduced to people you want to know. In this case, we used LinkedIn to gain introductions to welding engineers, purchasing managers and other end-users. And wouldn’t you know—it opened doors and ultimately helped us get some great comments about what end-users really look for in a distributor.

Their comments were honest and to the point—no holds barred. “I don’t want an automated relationship,” says one end-user. When you give your customers a chance to provide honest feedback, the results can be powerful. To read all of their comments and find out what your customers want, you can check out the article online, aptly titled, “What Your Customers Really Want.”

How do you use social media platforms like LinkedIn to help your business? Have you ever used it to help make a sale?

NASA Fills Cryogenic Tank One Last Time

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Atlantis shuttle with cryogenic tankToday could be the end of an era—weather permitting—that has captivated the nation’s attention for the last 30 years. The Atlantis space shuttle is scheduled to launch at 11:26 a.m. on July 8. With shuttles launching every few months, it may not seem like much. It’s the 135th in a storied history of shuttle launches. And it’s also the last shuttle to launch under NASA before the shuttle program closes its doors.

The shuttle program also has a strong connection to the gases and welding industry. Welding has played an important part in building the shuttles and launch pads over the years. In terms of gases, NASA is the largest consumer of liquid hydrogen in the U.S., using approximately 10 million lbs. per year. The shuttle program is a big part of this. The iconic giant orange cylinder you see on every shuttle is a cryogenic fuel tank that stores half a million gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. For the final shuttle, the “tanking” process of filling the orange vessel began at 2 a.m. this morning, and completed just before 5 a.m.

The fact that NASA is able to use liquid hydrogen is an accomplishment in and of itself. The report Taming Liquid Hydrogen: the Centaur Upper Stage Rocket, 1958-2002 states, “The taming of liquid hydrogen proved to be one of NASA’s most significant technical accomplishments…Today, liquid hydrogen is the signature fuel of the American space program and is used by other countries in the business of launching satellites.” Read about the development of hydrogen as a shuttle fuel on NASA’s website.

Other gases play important roles as well. To treat the shuttle’s ceramic tiles, a 350-degree oven is filled with nitrogen, which is then sucked out to create a vacuum. The St. Petersburg Times ran a great article about the shuttle workers, including those who create the tiles…and others who make snowballs from ice that forms on the oxygen lines.

The shuttle program will be missed, but we can only hope that private organizations will continue the great work that NASA has done for many years. If and when they do, they will call on gases and welding to make this happen.

Follow along on Twitter @GasWeldEdge.

A Rebirth For Industry?

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling Tower 1 cropBack in May, I shared the words of Dr. Barry Asmus, who projected that North America has the capability to become the energy exporting capital of the world. He based this on the growth of shale gas fields throughout the country. As I mentioned in that post, this could be good news for gases and welding distributors. Natural gas companies need gases and welding equipment—and their growth is likely to stimulate local industry, meaning other manufacturers will be in need of gases and welding equipment too.

Based on recent developments, it seems Dr. Asmus may be on the right track. An article this week in the Philadelphia Inquirer says that the production of natural gas at Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale is already close to exceeding the state’s demand for natural gas—and the output continues to grow. According to the article, energy exporting may not be far off.

Along with exporting, the article states, “Economic-development officials envision some gas staying in the region and fueling a revival of energy-intensive manufacturing, the type of industry that thrived here when coal was king.” If such a vision comes to fruition, it would no doubt be a boon to the gases and welding industry.

What end-user markets do you see growing in the next few years? Leave a comment or tweet @GasWeldEdge.

Stars, Stripes and Inert Gas

Friday, July 1st, 2011

The 4th of July is upon us, which means Americans across the country will celebrate our country’s independence by taking in fireworks and a few hot dogs. Our nation’s icons, from the American flag to the Statue of Liberty, will be proudly worn on t-shirts and lapels. And believe it or not, the gases and welding industry is tied to our nation’s icons in ways far beyond the stars and stripes that appear on countless welding beanies and helmets.

The Star-Spangled BannerSure, Lady Liberty carries a torch, and I’m sure some welding equipment could do wonders to repair the Liberty Bell, but there is another, greater connection. With all of the bright lights and grandeur, it’s easy to overlook the invisible things that make the continued existence of our nation’s icons possible. It’s easy to overlook, in fact, because it can’t be seen at all.

I’m talking about argon, the inert gas which currently serves our great nation in preserving the original written copy of The Star-Spangled Banner, our national anthem. The original hand-written document is nearly 200 years old, and it remains intact thanks to a specially designed glass case filled with argon gas.

The next time you belt out an ‘O, say can you see?’ remember that you actually can see America’s national anthem, and it’s all because of argon.

Happy 4th of July!