An Industry Education

Dan KipkaI started off in gases and welding like every other kid who is second generation in the industry: sweeping the shop. My father worked for a company called Earl’s Welding Supply, which later became Oxygen Service Company, in Saint Paul, MN. My broom work eventually led me to the warehouse, where I worked summers during high school and college. In 1997 I landed a full-time position in shipping and receiving at Oxygen Service Company and am now our purchasing manager.

My day-to-day responsibilities involve working with our vendors to secure product lines. I research and purchase the products that our salespeople are out there selling. I work closely with our sales team to learn what our products are being used for and what types of products are ideal for our customers.

Working with my father from a young age taught me the importance of hard work and customer loyalty. He’s been in the business for 40 years now, which is longer than I’ve been alive—I’m 35. While he taught me a great deal, I’ve also learned some lessons on my own. I’ve learned that success in this industry hinges on efficiency and service to the customer. My goal is always to be able to offer our customers products and processes that the competition can’t give them.

From experience, I’ve discovered you need a willingness to get back up after you’ve been knocked down, because you face difficult customers in this environment. Customers are unique because they are typically very knowledgeable about what they need. They can see right through anyone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and they appreciate a person who can speak intelligently with them about products and processes. I may be young, but age goes out the window if you know your stuff.

It’s for this reason that I am taking advantage of a program Oxygen Service offers to send their employees back to school. I’m currently scheduled to take night classes this fall in order to finish my Bachelor’s Degree. I also like to utilize every outlet GAWDA offers, especially the trade shows at the SMCs and Convention where I can try out new products and network with our vendors. There are a lot of opportunities out there to learn and keep up with this industry; it’s important for people looking to succeed to take advantage of them.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Dan Kipka Meet the Author
Dan Kipka is purchasing manager for Oxygen Service Company, located in St. Paul, MN, and on the web at www.oxyserv.com.