The Partnerships That Keep Us Moving

Selling is the most important function that takes place in North America on any given day. In fact, the U.S. Department of Congress states that 92 percent of the GNP is created when someone sells something to someone else. No products are manufactured, no deliveries are made, and no one gets paid until someone sells something! So in this, our annual salute to Industry Partnering, we highlight the Distributors who are succeeding, despite the odds.

Distributors and Suppliers have figured out what is required to make it in this new economy. And it has been a new economy. They have worked together with a new awareness, trusting and relying on each other, and reacting quickly to every sales opportunity, regardless of how small or how big.

Together, they made these sales happen.

To view a particular company, click their name below, or simply scroll down through the article.
AGA Gas Inc. Kirk Welding Supply Inc.
Airgas-Intermountain Inc. Machine & Welding Supply Company
Airgas-Sacramento Inc. Northeast Gas Technologies
Aimtek Inc. Oxygen Service Company Inc.
Butler Gas Products Company Smith Welding Supply & Equipment
Coastal Welding Supply Inc. Tec Welding Sales
Ivey Industries Inc. Total Welding Supply
Jackson Welding Supply Company Inc. Vancouver Welding Supply Company

Butler Gas Keeps Customer Springing Along

Butler Gas Products of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, had a little problem. It had just installed a fast fill, no/low loss gas mixing system for longtime local customer General Wire Spring to meet its spring and drain-cleaning equipment fabricating requirements. By replacing the previous cylinder delivery system, Butler Gas stood to save the customer 20 percent on its annual gas costs, and the distributor would need to make just monthly, rather than weekly, deliveries of product.

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Summary: Distributor’s in-house piping expert aligns team to deliver custom fit and quick turnaround of gas mixer.
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Distributor: Butler Gas Products Company
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Manufacturer: Acme Cryogenics Inc.

However, Debi Butler, vice president and sales manager at Butler Gas, notes the challenge: “The gases just weren’t mixing.” The customer had a gas use pattern not suited to the new system. “They weren’t drawing enough gas from the system, or they were drawing gas, but only one or two stations at a time, and the proper mix was not being achieved.” At this point, there were two options: Go back to the original cylinder system with its higher cost and time-consuming delivery of 25 cylinders per week, or provide a more custom-fit mixer capable of adapting to General Wire Spring’s requirements.

Butler and her company’s in-house piping expert, Kurt Bogati, had a pretty good idea which way to turn, and they called in trusted supplier Acme Cryogenics. Acme’s National Distributor Sales Manager Tom Kairys listened to a profile of the customer’s use patterns, and consulted with Acme’s Senior Product Engineer Ed Sokalski and Sales Manager Dave Edge. The Acme team worked to customize its 1000 Series Variable Ratio Gas Blend System to the customer’s needs. The blender’s closely calibrated mixing valve and complete pneumatic control feature provided the precise mixing required by General Wire Spring.


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A closely calibrated mixing valve and pneumatic control on the Acme Cryogenics' Gas Blend System provide precise mixing of gases.





By having its own piping expert work in close concert with Acme, Butler Gas was able to deliver the new blender within one month of discovering the problem with the previous system. General Wire Spring took delivery in January 2003 and, as Butler describes, “The system has worked beautifully ever since.” The gases are mixing properly, and General Wire Spring has, well, you-know-what, back into action. The customer also received its originally promised savings on gas supply. In the year since the new system was installed, the company has saved 25 percent in gas delivery, dropping from $25,000 to $20,000.

The key element maintained by Butler Gas throughout this challenge was flexibility. “The original gas mixing system has been a huge success for us overall,” reports Butler. “We have been able to get a lot of new business because of it. But in this particular case, it didn’t give us the flow we needed.” By calling in supplier Acme Cryogenics in rapid fashion, and having its own piping expert share input with Acme, Butler Gas never allowed the initial mixing disappointment to amount to much of an issue.

“We’re a family-owned company, just like this customer,” explains Butler. “And what we do best is take care of other family-owned companies.” Of course, when you’ve got a dependable supplier and partner like Acme Cryogenics, it’s not a bad idea to call in a little assistance from your extended family every now and again.


Northeast Gas Streamlines Logistical Challenge
for the Military

The next time you’re waiting in line for clearance at a military base, you might want to take a cue from Northeast Gas Technologies’ President Rusty Baker. In the running for a large contract involving gas storage and distribution at a secure New York facility, Baker knew he had a dependable ally in supplier Weldship Corporation. He just needed to demonstrate to the government that his Albany, New York-based company could provide unparalleled service.

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Summary: Ground storage units and large tube trailers decrease visits to secure military site.
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Distributor: Northeast Gas Technologies
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The focus of the deal was the facility’s desire to replace its supply methods for three gases, which had been stored and distributed on base strictly through a system of tube trailers. The main issue was security: The military wanted to reduce the number of outside companies coming onto the base. Baker felt confident in promising a how-you-want-it, when-you-want-it, where-you-want-it package, because he knew he could count on Weldship and its 10-year history of partnering with Northeast Gas.

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Weldship's 55,000 cubic-foot tube trailers helped eliminate some security risks for military.

Given the government facility’s challenging schedule requirements, and the added hurdle of regulated access to the job site, Baker forged an approach of “extreme flexibility” on the part of Northeast Gas; this included dedicating Operations Manager Mike Felt solely to the account. With Northeast Gas keeping in close contact with the facility and demonstrating a readiness to arrive on site according to the military’s often-shifting schedule, “the customer was very appreciative of the cooperation they were getting from us,” explains Baker.

Baker called in Vic Pratt, Weldship’s vice president of marketing, who visited the base and helped the Northeast Gas team devise a supply solution. Instead of relying solely on a tube trailer system, with filling performed off-site and the gases transported to the base for distribution, Pratt proposed a combination of three 65,000 cubic-foot ground storage units and five 55,000 cubic foot tube trailers.

“Since we have not had requirements for tube trailers in the past, we did not have any available in our fleet,” explains Baker. He looked to Weldship, which came through with flying colors. In addition to installing the three ground storage units, Weldship stayed on schedule to assemble the tube trailers, which Northeast Gas now uses to perform the transfilling. Last but definitely not least, Northeast Gas picked up the sizable cylinder business at the facility.

While the entire contract is worth in the high $100,000 per year, just as important to Northeast Gas is the reinforced knowledge that it has a trusted partner in Weldship, a company willing to complement the Northeast Gas commitment to customer satisfaction.


Tec Welding Helps Alaskans Beat that Sinking Feeling

Cordova’s bridges were falling down, falling down; or to put it another way, the bridges’ pilings were sinking into Alaska’s melting permafrost. The state’s warming trend, welcomed by some, was wreaking havoc with commuters, truckers and local officials who just wanted to keep their bridges above water.

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Summary: Immediate response and fast modification to band results in overnight solution.
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Distributor: Tec Welding Sales
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Manufacturer: H&M Pipe Beveling Machine Company

Having built a solid reputation throughout the Pacific Northwest supplying contractors on major projects, including bridge earthquake retrofits and new bridge construction, the majority of Seattle’s downtown high-rises, and stadiums such as The Seattle Mariners’ Safeco Field and the new Seahawks’ Stadium, Tec Welding Sales of Auburn, Washington, was already involved in the Cordova retrofit project when an urgent situation arose.

Contractor Malcolm Drilling needed a specialized beveling machine, one capable of cutting the existing 70.8 inch piling, thus allowing the piling to be lengthened. The job was red label; the entire project had come to a halt, as work could not proceed until the piling was cut. Malcolm Drilling had confidence in Tec Welding, based on the two companies’ history of working together on a number of previous retrofits. In addition, the companies are located within five miles of each other, just south of Seattle.

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H&M modified a larger band for its beveling machine to vertically cut the bridge's existing pilings.

It was October 20, 2003, and Tec Welding President Butch Clarberg had 24 hours to deliver the beveller to the job site. He turned to a trusted partner of his own, H&M Pipe Beveling Machine Company.

“We’ve worked with H&M many times,” explains Clarberg. “We’ve sold their machines.” Clarberg contacted H&M’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing Patrick Dougal, outlining for Dougal the cutting requirements and, most important, the immediacy of the situation. Clarberg placed his call to H&M at 10 a.m. on October 20.

There was one challenge, however—H&M did not have the exact stainless steel band required for its otherwise well-suited motorized band type machine. H&M’s Dougal informed Clarberg that the company could quickly modify a larger band to fit the project’s specifications. H&M completed the modification very quickly, and the complete motorized band beveling machine with cutting torch was on its way to Alaska via express freight by 3 p.m. that same day. Malcolm Drilling took delivery of the $3,255 beveling machine at 1 p.m. the next day, and work resumed on the retrofits.

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The 70.8 inch OD piling provides additional support for Alaska's sinking bridges, caused by the warming trend of recent years.

Tec Welding’s success on the Cordova retrofit demonstrates the power of long-term relationships. The company has built an excellent reputation supplying bridge retrofit and new construction, as well as high-rise and stadium construction through the use of a simple formula. By building trust through a history of dedicated service to customer Malcolm Drilling, and then by placing trust in its own longtime reliable vendor, H&M Pipe Beveling Machine Company, Tec Welding has positioned itself in just the right spot to be called upon the next time a bridge needs to go retro.


Sales Approach Tips the Scales in AGA’s Favor

Things were going fine for Senior Sales Representative Kyle Lepley and his company, AGA Gas, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. AGA’s longstanding relationship as distributor of welding supplies to manufacturing giant Jay Industries provided a steady stream of business. And yet, Lepley thought things could be better. Based in AGA’s Mansfield, Ohio, branch location, Lepley had begun distributing Abicor Binzel’s Silver Contact welding tips to other customers, and the time was ripe to share his enthusiasm for the tips with Jay Industries’ subsidiary, Sarca Manufacturing, a producer of formed steel tube and other metal components.

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Summary: Product trial produces hard data for tip changeover.
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Distributor: AGA Gas Inc.
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Manufacturer: Abicor Binzel

“They were doing a tip changeout every shift,” Lepley recounts in reference to the standard copper welding tips which AGA had been steadily supplying to the customer. Lepley and Ken Ishman, AGA’s district sales manager, teamed up with Abicor Binzel Sales Rep Frank Bush to perform a site analysis at Sarca. After the team compiled data on length of weld, wire speed, current and voltage, Bush took the information and created a package of equipment for the customer to test drive.

The entire sales process unfolded over several months and a number of visits to Sarca. The team set up product trials, which produced some hard data for the customer. During the trials, Sarca welders used 4.24 standard welding tips for every one Abicor Binzel Silver Contact tip in the fabrication of Sarca’s automobile seat frames. The welders experienced more efficient welding, longer lasting tips, and a reduction of costly tip change times.

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Abicor Binzel's Silver Contact tips reduced changeout times.

Sarca was more than pleased with the results, and has been using the new silver tips since March 2003. The sales team at AGA Gas was not surprised. “We’ve taken these silver tips to numerous customers,” reports District Sales Manager Ishman, “and every customer has changed to it. Right now, it’s a matter of us keeping up and making the changes as quickly as customers want the new tips.” AGA now plans to take the new technology to a second Jay Industries’ subsidiary, Broshco Fabricated Products, as a step toward wider distribution within Jay.

The high demand has much to do with the coordinated sales approach of AGA Gas and Abicor Binzel. Customers appreciate the thorough evaluation and service provided by the two partners, and once the details are worked out and a test trial is set up, “Then you just let it run,” says Ishman. “You let it do its magic.”

When the project is complete, the entire facility will be converted to new torches and tips. Some call it magic. Some call it great teamwork. Either way, the customer wins when AGA Gas and Abicor Binzel combine forces.


Kirk Keeps Customer Cutting Strong

Kirk Welding Supply of Kansas City, Missouri, had a successful custom metal fabricator in its client base. Kirk had gained the contract to supply Ernest-Spencer Metals with the pure Argon and 90/10 Argon/CO2 mix used at the fabricator’s 35 weld stations. Having seen the customer through a cost-saving and efficiency-boosting upgrade from a cylinder-only system to a liquid-based system of Argon and CO2 run through a gas mixer, Kirk was ready when the customer decided to add laser cutting capability to its operation.

Summary: Site visits provide logistics and cost analyses that improve monitoring and control of laser cutting capabilities.
Distributor: Kirk Welding Supply Inc.
Manufacturer: Chart Industries

After being asked by the customer to provide input on logistics, Kirk’s Bulk Gas Manager David Hanchette and the company’s Topeka Branch Manager Andy Harris turned to trusted supplier Chart Industries and Account Manager Tom Chromy. Chromy had worked closely with Kirk on the earlier weld gas solution, and he visited Ernest-Spencer Metals with the Kirk team to perform a logistical and cost analysis. Just as cutting lasers deliver precise high-definition machine and manufacturing parts, so too do these systems require precise performance from their gas supply systems.

As a custom fabricator, Ernest-Spencer’s laser workload would likely vary greatly from month-to-month, and even day-to-day. One job might involve mild steel and thus call for Oxygen and the faster cutting it provides through oxidation, while another job on stainless steel requires Nitrogen and its nonreactive properties. Both the customer and Kirk Welding were specific in their desire for an easily monitored and controlled system that would ideally bypass costly pressure checks and allow for demand-driven deliveries.

Drawing on the data he collected along with Kirk’s sales team, Chart’s Chromy proposed the company’s computer-controlled Trifecta High-Pressure Gas Supply System and accompanying OnSite Telemetry System. The Trifecta system coordinates a large liquid gas storage tank—in this case a 3,000-gallon 250 psig vertical ASME-coded nitrogen tank from Chart—with two high-pressure (450 – 500 psig) 200-liter vessels. The Trifecta monitors the pressure in all three tanks and its lines, and controls the pumping of liquid into the two high-pressure vessels. As one high-pressure tank empties, the system switches over to draw from the other high-pressure tank, and the empty tank is re-pumped. Continuous high pressure gas supply to the laser is maintained, even when the bulk liquid tank is being refilled. For oxygen-driven cutting, the lower pressure demand allows for gas delivery directly from an on-site liquid bulk tank constructed by Chart and provided by Kirk.

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The Trifecta system sits between a nitrogen tank on left and an oxygen tank.

The customer was pleased with the convenience of the Trifecta System, with its obvious advantages over a system of individual high-pressure laser cylinders and its accompanying need for site checks as well as loss of cylinder residuals. The distributor and customer were particularly excited about the OnSite Telemetry System—its monitoring and electronic transmission of the bulk liquid tank levels would boost the customer’s efficiency, while at the same time providing added convenience for the distributor.

“By just hitting a key on our computer,” explains Kirk’s Harris, “We can check their liquid levels and see where they are. This allows us to monitor, schedule and route our trucks more efficiently. And, it definitely gives our customer a sense of security in knowing they are not going to run out of gas.” The convenience of Chart’s telemetry system is magnified in this situation where the customer has a highly variable work schedule and gas demand pattern.

The collaboration between Kirk Welding and Chart Industries was a sure winner for the customer. After all, when your customer needs to concentrate its attention on laser cutting 1/16-inch diameter holes in machine parts, it sure helps when you can slice through any time-consuming supply issues.


Ivey Delivers First Time, Every Time

Nothing beats partnering on a pivotal deal, and nowhere is partnering more important than when a distributor seeks to enter new territory, deliver new products, or offer new services. Ivey Industries of Springfield, Massachusetts, knew this well, so when a longtime customer wanted a more efficient gas delivery system, President Bob Iverson knew whom to call.

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Summary: Worker input results in efficient high pressure, ASME ground storage tubes.
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Distributor: Ivey Industries Inc.
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Manufacturer: FIBA Technologies Inc.

The customer, a manufacturer of flexible gas piping and tubing, was seeing an increased demand for its products. The company’s gas delivery system—individual high pressure cylinders delivered daily and moved throughout the plant, an Argon/Hydrogen mixture for welding, and Helium for leak checking—had gotten it so far, but with increased production, flaws in the system were becoming apparent.

Ivey Sales Representative Gary LaPlante collected input from workers at the plant. “We listened, and we looked,” he says. The problem became clear: inadequate supply on site for changes in production, a labor-intensive process to move cylinders, and various leaks causing quality problems. Cylinder manifolds and cylinder cradles would lessen the problem, but not solve it.

Ground storage tubes were the answer: no cylinder handling, ample storage, and minimized leaks. The current liquid Argon station, gas mixer and Helium system could remain. For Ivey Industries, though, this would be its first installation of ground storage tubes. Iverson says, “The anxiety of doing a project for the first time is the most difficult part. Will the equipment work? Will it be delivered on time? Will I look bad in front of my customer?”

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Hydrogen is stored in this 7-tube, 2400 psig ASME ground storage receiver from FIBA Technologies.

Iverson turned to FIBA Industries and Executive Vice President Joe Sandello. Sandello knew what was needed and presented Iverson with a number of options for the customer—ASME tubes, DOT tubes, new, used, rent, lease or own.

Iverson purchased a reconditioned unit from FIBA, which he now rents to the customer, maximizing his company’s long-term profit. FIBA delivered the seven-tube, 2,400 psig ASME ground storage receiver right on time. All features were as promised—with stacks and valves oriented correctly and at the right height—both for the application and to meet CGA S-1.3 code.

After eliminating the labor-intensive cylinder delivery system, Ivey now has Hydrogen delivery to the customer performed via third-party arrangement with supplier BOC. The customer’s cost on product decreased, and the hours of labor previously directed at changing cylinders is now being applied to manufacture more tubing products.


Vancouver Welding Helps Customer Frame Its Market

If you were on a bike, a racing mountain bike that happened to be headed straight down a ski slope at 60 miles per hour, you just might want to know whether the weld wire holding your frame together came from a) 100% AWA-traceable domestic ingot; or b) foreign ingot from any number of countries whose producer decided not to bother with pesky traceability details like lot, batch and heat numbers.

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Summary: Solid reputation for follow-up service and on-time delivery of specialized alloy seals the deal.
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Distributor: Vancouver Welding Supply Company
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Manufacturer: Gulf Wire Corporation

That was the issue at hand for distributor Vancouver Welding Supply Company, of Vancouver, Washington, when it was approached by its longtime customer, a Pacific Northwest aluminum fabricator with a special focus on bicycle frames. The customer was gearing up to build a specialized high stress frame for downhill snow racing. Obviously, this well-known company would be performing comprehensive testing, both destructive and nondestructive, of all materials used in the frames.

As the highly valued 14-year distributor for the bicycle maker, Vancouver Welding was given the chance to provide the special weld wire required for this project. Sales Manager Ernie Foster had no hesitation in contacting Gulf Wire Corporation, whose President Nick Dietzen and West Coast Account Manager Mike Levine had worked with Vancouver Welding and this same customer on several previous wires related to bicycle frame welding.

Having visited this and other clients numerous times with Gulf Wire’s Levine, Ernie Foster had come to consider Gulf Wire as a virtual extension of his own company. The two made a presentation to the customer on all aspects of the unique 4643 wire to be used on the racing frames. Foster explains, “We presented to them everything they needed to know about this wire: the wire itself, its reliability, particularly the cast and helix, and also the cleanliness of the wire, and most importantly, the wire’s traceability as domestic ingot with complete lot, batch and heat numbering.”

Of course, there was one little item remaining—that being the customer’s requirement for 10,000 pounds of the product on site. Not a problem for Gulf Wire, which delivered the product on time to complete Vancouver Welding’s February 2003 deal, worth about $80,000. One crucial aspect to the deal involves just what the customer has come to expect from both Vancouver Welding and Gulf Wire, and that is the extensive follow-up provided in tandem by the two companies.

Foster summarizes Vancouver Welding’s approach to this and all customers succinctly. “We give them the product they need, when they need it, at a reasonable price, and do follow-up.” Foster visits this customer once or twice a week to check up on the current frame welding operation, as well as a variety of other procedures at the plant, as Vancouver Welding handles all of this customer’s welding machine and gas business, and most of the supplies at the plant. On Gulf Wire’s part, Account Manager Levine accompanies Foster on plant visits every three months, and President Dietzen visits on a yearly basis.

Oh, and those 10,000 pounds of wire? They’re expected to last the company until about September 2004, when next winter’s crop of daring young men and women will line up 15,000 feet above sea level and begin clamoring for a fresh supply of traceable domestic ingot.


Smith Welding Goes that Extra Mile

Smith Welding Supply & Equipment, based in Ferndale, Michigan, had built a solid customer base among metal fabrication companies involved in the automotive industry. The problem, if you can call it that, was that the demand for Smith services—most notably filling and delivery of a wide range of weld and specialty gases—was beginning to challenge capacity at the company’s one-acre, 15,000 sq. ft. downtown Detroit plant.

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Summary: High pressure cryogenic pump ups production for automotive suppliers
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Distributor: Smith Welding Supply & Equipment
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Manufacturer: Veite Cryogenic Equipment & Service Inc.

Smith Welding President Irv Sparage found a 40,000 sq. ft. facility vacated by a competitor, with infrastructure already built in, but no equipment. It had a fill plant with no manifolding or piping. Sparage called upon longtime vendor Veite Cryogenics, which 30 years earlier had equipped Smith Welding’s first Detroit plant.

Veite’s co-owners, James Veite and James Harris, helped Sparage design an operation that would improve his company’s efficiency. That process would begin with a gravimetric setup on its liquid Argon operation. This digital scale-controlled process automatically shuts off filling at a predetermined weight. Monitors who previously had to oversee the filling could now spend more time on the company’s high pressure filling operations.

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A gravimetric set up automatically shuts off filling at a predetermined weight.

A customer base made up of automotive fabricators eagerly awaited the transformation. In the fast-paced world of automotive manufacturing, any slow down, no matter how small, would pose a problem not only for the customer, but for Smith Welding as well. Veite helped the distributor transition to the new plant without stopping production, and the added capacity and improved efficiency gave the distributor the capabilities to fill 6,000 psi Nitrogen, Helium, Argon, Oxygen and CO2 cylinder, using automated fill controls.

After moving from its old plant located just south of Detroit’s famous 8-Mile Drive, to the new facility just south of 9-Mile Drive, Smith Welding Supply & Equipment demonstrated that a little extra mile can go a long way.


Coastal Makes the Cut

Fifteen years ago, Bob Howard, outside sales rep for Coastal Welding Supply in Beaumont, Texas, knocked on the door of a new business in Port Arthur. R&R Marine Maintenance let him in, and the door has been open ever since. Coastal Welding Supply earned its reputation as a trusted supplier in those early days, and continues to earn the trust and respect of the customer.

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Summary: Observation of manual cutting process results in change to mechanized solution for less travel speed.
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Distributor: Coastal Welding Supply Inc.
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Manufacturer: Mathey Dearman Inc.

Recently, Howard was visiting the customer’s site and observed employees using a manual pipe beveling machine to cut 1.5 inch thick stainless steel pipe. The travel was inconsistent, and the welders were spending two to three hours cleaning up the cut. They asked for help.

Howard knew he could improve the process, but in this time of tight budget constraints, also knew the customer would need to be convinced beyond any doubt that spending $12,000 for a new system was a good decision. The solution would have to be profitable and productive.

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Mathey-Dearman's Mini-Jolly chain machine cuts 1.5 inch thick stainless steel pipe.

Howard contacted Frank Mazzela, sales rep at Mathey Dearman, and arranged a hands-on demonstration at the customer’s site. They set up a Mathey Dearman motorized Mini-Jolly chain machine. It became clear pretty fast that their solution was the right one. The Mini-Jolly’s low-end travel speed provided the consistent quality cuts they were looking for when cutting thick wall.

Consistent and Quality…two words say it all when describing Coastal Welding Supply and its valued partners.


Machine & Welding Supply Filters out Hassles

Be forewarned. The next time you’re out looking for a partnership success story, and you want a seat-of-the-pants, you-won’t-believe-how-we-got-this-sale type of narrative, don’t knock on the door of Machine & Welding Supply Company of Dunn, North Carolina, and its Vice President Jeff Johnson. And the reason for that, in a nutshell, is consistent customer service over the long haul meeting with opportunity for a fresh sale.

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Summary: Specialized alloy wire requires specialized team effort.
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Distributor: Machine & Welding Supply Company
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Manufacturer: Bohler Thyssen Welding USA

Machine and Welding’s longtime customer, a filter manufacturer, wanted to find a more compatible and user-friendly weld wire to use in its oil refining filter production. The carpenter 320 stainless steel alloy used in the weld was adequate, but the customer wanted to try something new, a specialized inconel 625 alloy, a nickel-chrome mix. The use of this special alloy requires additional certifications and thus demands more “legwork” on the part of the distributor. Jeff Johnson says, “We are going to do whatever it takes to make our customers happy, and our branch manager in Greensboro, Danny Hollifield, had taken good care of this customer for many years.” That history of service was rewarded when the customer offered Machine & Welding the opportunity to investigate the alloy.

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Bohler Thyssen's specialized inconel 625 weld wire rests atop this machine, ready to go.

Of course, Machine & Welding needed more than its own solid reputation to close the deal; it needed a supplier equally dedicated to customer service. Johnson called on Bohler Thyssen Welding. As Johnson explains, “In selecting a partner for this promotion, the supplier had to meet a lot of criteria. In particular, they needed to meet the special certifications for this alloy, and they needed to have a highly qualified local salesperson. Bohler Thyssen qualified on both counts. Bohler Thyssen’s Regional Manager Bill Preece visited the customer with Machine & Welding’s Hollified to explain the features of the special alloy, and the best method for welding. Preece also explained Bohler Thyssen’s precertified supply of inconel 625. This last item was of utmost importance to the customer, as specialized alloys can have delays in delivery when certifications are incomplete.

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Oil filters await next stage of manufacturing process.

Hollifield adds another caveat. “The customer has always depended on us to steer them in the right direction, and since they had never used these wires before, their trust in us was critical to the sale.”

Once the deal was completed and delivery began in July 2003, “There were no hitches whatsoever,” adds Hollifield. Bohler Thyssen delivered the wire on time, with all the analytical paperwork and certifications “ready to go.”

Ready to go. When both distributor and vendor share that approach to a customer’s needs, you can bet that all manner of pebbles and problems are easily filtered out of the equation.


Oxygen Service Gets to the Yoke of the Matter

Oxygen Service Company of Macon, Georgia, does the bulk of its business in the industrial gases market. Last spring, it was a smaller group of customers that had President Duell Stone concerned. A number of home health service providers were coming to Oxygen Service Company for their E and D oxygen cylinder refills, and the customers wanted quicker turnaround. The labor intensive process of cylinder filling—turning hand wheels to first tighten the yoke to the cylinder post valves, and then opening the cylinder valve—meant that customers were waiting two days to receive their refilled cylinders. It also meant that Oxygen Service Company was absorbing high labor costs for low product output.

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Summary: No more hand tightening of valves provides same-day medical gas turnaround.
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Distributor: Oxygen Service Company Inc.
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Manufacturer: Superior Products Inc.

While attending a trade show, Stone came across Superior Products’ booth, which had a prototype demonstration of its Fill-Tech Yoke Clamping System. After observing a single demonstration, Stone knew he had found his solution. Fill-Tech’s 120 psi shop air-fed booster pump powers an oxygen safe hydraulic system whose automatic rack seals the yolks to the cylinder post valves. With the cylinders locked in place, Oxygen Service would then utilize a nitrogen-fed tube system to open and close the valves to complete the cylinder filling.

Stone worked with Superior Products’ team of experts, headed by Manager of Technology Tom Ketchesin, who customized Director of Engineering Ron Johnston’s original design. Robert Ranc, director of sales, and Tim Madden, regional sales manager, provided support throughout the development process.

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After an automatic rack seals the yolks to the cylinder post valves, a nitrogen-fed tube system opens and closes the valves.

Since installation of the Fill-Tech system a year and a half ago—the first of its kind on the market—things are looking bright for Oxygen Service Company, amongst its workers as well as its customers. “The guys love it back there,” reports Stone. “It cut our filling time down by more than half.” The new system handles 48 cylinders at a time, meaning that one flip of the Fill-Tech system’s lever bypasses hand tightening and loosening of four dozen cylinders’ worth of valves. Rather than waiting two days to receive their refilled cylinders, home health and hospital customers are now offered same-day turnaround.

Not surprisingly, business is up in Oxygen Service Company’s medical oxygen division. As Stone points out, “Letting customers know you can turn the cylinders around faster is an advantage when you’re out selling.”

It’s also an advantage when you’re inside refilling, and the company has reaped a welcome extra benefit from the new Fill-Tech system. Stone reports that workers no longer complain of wrist discomfort from all the hand wheel turning, and concern over the development of carpal tunnel syndrome has been eliminated.


Jackson Welding Supply Cleans Up

Rich Furstoss, sales rep at Jackson Welding Supply in Rochester, New York, knows his customers very well. One of them is a chain of grocery stores located throughout the Northeast. The grocery stores are large, inviting, innovative, committed to quality and superior customer service. The customer prides itself on its ability to meet almost every need of its own customers. For years, Furstoss has been supplying the grocer’s main plant with gases and welding supplies, and visits the facility at least once a week.

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Summary: Presentation of new technology leads to comparison test.
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Distributor: Jackson Welding Supply Company Inc.
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Manufacturer: J. Walter Inc.

Furstoss also knows his products very well. Upon learning from J. Walter’s District Sales Manager Patrick Linehan that a new product was available for the metal working industry, Furstoss was intrigued. Bio Circle 585 cleans metal parts with bio-remediation technology, rather than solvents. Furstoss learned everything there was to know about the process, and convinced his boss to purchase one of the machines. Jackson Welding Supply President Robert Jackson Jr. says, “We purchased it without having a buyer.” He adds that his sales rep Furstoss wasn’t so concerned. Of course, Furstoss knows his customers, and he had the perfect customer in mind.

The grocery chain’s main facility houses machines that bake bread, cut fruit, cook meats, and do other food-processing tasks, and they had to have a machine that not only met the requirements for cleaning, but did the job meeting their very high standards. Jackson, Furstoss and Linehan suggested a comparison test between the grocer’s regular parts cleaning machine and their Bio Circle process, with the customer providing the two tester parts. “They were pretty rotten-looking parts,” adds Jackson. One went through its current cleaning process with solvent cleaner; the other went into Bio Circle 585.

It was no surprise to the Jackson/J. Walter team that their product was the clear winner. The customer bought the $2,500 system on the spot and plans to purchase more for its other locations.


Aimtek Meets Challenge with Custom Solution

A metal fabricator in Connecticut manufacturing commercial jet engine components was having a problem with its positioning equipment. Actually, the problem was not with the equipment; the problem was that the manufacturer was using welding positioning equipment to rotate components. Needing to spray a 95/5 nickel-aluminum alloy over the surface of the engine components, the company was wearing through rollers at a rapid rate due to the relatively low rotation speed of its weld positioner.

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Summary: Design changes to OEM utility positioner result in faster rotation speed.
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Distributor: Aimtek Inc
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Manufacturer: IRCO Automation Inc.

The manufacturer contacted several distributors in hopes of finding a solution. Jay Kapur, general manager of Aimtek in Auburn, Massachusetts, was one of them. Could Aimtek supply a custom weld positioner with a faster rotation speed? Aimtek had built a stellar reputation in New England by taking on the challenge of small, custom projects such as this one, and was eager to offer a solution.

While attending an industry show, Kapur crossed paths with IRCO Automation’s General Manager Dan Moore, whose company, like Aimtek, prides itself on tailoring service to meet unique customer needs. Engineers from Aimtek, IRCO and the customer came together to draw up some parameters for a new weld positioner. Aimtek determined the type of surface speeds that would be required, and IRCO was confident it could develop and deliver the equipment.

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Replacing the motor in an IRCO 2,000-pound utility positioner increases rpm for plasma spray process.

The engineers came up with a solution: a special motor installed to replace the original motor in an IRCO 2,000-pound utility positioner. The new motor would provide the increased rpm required for the job. The modified IRCO 2000 provided 10-500 rpm, compared to the original positioner’s 0.02-1.4 rpm.

“Smaller companies like ourselves and IRCO sometimes tend to be a little more flexible in going out and solving customers’ problems,” explains Aimtek’s Kapur. “Some of the other companies may have the capability on a project like this, but they walk away from it when it is not standard equipment.”

Of course, just because a distributor adopts a strategy of superior, and specialized, customer service does not necessarily mean toiling on intricate projects with low profit margins. After all, innovation here can mean a sale…over there; and this is just what happened with Aimtek. As Kapur describes it, “After this first deal, we were able to say to the market, ‘This is what we have,’ and one of our salespeople saw that his customer had a similar application, again thermal spraying of commercial jet engine parts, and we ended up selling another one of these positioners to another customer.”

Given Aimtek’s commitment to superior customer service and willingness to look at all new challenges, it’s no surprise that in the last thirteen years the company has twice been named New England Small Business Subcontractor of the Year by the Small Business Administration. Fortunately for Jay Kapur and Aimtek, they were able to connect with a vendor that shares their dedication to solving customer challenges, no matter the scope of the project. Which just goes to show…when there’s a fresh and complex task that needs to be thought through, sometimes it’s best to just step back and go…take in a show.


Airgas-Sacramento Floats Above It All

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Summary: Diaphragm compressor significantly improves fill rate.
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Distributor: Airgas-Sacramento Inc.
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Manufacturer: Gas and Air Systems Inc.

Airgas-Sacramento does a lot of Helium business. One of its largest customers for Helium brings in 180 tanks to be filled at a time. Jim Gindt, operations manager, says this customer is not unusual. “They need a lot of tanks, and they want them filled quickly.”

When the Airgas helium compressor went down, Gindt was in a bind. He called longtime supplier Bob O’Brien, vice president of sales & marketing for Gas and Air Systems, and asked for help. “We were limping along without a compressor,” says Gindt, “and our customers were not getting serviced properly.”

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The single stage diaphragm compressor boosts ground storage.

Gas and Air Systems provided Airgas with a single stage, Burton Corblin diaphragm compressor. Now Gindt can offload his helium supply tube trailer and boost the gas to his ground storage. The new compressor’s fill rate of 995 cfm is a far cry from the old one’s 28 cfm. Says Gindt, “The numbers speak for themselves, and we’re able to serve our customers better.”


Total Welding Extinguishes the Competition

MIJA Industries’ Juarez, Mexico, plant had a little problem; well, actually about 100 of them. That’s the number of miles between the plant and the nearest Nitrogen pumping facility. MIJA requires 6,000 psi cylinders of Nitrogen to conduct proper testing of its extensive line of fire extinguisher gauges, and the company had been taking trailer truck deliveries of nitrogen cylinders twice per week, but volume and cost were becoming significant issues. When you consider that 70 percent of all fire extinguishers used in the United States are fitted with MIJA gauges, and that the company produces over 2,000 styles of gauges, that makes for a lot of testing. The Juarez plant was going through 15 cradles, or 180 cylinders per day. The problem was clear, the solution less so.

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Summary: New application of transfill system with liquid nitrogen increases efficiency.
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Distributor: Total Welding Supply
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Manufacturer: Andonian Cryogenics

Enter Total Welding Supply of East Freetown, Massachusetts. MIJA called Total Welding President Dale Ferguson to see if he could come up with a solution. Ferguson had an idea for the installation of an accelerator pump and transfill system, which would use liquid nitrogen to fill the high pressure cylinders used in gauge testing.

Sales Engineer Bill Allen visited the site to observe the operation and collect data. Upon reading Allen’s preliminary report, Ferguson quickly brought in long-time partner Andonian Cryogenics, whose president, Martin Andonian, had already designed a similar oxygen accelerator pump and transfill system for use in the filling of medical oxygen cylinders. Andonian felt this was the perfect situation for a new application of the transfill system.

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A bank of ten 6,000 psi Andonian Cryogenics cylinders are used as holding tanks during a work shift.

Andonian took MIJA’s Nitrogen use profile and customized a transfill system to meet the customer’s required pressure ranges and high volume of gauge testing. Today, the Andonian high pressure liquid nitrogen transfill system in Juarez pumps a bank of ten 6,000 psi cylinders, which are used as holding tanks during a work shift. The pressure from these cylinders is applied to the extinguisher gauges during testing, and the system’s sensor-activated cryogenic pump maintains the testing cylinders at 6,000 psi. The system’s two separate fill manifolds allow the operator to fill one manifold while evacuating the other; and if necessary, cylinders can be filled at two different operating pressures for use in varying gauge testing environments.

The result is continuous testing of gauges, and no time-outs to replace individual cylinders. With the Andonian system using one liquid nitrogen cylinder to pump the equivalent of 18 high pressure gas cylinders, the amount of cylinder handling decreases, making for a highly efficient system.

The transfill system in Juarez, which cost $26,500, saved MIJA $75,000 per year in Nitrogen deliveries, not including labor of cylinder changeovers and transportation. MIJA Industries plans to install the same Andonian system at its Rockland, Massachusetts plant later this year.


Airgas-Intermountain Confidently Proposes New Technology

Three years ago, Mike Weaver won a sales contest. The prize was a trip to Appleton, Wisconsin.

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Summary: Sub Arc, AC technology improves productivity.
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Distributor: Airgas-Intermountain Inc.
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Manufacturer: Miller Electric Mfg. Co.

Weaver, account manager for construction, industrial and fabrication at Airgas-Intermountain in Salt Lake City, Utah, is not your average salesperson. An opportunity to visit Miller headquarters and hob knob with the people who design and build the products he sells was a dream come true. It was on a tour of the plant that Weaver came across an engineer working on a design using variable balance AC submerged arc technology. They spent time talking, Weaver fascinated with the technology, the Miller engineer fascinated with the “real-live” challenges Weaver met in the field.

Last summer, Weaver was visiting a regular customer, St. George Steel Fabrication in Salt Lake City, a company specializing in large, heavy weldments: wind towers, pressure vessels, dryers, stacks, petroleum and water tanks. The company was awarded a contract for twenty more windmills, but was reluctant to take it on unless their welding process could be improved.

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A Miller Summit Arc 1000 power source is used to weld a 2 inch flange to the bottom shell.

The project involved transforming 10 by 40 feet sheets of 5/8-inch carbon steel into shells 20 feet in diameter. The shells were then welded together to form cylinders 40 feet long. The welding method, using a DC process, put too much heat at the weld and had a high deposition rate. Welds were made along the inside and outside of the cylinder’s circumference. One cylinder took from 12 to 15 hours to complete.

Weaver remembered his visit to Appleton and his conversations with the Miller engineer, and confidently told the customer, “I have a way for you to improve your process.” He explains, “I knew Miller Electric had the ability to fix this problem with their new product, so I was confident in promising that we could double St. George Steel’s travel speed and keep the heat out of the material by using an AC, rather than a DC, arc.”

Working with Ken Fisher, Miller’s manager of high deposition processes, Weaver suggested the Miller Summit Arc1000 power source that could provide variable balance AC sub arc technology. A splitter shifts the welding output between two Miller HDC 1500 control systems, RAD wire drive assemblies, flux hoppers and OBT 1200 torch. One assembly is positioned at the top of a platform to weld the outside passes (the first and last pass), and one is positioned on the shop floor to weld the inside pass.

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When joined together, the 20-feet tall shell sections form a 40-feet long cylinder.

Using the Miller machine, two complete units could be welded in one, eight-hour shift, reducing weld time by sixty percent. St. George Steel purchased two Miller Summit Arc 1000 power sources. The $40,000 sale took place in August. Account Manager Mike Weaver is ready for his next visit to Appleton to learn about new products in development that will help his customers be more efficient and productive.


Gases and Welding Distributors Association