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Archive for June, 2012

Why Job Training Is Better Than A Pay Raise

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Most employers understand the value of training, but a new study suggests that its value may actually be underappreciated. I was amazed to read in a Harvard Business Review publication that employer-provided training can have an incredible impact on job satisfaction, the equivalent of a nearly 18% pay raise. This finding came out of a study of nearly 5,000 workers by the University of Madeira.

Employers have long asked how they can motivate employees when pay raises are not an option. Well, here’s one answer to that question. And while training is certainly not free, the cost is much less than giving every one of your employees an 18% raise…and that’s not even considering the educational benefits of the training.

Employee training at Tech Air

Employee training at Tech Air

The author of the study suggests that many employers tend to overlook the non-traditional, more subjective benefits of training, particularly when they don’t see immediate gains in employee productivity. That said, it’s hard to ignore the bottom line. As I mentioned, training is not free, and it takes up employees’ time.

GAWDA member Tech Air in Danbury, CT, has found a unique way to maximize of training its employees and get the most out of monthly training sessions. In the latest issue of Welding & Gases Today, Tech Air Director of Safety and Compliance Marilyn Dempsey talks the company’s new “Train the Trainer” program, where training is led by the company’s own employees.

What makes Train the Trainer unique is that it capitalizes on the knowledge and experience of individual employees. Employers have long fought against the “brain drain” that happens when experienced employees retire or leave without passing on their knowledge to others. This is one way to bridge that communication gap.

Employees attending the training may also be more responsive when learning from a peer, someone they know, trust and respect. Train the Trainer is also highly scalable, with the ability to add new trainers as a company grows.

You can learn more about Tech Air’s training program here. It’s definitely worth a look, especially at the value of an 18% raise.

What are you doing to maximize the value of employee training? Share by leaving a comment.

How To Turn An Accident Into A Purpose

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.
-John Powell

It’s always discussed that networking is one of the greatest values of GAWDA. It’s plain to see networking in action during GAWDA’s meetings and events throughout the year, but GAWDA provides other opportunities to take advantage of the collective knowledge of association members. One example is the Accident and Incident Sharing initiative.

Incorrect Cylinder Strap Usage

This example from GAWDA's safety committee shows the unsafe use of one strap to secure smaller cylinders.

Launched at the end of 2011, GAWDA’s incident sharing program is an incredible form of networking. GAWDA’s Safety Committee asked members to share examples of incidents that can be reviewed and shared with the entire GAWDA membership. The idea behind the program is simple: by sharing incidents that happened at one company, other members can prevent the same thing from happening at their businesses. This simple act of sharing can spare both injuries and expenses.

GAWDA members are now seeing the fruits of this effort. The July 2012 Safety & Technology Organizer contains the latest example topic, which involves delivery trucks, something that affects most gases and welding distributors. With this example, the Safety Committee hopes members will take a look at pickup trucks being used to deliver cylinders, welders, pallets of wire and other heavy objects.

This great networking benefit is exclusively for GAWDA members. The Safety Organizer can now be found under Members Only Publications on the GAWDA website.

If you would like more information about sharing an incident or accident through this program, take a look at “An Incident Shared Is An Injury Spared.” Remember the quote above, and let us learn from our mistakes.

A Summer Of Gases And Welding

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Now that it’s officially summer, it’s a perfect time for a gases and welding road trip. It seems you can’t go anywhere without coming across the marvels of the industry, but there are some places that truly showcase the wonders of gases and welding.

One incredible wonder of welding is the Grand Canyon Skywalk, which opened in 2007. The horseshoe-shaped steel and glass walkway rises 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. Thanks to incredible engineering and the power of welding, the Skywalk can support an estimated 71 million lbs., and can withstand earthquakes up to 8.0 in magnitude.

How was such an amazing feat achieved? The Skywalk’s frame is made welded carbon steel box girders that are 2 inches thick, 6 feet long and 2.5 feet wide. 40-foot sections were shipped in and sub-arc welded on site. Ultrasonic testing was used to ensure the quality of the welds, and revealed a weld reject rate at less than 2 percent for the entire project.

Lincoln Electric has more details about the welding processes used in the construction of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, which in total was built with more than 1 million pounds of steel. The man-made wonder was also featured in Welding & Gases Today, along with other amazing destinations like the new Yankee Stadium and Cedar Point. Start planning your summer vacation with “The Great Welding And Gases Road Trip.”

What destinations would you put on your gases and welding road trip? Share in the comments or on Twitter @GasWeldEdge.

Big News In Welding Fume Litigation

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

In the March issue of Welding & Gases Today, GAWDA’s Welding Fume Liability Consultant Michael Degan reported that “rumors have been floating for several months that the steering committee for plaintiffs has been negotiating a proposal to terminate all currently pending welding fume cases.” It seemed the momentum was beginning to turn in favor of the welding industry, with no cases going to trial in 2011.

Then last week, important news on the welding fume litigation front signaled a major turning point. As it turns out, the rumors to which Degan referred were true; the confirmation of these rumors last week was big news for the welding industry. As announced last week, a global settlement has been reached to resolve nearly all pending welding fume cases in state and federal courts.

Welding fume litigation has plagued the industry for nearly a decade, going back to the 2003 case in which Larry Elam was awarded a million-dollar verdict in one of the first suits to go to trial. In the aftermath of this case, tens of thousands of cases were filed in what many proclaimed to be “the next asbestos.”

Instead of lying down, the welding industry showed its fortitude. “Rather than buying peace through settlement negotiations, the industry stood its ground,” says Degan. “Jury after jury rejected claims that exposure to fumes emitted during mild steel welding caused injury.”

Last week’s settlement announcement is validation for a determined industry, and thanks to funding from welding manufacturers, will facilitate the release and dismissal of gases and welding distributors. With 95 percent of cases now settled, we no longer have to wonder about the alternate ending that could have wreaked havoc on the welding industry. And the distributors of GAWDA can go back to focusing on what they do best—serving their customers.

Email Scam Targets Industrial Suppliers

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Email Scam AlertI’d say the email scammers are at it again, but the unfortunate reality is they never went away. We all get phishing emails from time to time, trying to lure us into giving away our credit card information, and hackers can be sneaky. They’ve come up with specialized emails targeting industrial manufacturers and distributors.

Just this week, I received an “Exciting Opportunity” in my email from a man named Brent Shelton, inviting me to “stand-in as a new supplier” for an unnamed material. I was informed that the venture was “in line with your personal capabilities,” even though I’m fairly certain Mr. Shelton cannot attest to my personal capabilities. You can see the entirety of the email in the box below. If you get an email like this one, your safest bet is not to respond.

From: Brent Shelton [b.shelton@inbox.com]
Subject: Exciting Opportunity

Greetings,

I would like to discuss a business proposal that has the potential for significant earnings.

I am currently employed with a privately held manufacturing company. My company has demand for a specific material that is vital to its processing operations. We are currently purchasing this material at a price well over the manufacturing cost.

I would like to explore the possibility of having you stand-in as a new supplier, providing this material while retaining the same profit margins. My role would be to introduce you to my company, as the supplier, and to obtain a contract between you and my employer. I have already discussed sourcing possibilities with the existing manufacturer, leaving room for attractive profit margins. What is still required in order to materialize this venture is an individual who is at arm’s length to oversee these supply chain transactions. The required capital to purchase our initial order from the manufacturer will be funded strictly from myself and no additional investment will be required from yourself. With that said, we can discuss terms and commission structure in the near future.

I understand that your experience with does not directly relate to my field. However, this venture is more in line with your personal capabilities rather than your professional experience.

Please send a return email to verify your contact number and to schedule the most convenient time to discuss these possibilities in detail. I look forward to speaking with you soon.

Kindest Regards,
Brent Shelton

I think it’s important to share scams like this one because they come and go in trends as scammers learn what people do and don’t respond to. It started with the Nigerian prince emails—until everyone learned what was going on. By the third or fourth time you were contacted by foreign royalty, you probably realized that it was too good to be true.

Phishing emails can be dangerous for anyone, but particularly dangerous for a business when employees are answering emails from customers. It can be hard to spot when a customer request is not legitimate, and you’re counting on the judgment of each individual employee to spot a scam.

For examples of other email scams to watch out for, take a look at my blog entry from last year, “Email Scammers Are Back.” You can also see examples shared by AWISCO’s Victor Fuhrman in Welding & Gases Today.

It’s important to make sure all of your employees are aware of these scams. I personally know a small business owner who was victimized by one of these scams, and I can tell you there is little to no recourse you can take when your money’s been stolen by a scam artist in an unknown country.

How do you keep your employees informed of email scams? Do you have other examples of email scams targeting industrial suppliers? Please share them in the comments.

How To Become Irreplaceable To Your Customers

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

In asking GAWDA members about the best business books they’ve ever read, Jim Collins’ book Good To Great is one that comes up time and time again. Perhaps there’s something alluring about being “great” to companies that pride themselves in service. If you ask Jim Collins, very few businesses can be called “great,” and many business owners aren’t even interested in getting to great. This sentiment, touched on in the video above, is echoed in Collins’ recent interview with Inc. Magazine.

Good To GreatSo what does it mean to be great? In the interview, Collins distinguishes between inputs and outputs. For example, some companies have very strong culture, but Collins says culture is a contributor to greatness and not the end result. Great service, the pride of GAWDA members, would also fall under the inputs category.

In determining if your company is great or not, Collins poses the question, “If your company disappeared, would it leave a gaping hole that could not easily be filled by any other enterprise on the planet?”

Think about it for a second: Is your company replaceable? Would your customers’ business be worse off if you weren’t around? It follows that becoming a great company (and a great leader) means becoming irreplaceable to your customers.

Reading the interview with Collins jogged my memory back to the First Quarter issue of this year, when we took a page from Collins and asked GAWDA distributors what they would have to do to become great in 2012. Members offered some great answers, like “Help customers figure out a better way to do their jobs” and “Train employees in the time-honored art of fundamental problem solving.” These certainly have the makings of irreplaceable companies. You can read the responses of 43 different distributors in the 2012 Business Forecast.

Assuming your company has room to improve, what can you do to become irreplaceable? Collins offers 12 questions a business owner must reflect on if he or she is truly committed to becoming great. Do we have the right people on the bus and in the key seats? What are the core values and core purpose on which we want to build this enterprise for 100 years? “The challenge is not just to build a company that can endure, but to build one that is worthy of enduring,” says Collins. These questions are certainly a good start to becoming irreplaceable. The full list of questions appear on page 4 of the article.

On his website, Collins also offers some other tools to help businesses on their way to greatness, including the Good To Great Diagnostic Tool and the Vision Framework, which helps leaders articulate their organization’s vision. Access these tools here.

Do you agree with Collins’ definition of what makes a company great? In what ways do you (or can you) differentiate your business to become irreplaceable to your customers?

Is There Really A Welder Shortage?

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Welding Jobs: Help WantedThe shortage of skilled workers has been widely reported, but one economist has challenged this notion. Iowa State University Economist Dave Swenson was quoted in the Des Moines Register as being “baloney.” Citing the fact that Iowa has recovered fewer than half of the jobs it lost in the recession, he said, “The lament about work force shortage is not substantiated to the degree that the rhetoric has gotten play.”

That article has since disappeared from the Internet, but Swenson goes on in another article to explain: “U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics occupational data for Iowa tells us…that Iowa was employing 6,000 fewer metal workers of all kinds in 2011 than it did in 2008. How, then, do we reconcile the claim that industry cannot find enough skilled metalworkers when it appears there are thousands of previously employed metalworkers still idle? Did they all retire?”

Interestingly, he’s not the only one to notice that there are fewer welders and other skilled workers employed in the past few years than there were prior to the recession. The State Of The Welding Industry notedly reported a projected need for almost 250,000 additional welders by 2019. But the executive summary states outright: “The results of a thorough examination of the labor market needs of the welding industry are somewhat deceptive, as they show a decline in the overall number of welding personnel from the period of 2002-2009. However, during that time there were consistently needs in different regions throughout the U.S. for up to 10% of the overall welding professionals to be replaced, predominantly due to retirements.”

I wanted to take it a step further to ask those who know first-hand. Putting the question out to welding industry professionals in Welding & Gases Today’s LinkedIn group, I asked, “Is there really a welder shortage?”

“I have been involved in welding for over 50 years at every level from entry to president. There has been a chronic shortage of skilled welders that entire time,” says Bryant Reed, partner at Advanced Welding Sales.

Sam Mangialardi at Praxair responds, “Speaking to customers and listening to the lack of ‘qualified welders’ is a concern now. The basic qualifications can be met, but as the jobs become more detailed, the lack of skill learned in the schools limit the welder’s capabilities to perform.”

The overwhelming response from distributors, manufacturers, welders and instructors is that there are not enough welders with the skills needed for current jobs.

Scott Laslo, instructor at Columbus State Community College sums up the situation nicely. “As a Welding educator of 7 years and a ‘welder’ for the past 18, I can say that as a society we are tackling a mountain…As a nation, we need to decide if our kids are allowed to get dirty and be respected for doing it.”

Respondents agree that it will take a village—or at least an industry—to bring about change. What do you see as the role of the welding distributor in this situation?

See the entire discussion and share your opinion in the LinkedIn Group here.

Share Your Best Interview Questions

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Ask the right questions in a job interviewHiring is a unique skill. It can be especially challenging for the welding and gases industry. GAWDA members have lamented the difficulty of finding drivers and great salespeople. Recruiting and drawing people to what some consider an unglamorous industry is only part of the challenge.

It’s no easy task to pick a future salesperson extraordinaire from a stack of résumés. It can be especially hard if you don’t know what skills to look for. In fact, this is one of the issues explored in this week’s On The Edge article, where industry members argue that welding skills are not a necessity for a welding salesperson. You may disagree, but in either case, it’s something that must be considered when hiring. This all plays into asking the right questions.

Interviews can be stressful for both the business owner/HR manager and the job candidate. And success in an interview does not necessarily translate to success in the workplace (no doubt many of you who are business owners have found this out the hard way)…and it’s not always the employee’s fault. How do know if you’re asking the right questions?

Huffington Post ran an article last week about interviewing, called “What Is Your Best Job Interview Question?” Ten business owners shared their favorite interview questions and why they work. Some questions try to determine whether the employee will fit in with the company culture. JJ Ramberg at GoodSearch asks, “Would you be willing to put together an IKEA bookshelf?” to find people who fit in with an all-hands-on-deck midset.

Meanwhile, Eric Ryan at Method asks “How will you keep our company weird?” Your culture probably isn’t built around the idea of being weird and different, but the concept still works with any culture. You might ask a candidate how he or she will deliver great customer service, for example.

I want to extend HuffPo’s question to you and ask you to share your favorite or best interview question. What questions have landed you the best employees? On the other hand, what questions are not effective?

Share in the comments or on Twitter by tweeting to @GasWeldEdge.

Giving GAWDA Members The Edge

Friday, June 1st, 2012

The phrase “No news is good news” no longer applies in today’s world, because the truth is there is always news. With the ease of sharing information on the Internet, it’s simply a matter of whether you choose to hear the latest news. The marketplace is constantly changing, and the gases and welding industry is no exception. Keeping up with important industry news becomes more than personal interest; it can be a true competitive advantage.

Among the features of Welding & Gases Today Online is a weekly On The Edge column, featuring controversial and hot industry topics. Show here in the upper right.

Welding & Gases Today’s On The Edge column is an incredible resource for GAWDA members. These online-exclusive articles break down current events and hot topics in the gases and welding industry and share different views from distributors and suppliers. Recent articles have looked at different angles relating to the helium shortage and helium pricing, the embezzlement of a Colorado distributor that drove it to bankruptcy and FMCSA’s controversial tank vehicle definition.

New On The Edge articles are now posted every week. This is great news for GAWDA members. The articles are available on the home page of WeldingAndGasesToday.org under the heading “On The Edge.” You can explore the full archive with almost two years of On The Edge articles by clicking on the words “On The Edge.” Go back to the controversial look at a large business fulfilling government contracts reserved for small businesses; then see both sides of the debate on whether the sales territory model or market segmentation is better suited for the gases and welding industry.

Being part of GAWDA is a great way to stay on top of news. GAWDA’s mission statement states the goal of publishing and promoting information for safety and environmentally responsible practices, as well as providing analysis on current issues and disseminating relevant information to the membership. This information serves member companies so they may better serve their customers, employees and society.

Now members don’t have to wait for Welding & Gases Today to arrive in their mailbox. I invite you to check back every week for interactive On The Edge articles where you can share your opinion about the latest industry news.