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Archive for December, 2011

The Truth About CO₂ In Your New Year’s Champagne

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Rose Champagne
When it comes to New Year’s celebrations, champagne is a staple. But the bubbly would not be so bubbly if not for carbon dioxide.

But wait just a minute, gas industry, before boasting at your New Year’s Eve gatherings. The CO2 in traditional champagne is naturally occurring. The original sparkling wine (champagne is simply sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France) was discovered accidentally when wine was put through a second fermentation process, with CO2 as a byproduct of yeast and the sugar in wine.

Of course, that’s the traditional method. Today, less expensive champagnes typically use gas injection methods similar to carbonating soft drinks. Now, gas industry, is your turn to take the credit. However, using this method results in larger bubbles that dissipate quickly, so traditionalists still insist on making sparkling the old-fashioned way. Believe it or not, using gas injection for sparkling wine is actually prohibited in Europe!

Since the traditional “méthod Champenoise” requires yeast, it also requires the removal of the yeast sediment after the fermentation is complete, called disgorging. Through a lengthy process of riddling, either manual or automated, the yeast is brought to the neck of the bottle. Many sparkling wine makers then dip the neck of the bottle in liquid nitrogen to flash freeze the yeast before quickly uncorking (the carbonation causes the yeast to shoot out) and recorking. Other methods can be used as well, from propylene glycol to an ice bath, although I’ve come across one sparkling winemaker that uses a mixture including dry ice.

So even if you are drinking authentic champagne this New Year’s Eve, there’s still a good chance the gas industry had something to do with it. But if your host didn’t spring for the expensive stuff, you may have the gas industry to thank. Either way, you can always impress the guests by explaining why carbon dioxide causes champagne to shoot out of the bottle. Check out the video below to learn about the science of CO2 in sparkling wine—and how to pour it properly for maximum CO2 retention.

Have a happy new year and a safe New Year’s Eve!

Helium Holidays And A Happy New Year

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

With the holiday season, I’ve seen a few videos of groups performing helium-infused Christmas carols. However, inhaling helium can be extremely dangerous, as it displaces oxygen, so such acts fall under the “do-not-try-this-at-home” category. A video I saw today, however, shows a much safer use of helium.

A group of three divers recorded themselves singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” during their stay in a decompression chamber following a 120 meter (394 ft) dive. The divers write, “We have to breathe a helium/oxygen mix, and the deeper we go, the more ridiculous our voices become.”

The use of helium is actually quite common in deep-sea diving. At 300 feet, divers experience 10 times atmospheric pressure—so oxygen becomes much more compressed. To avoid oxygen poisoning, divers use a gas mix to dilute the oxygen content. Trimix is a common mixture used in diving, which contains nitrogen, oxygen and helium (Thank you, GAWDAwiki).

As GAWDAwiki explains, divers using trimix use a helium descrambler to counteract the effect of helium on the vocal cords and to allow proper communications. However, you won’t find a helium descrambler in this holiday video.

Also standard issue for divers is the air regulator, which was invented by Air Liquide engineer Emil Gagnan. Gagnan originally created valve that regulated gas flow to gas-generator engines. The valve drew the attention of explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who helped adapt the creation into a demand valve system that could provide divers with compressed air on demand and that adjusted to surrounding pressure. The influence of GAWDA members is truly everywhere, even 400 feet under the sea.

Watch the helium holiday video here. (Personally, I think they should have done “The Chipmunk Song.”)

Word Of Mouse: Online Reviews Matter

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

In a competitive field like gases and welding, who doesn’t appreciate a referral every once in a while? Word of mouth is consistently cited by distributors as one of their best forms of marketing. And customers, too, place a lot of trust in word of mouth to make their buying decisions. With that in mind, I wonder to what extent distributors are paying attention to online reviews of their business, if at all.

Online reviews of a business are a form of word of mouth. And believe it or not, people put a lot of trust in online reviews. As far back as April 2009, Nielsen reported that 70% of people trust opinions posted online. While this was focused on consumers rather than B-to-B, anything posted about you online can affect your business. As one distributor recently told me, “Word of mouth can kill your business or it can help your business.”

Just like referrals, sometimes garnering online reviews can take some encouragement. I came across an interesting idea from a discussion on Small Business Trends—setting up an online review kiosk in your own store. Google has even condoned the practice of setting up a station for Google Places reviews, as long as you don’t offer incentives that might sway the review process. Setting up a kiosk in your store is a great way to bring it to the forefront of your customer’s mind, and to boost your visibility in local Web searches.

My guess (and I have no statistics to back me up) is that the biggest effect of online reviews in a distributor environment would be on walk-in customers. But then again, even B-to-B customers do their research, and a lot of them probably do it online.

I know when I’m looking for a particular type of business, I take into account the number and quality of reviews that a place has on its listing. Also, there’s been talk that a new wave of smartphone apps like Siri and Iris could potentially shift some weight from business websites and place it on company listings on sources such as Google Places. All the more reason to get on board and encourage your customers to review you.

How are you asking customers for referrals and online reviews?

Share The Gift Of Gases & Welding

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Scuba Hides, one of many unique gifts on the welding & gases enthusiast's wish list this year.

Many times on my blog I’ve highlighted unusual and sometimes unexpected items that rely on gases and welding. Among the many items I’ve looked at are “The Star-Spangled Banner,” cheese packaging, the Boise State football team and Guinness in a can (See category: Gases and Welding Make It Possible). I am always amazed at the things welding and gases play a hand in.

This week, we unveiled the Welding & Gases Holiday Gift Guide, where we dug deeper than ever before to find some very unique items that rely on gases and welding. Take for example a flying fish, art made from recycled gas cylinders or sleeves that can make gas cylinders look like LifeSavers or your favorite foamy beverage. The Holiday Gift Guide offers a good laugh, but it also hopefully offers a few eyebrow-raisers, a few “Who knew?”s.

Recognizing the breadth of products and applications that rely on the gases and welding industry plays an important part in the longevity of the industry. Educating others about the impact of the industry is a great way to pique their interest and, who knows, maybe draw them into the fold. This year, forget the stocking stuffers—share the gift of gases and welding.

All of this, I promise, was leading up to a point: the other day, someone asked me a great question: How can I attract people to work in the gases and welding industry? Personally, I fell into the industry by chance. I’m curious to hear from you—how did you get involved with the industry? And what methods have you seen or used for attracting people to the industry?

Cryogenics Is A Life Saver

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Cryogenics saves lives, both real and fictional. And I’m not talking Ted Williams or Walt Disney. (In Cryogenics 101, Kent Buzard explains, “The general public often confuses ‘cryonics,’ the freezing of bodies and body tissue, with ‘cryogenics,’ the science that involves very low temperatures.”)

Let’s start with the real. This week it was reported that scientists in the United States and Australia are using cryogenic preservation to save the Great Barrier Reef. The spectacular coral reef is dying, due to pollution, increased water temperatures and other reasons. By freezing the sperm and eggs of the coral, the scientists hope to reproduce the coral and restore the Great Barrier Reef to its original Greatness.

Now on to the fake: The movie Contagion, which was in theaters earlier in 2011, relied on cryogenic containers to set the stage. The movie revolves around a deadly virus and scientists’ quest to stop the virus and save millions of lives. The laboratory equipment on set was actually provided by none other than GAWDA member Taylor-Wharton. Riding the success of Contagion, Taylor-Wharton has signed on to be involved with the upcoming film in the Jason Bourne series. Check out the video below to see highlights of T-W’s work in Contagion.

When it comes to perceptions of who gases and welding distributors serve, people tend to think of welding and industrial settings first. It’s important to recognize that cryogenics are a big part of what many distributors do. And the work they do with research laboratories—be they medical, cryobiological, scientific or educational—that work saves lives.

Automating The Sales Process

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Vending machines: showroom in a box

Automation is an increasingly important part of the gases and welding industry. While much of the focus is on robotic welding and automating manufacturing processes—and all of that is great, because it means customers are buying equipment—automation is also growing in importance within on the distributor level. More and more distributors are turning to automated filling processes—enabling them to not only fill faster, but take on new gas lines (specialty gas, for example) and create more accurate mixes without introducing human error.

But what about automating the sales process? Recently I’ve been hearing about distributors using vending machines to sell common supplies. Larger customers can have a distributor’s vending machine on-site, allowing them to purchase supplies like welding wire or cutting tips on an as-needed basis.

One distributor I spoke with says, “Vending gives customers better control over dispensation of products, be it a pair of gloves, safety glasses, contact tips, a roll of wire or what have you. It gives the end-user a better idea of cost going into a project, and it can give them an avenue to bill specific products to a project they are working on.”

Vending offers convenience to customers without the need to keep large inventories in stock. As a “Tech Talk” article from General Air (Denver, CO) asks, “How often have orders been placed for product that was already in the tool crib? Or have you ever started a job thinking you had all the parts in place only to find out at the last minute that some of those parts were used in other jobs?”

But with automation, there’s always the question of human jobs. Will vending machines uproot the traditional distributor salesperson? Or at the least, will it change the nature of the sales relationship? What do you think?

Will Games Turn Welding Into A Virtual Market?

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

A screenshot from the game TIG Welder

Virtual welding has seen a great deal of success in sparking interest in welding without the actual sparks. And distributors have played an important role in all this, exposing students and other individuals to virtual welding through events like open houses and welding rodeos (scroll down to Virtual Welding, Real Results). Recently, virtual welding helped reach young people through the Careers in Welding trailer at FABTECH.

In my opinion, virtual welding has a lot of potential particularly for school programs. Not only can it serve as a great recruiting tool, but also a great hands-on way to teach the principles of welding before students try it out on real machines. Gases and welding distributors regularly supply real welding machines and other equipment to schools; have any of you had success introducing virtual equipment?

While not everyone can have access to virtual welding machines, I came across an online form of virtual welding—a game made in New Zealand called “TIG Welder” that is free to play. While not particularly complex, the game serves as a great introduction to the principles of welding, starting with safety. Get students interested in this game, and who knows?

E-learning has proven successful for a wide range of areas—why not welding? Just think: someday soon, gases and welding distributors could be selling software to schools, or even Wii games, complete with welding torch controller add-on. How will you adapt to a virtual market? How are you adapting now?

Check out the TIG Welder game in the video below, then try your hand at the game here. Admittedly, the game is somewhat dire with the line “If you fail, you might die” (if not simply suffering from a poor sense of humor), but then again, people trust their lives with welded structures every day.