Mike Weller On Relationships

Mike Weller

Mike Weller

Mike Weller started his career at Miller Electric 30 years ago working in Human Resources, a position that gave him entry into every department of the company. He participated in meetings, traveled to customer sites, and learned clearly and strongly that this is a people business. This lesson helped him maximize the talents of employees and resources of the company. While (ITW) in general management, he helped transition the organization through its acquisition by Illinois Tool Works in 1993 and again in 1995 when Hobart was acquired. He was named president of Miller in 1998 and president of ITW North America in 2004.

Weller will be the keynote speaker at the Opening Business Session of GAWDA’s Annual Convention. He will present the findings from a large-scale survey of distributors and end-users that took place during the spring and summer of 2010. He spoke to Welding & Gases Today about the relationship among the distributor, manufacturer and end-user.

End-users think that cost is removed from the equation when manufacturers sell direct. But we say that the distributor adds value to the process with a high level of support, knowledge and a complete line of products. We spend time with end-users to understand their needs so we can design the right products.

As end-users decrease or eliminate their technical talent, it’s getting harder for them to find the right solution to get the job done. There will be an even greater gap in the next three to five years. The combination of talent between distributor and manufacturer provides outstanding solutions for end-users. It’s the manufacturer’s responsibility to provide as much training as possible for the distributor, who is the primary point of contact for the end-user.

It’s no longer a transactional relationship. We have to be strategic partners with end-users and help them with operational issues. Distributors and suppliers are becoming the “in-house” experts on green issues, as more and more companies that made things out of steel are looking to make them out of green alloys or lighter weight metals.

“‘We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.’ This quote is a call for both distributors and manufacturers to take a good hard look at the changing paradigms in the marketplace and ask themselves if they are flexible and bold enough to really look at what’s going on around us. Do distributors understand what their brand is? What do they want to be known for in the eyes of the end-user? What paradigms need to be changed in order to be successful in the marketplace? These are all questions that have to be asked and answered as we navigate a changing market.

Five years from now, our industry may look very different. Will consolidation continue? As non-compete agreements come to an end, we may see a startup of new independents. It’s already beginning to happen. Distributors and suppliers must have a stronger link as end-user markets change. Change will be at a higher and quicker pace, and the opportunity cost of missing out and being leading edge will be significant. I believe we all will have to recalibrate.”

Gases and Welding Distributors Association