Home | Executive Dialogue | Carole Jesiolowski

Posts Tagged ‘gases’

March Madness, Business Edition

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Last week, employers lost $175 million to distracted workers during the NCAA tournament. How much did March Madness cost your company?

With any luck, your employees remained productive throughout the first two days of the tournament. But even with the cost of the tournament, many employers also feel that the games can be a way to heighten employee morale. According to a recent poll by OfficeTeam, 68 percent of employers say that tournament games are either welcome or acceptable in moderation in the office. Perhaps these happy employees will return to work more productive than ever on Monday.

Whether or not you are a fan of watching basketball games in the office, there is at least one thing gases and welding distributors (and other businesses) can learn from the NCAA tournament.

Cinderella stories are a staple of the tournament. The last few years, there has been a 12- or 13-seed to make it through several rounds, with unheralded programs like Butler and VCU in the Final Four, or even the championship game. March Madness is a reminder that the little guys can win, and sometimes it’s the team that plays harder that comes out on top.

This brings me to an interesting conundrum:

I read a comment that said, in referring to small distributors in the gases and welding industry, that the niche for small players will always lie in supplying welding equipment. The commenter went on to say that small distributors will always struggle to grow in the gases side of the business due to the need for capital and a larger infrastructure required for delivery and production systems.

What do you think? Can a small distributor excel in the gas business, or does the need for capital limit the small operator to a hardgoods focus?

Then again, when it comes to the NCAA tournament, who would have thought that teams like Butler, VCU and Gonzaga would develop into more than Cinderella stories, but perennial threats?

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.

Wine On Tap? Now That’s A Niche Market

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Wine On Tap. Photo courtesy of xiaming.I’m currently working on the next issue of Welding & Gases Today, and one of the topics explored in this issue is niche markets for gases and welding distributors. Yesterday I came across one such niche via NPR—wine on tap—and I must say the concept is fascinating.

Restaurants and wine bars are increasingly offering wine on tap, with a little help from gases like nitrogen and argon. The use of inert gas pushes the wine from keg to tap without reacting with the wine. In fact, the gas helps preserves the wine longer than a typical bottle might at a restaurant.

While the concept of keg wine has been around for a long time, there is a renewed fervor for the beverage due to it being environmentally—and economically—friendly. It costs less than wholesale bottled wine and the containers are reusable. However, one proponent of wine on tap told NPR there are still some kinks to work out. Hear that? Sounds like opportunity to me! Welding and gases distributors specialize in solutions.

An underserved niche is a great way to expand into new markets. What niches does your company serve? How did you discover them? I’d love to hear about it.

Read about wine on tap or listen to the story below:

Casual Friday: Hand vs. Liquid Nitrogen

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Once again, it’s time for a “Casual Friday” video. You could say this is an example of poor safety when it comes to handling gases. In this video, the filmmaker demonstrates a unique property of liquid nitrogen that allows him to insert his hand directly into the Dewar without causing any damage. It is called the Leidenfrost effect, and relies on a barrier of steam that exists momentarily between a liquid and a much higher temperature object.

The effect is cool to watch, but I will never be trying this myself. I like my hands too much for that. Safety definitely outweighs “coolness” in this instance. For every one home scientist who successfully performs the experiment, I imagine there are five who end up in the emergency room.

Would you classify nitrogen here as medical, device or industrial product? Hmm.

What You Need To Know About Airgas vs. Air Products (Part II)

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

AirgasThe Airgas/Air Products war wages on. This week Air Products upped its offer by $2 a share, bringing the offer that started at $60 per share up to $65.50 per share. Shortly after, Airgas promptly reviewed and rejected the offer.

But this will not go on forever. Air Products CEO John McGlade says the company can take a hint: “If Airgas shareholders do not elect these three nominees and approve all of our proposals, we will conclude that shareholders do not want a sale of Airgas at this time—and we will therefore terminate our offer.”

But if you ask Airgas’ Peter McCausland, he’s not buying it: “We believe that Air Products’ threat to withdraw its offer if Airgas stockholders do not elect its nominees and approve its By-Law proposals is just another coercive tactic designed to facilitate the acquisition of Airgas at the lowest possible price.”

Just when it looked like a vote on September 15 could definitively determine Airgas’ fate, the situation is back up in the air. The latest subtext of the back-and-forth is that Airgas may seek other suitors. Says McCausland, “If the January Meeting Proposal does not receive support from a majority of the votes…our Board will explore all available alternatives to the grossly inadequate Air Products offer in order to enhance stockholder value.” According to Bloomberg, “alternatives” typically involves soliciting bids from other potential buyers. Could Airgas be up for sale?

If it seems as though Air Products will not give up, it may be because of the two companies’ history. Air Products sold its U.S. packaged gas business to Airgas in 2002. Now Air Products wants it back, by way of purchasing Airgas. McGlade explains, in a letter to Airgas employees:

“You might be wondering why we are looking to return to the U.S. packaged gas business now. In 2002, our U.S. packaged gas business had limited breadth and scope and at that time, we examined our strategic priorities and decided to exit that business in order to focus on other areas where we could grow and improve our company. Over the ensuing eight years, both Air Products and Airgas have grown significantly, and as we look to the future, we see packaged gas as a growth area for Air Products, both within North America and internationally.”

Even if you do not have a direct stake in this, the potential of a merger could have serious implications for the competition. John McGlade, in a letter to Airgas employees states, “The combined company would be the largest industrial gas company in North America and one of the largest globally.”

What impact do you think this will have on your company?

Follow my twitter updates: @GasWeldEdge

Making Sense Of The Battle For Airgas

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

If you’re anything like me, you don’t know what to make of the controversy between Airgas and Air Products. Air Products has been trying to acquire Airgas for about 10 months, and everything seems like a carefully played chess match leading up to Airgas’ annual meeting on September 15. As it approaches, I’ve been trying to get a grasp on everything that has taken place.

The feud has now made its way into a New York Times blog from UConn Law Professor Steven M. Davidoff, which dissects the latest moves by each party involved and their potential implications. Why did Airgas send a letter to the Delaware court? Why exactly is Air Product proposing a bylaw amendment to move Airgas’ next annual meeting all the way up to January 2011? Davidoff puts it in terms you can wrap your head around. NB – It’s infused with Davidoff’s opinion, so don’t take it all as fact.

Last week, Airgas sent a letter to its shareholders stating, among many other things, “If Air Products truly wants to acquire Airgas, it knows what to do. It must offer a price that fairly compensates you—our stockholders—or terminate its efforts.”

The NYT blog brings up an important point that seems to draw on this statement: “Whether Airgas intended it, the events of this week tell the market that it certainly is for sale at the right price.”

Is a takeover imminent? What impact do you think it will have on other distributors if it happens?

August Edge On Its Way

Friday, August 7th, 2009

I’ve been busy all week finalizing the text for the August edition of GAWDA Edge. Being a roller coaster enthusiast, my favorite story is the piece on gases and welding work in roller coaster design and construction. However, the issue also includes stories from mentors and mentees in the gases and welding industry, a look at GAWDA’s upcoming Convention in San Antonio, some social networking tips and much more. With this issue off my desk and out of my way now, it’s time to begin work on the September issue. I’ll be sure to include stories related to the issue in the blog whenever I come across them and continue to keep my readers updated on the status of the publication. For now, I bid everyone a good weekend and look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions on the August GAWDA Edge which hits inboxes everywhere on the 20th.