How should I diversify/what's the next "big thing?"

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by strantor, Jun 25, 2013.

  1. strantor

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 3, 2010
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    I work in the field service department of an industrial components & AC motor drives supplier. Most of my work is troubleshooting & retrofitting AC & DC drives, PLC work, and misc machine troubleshooting. The 'powers that be' in my company seem comfortable keeping their sales and service confined to mainly AC drives. This has proven to be the most profitable strategy for them in the past, and it seems they desire to continue down this path.

    I feel confident that they (we) can continue to make money selling these drives, but I fear that the servicing of them (my job) will become more and more a thing of past, as they become more and more user friendly. You almost have to be a dunce not to be able to figure out a problem with a drive that has a full text menu and idiot-proof layout.


    So I want to start sowing seeds of thought in the higher-ups about branching out into new territory. It will be difficult, because as I said, they are comfortable selling what they sell. They are baby boomers mostly, and have been working with the same evolving technologies for 30+ years. They know that this path will lead them to retirement; but I fear that it won't lead me to retirement. What should I be preaching to them about? Right now I am lending towards CNC systems, servos, and robotics. But I was wondering if there's a no-brainer that I'm not considering - something that requires skilled technicians to troubleshoot, that has enough revenue potential to roust comfortable people out of apathy.
     
  2. Brownout

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    Jan 10, 2012
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    I think smart video systems are a good candidate for the next big thing. A system that can spot something out of the ordinary, be it a person in a crown acting suspiciously, a machine beginning to malfunction or unauthorized entry, and do it autonomously, without human control will be a growing concern.
     
  3. GetDeviceInfo

    Senior Member

    Jun 7, 2009
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    One of the best persons to ask is your future customer. What are their needs and can one profitably service those needs. If you move around to front end sales, you hear a lot of 'who does that' or ' how would we do that'.

    are you talking business owners or a tiring repairman. Either way, the question is, who really is responsible for your future
     
  4. strantor

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

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    I'm talking field service supervisor and his immediate supervisor (branch manager). The owner of the company is more likely to listen; he is younger and has more at stake in the profitability and future profitability of the company. But he works several hundred miles away. I might see him 3 or 4 times per year. I am new in the company so I don't know how much my word counts with him.

    You have a good point about talking to the customer. That's a role that makes me feel like a fish out of water. There's a reason I'm not sales. But it would do me well perhaps to tag along with one of the outside sales guys and learn the ropes a bit.
     
  5. tracecom

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    Apr 16, 2010
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    That could be good all the way around. Some sales guys like to have a tech guy with them on calls. Of course, you would have to let the sales guy take the lead on most of the customer interaction. Once you show the salesman that you are there to help and not to threaten him or show him up, you could find yourself in high demand. And once the sales guys start wanting you, it goes a long way with the bosses.
     
  6. Kermit2

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    I think you are over estimating the reliability of the motors.

    Industrial environments are HARD on equipment. Even well maintained equipment will break down due to the wear and tear of the constant heavy use. I truly believe you are not as 'endangered' of outgrowing your usefulness as you think.
     
  7. strantor

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    I'm thinking that in 10 years, VFDs will be able to send emails to maintenance managers that say "Hey, your motor winding insulation resistance has dropped to the replacement threshold, you have irregular vibrations, and the outer bearing is running hot. Would you like me to order a new motor?"
     
  8. #12

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    Put yourself in the position to set up these self-diagnostics, and tell it to display your phone number to get a new motor and install it for them! "My wife lets me go fix machines, anytime, anywhere, 24/7, and I will!":D

    Tagging along with a salesman is a great idea. Salesmen fall apart at what seems like the tiniest question, and then all of their, "We'll take care of you" looks like blowing smoke up my skirt. Having a whiz kid on the spot makes all the difference between, "Hi, I'm a salesman" and, "We actually make it work and this is why we are the people you want to show up when things go wrong". The last time I spent $4000 for a job, it was because the salesman knew how to write a contract with whole sentences that made definite statements about what would and would not be allowed in building the product. You can get a smile and a brochure 7 times a day and still have no confidence. Tell me why the third phase is running 20% below amperage and I will believe you are worth a phone call.

    ps, never underestimate the fools. Half of my customers could fix it themselves, but they don't want to try. "It isn't my job". "I'm afraid of electricity". "I wouldn't look to see what's wrong because I might break it". It's already broke. What are you, a cook?

    Perfect example: 2 section motor capacitor. One section went bad so I jumpered in a new 5uf. Then I bought a dual capacitor, 35uf/5uf, delivered it to the customer at his business, made a drawing of where to put the three wires, and 5 days later, when the other half of the dual capacitor failed, he paid me to come to his house and connect the 3 wires!!! Nothing is foolproof. You simply haven't come to appreciate how seriously they take their position.

    OK. That's a partial answer. I'm tired right now. C U later.
     
  9. WBahn

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    Mar 31, 2012
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    But, in most cases, just being a person in a crown would qualify as acting suspiciously. :D
     
  10. Kermit2

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    Some small percentage of your customers MAY want to try 'something new' and rely on software that will diagnose and recommend a fix, but, as #12 said, most will just want to respond when it 'breaks' by dialing a repairmans number and walking away to enjoy a four hour lunch. :D

    No way everyone will stop using repair/service companies the minute some new self diagnosing feature hits the market. Such an infiltration into existing markets will take several decades, unless it is mandated by a federal law of some sort. You have time to 'work yourself into retirement' my friend. Now stop worrying so much about something that hasn't happened yet. Have a beer(or whatever :cool:) and chillax brah!
     
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  11. strantor

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    Haha, I'm on it. 2nd beer, that is.
     
  12. JoeJester

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    The automation, like onstar today, will notify you and your servicing center, of whatever needs to be done. The servicing center can prepare for your call or call the client to see what time is best for them to solve the problem before it shuts down the line.
     
  13. tubeguy

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    Nov 3, 2012
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    Excellent point.

    I've always been a repair tech type from the start. But, I worked in a sales capacity for a while for an industrial VFD, motor etc. supplier. During the sales call I frequently heard about some particular troubles they were having. I always had a tool bag along. More than a few times I would actually offer to go out on the floor to 'consult' (troubleshoot). Which frequently earned a surprised look.

    But, I would give them specific frequently very cost-effective solutions to take care of a problem. One I remember specifically was where the plant maintenance guy had soldered a speed control pot to a VFD and couldn't get the speed to change. (He had me there to sell them a new drive.) I looked at it, saw large blobs of solder shorting all the pins to the pots case. Fixed, the connections, all was good, customer happy. The company secured many new customers that way.
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2013
  14. Kermit2

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    I've always loved the Mr. Fix-it approach to soldering.

    The bigger the blob the gooder the job. :D
     
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  15. Metalmann

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    Several years ago, I read about 24/365 machining cells. Setup to manufacture one part, all day, every day.
    Self diagnosing, one man operation.
    They called it something like turnkey operations, where the owner could be thousands of miles away, but still knew every little nuance in the cell. One robot arm would load, and unload parts, non stop.

    Tooling sensors, would say when a tool got dull, and would compensate coordinates; or if it needed replacement.

    At the time, I thought it would be great job security, to service all those cells. I didn't really like traveling.:D
    I used to be on 24 hr call, go in and repair machines, when the plant would go down. Great money, for a while.

    Even though the plants would be totally computer synchronized, from front door to back door, they still needed guys like me to fix stuff.

    Most of their breakdowns, were motor related. Large part of our job, was to swap out motors, instead of repairing them.

    I must be rambling again.......;)
     
  16. Brownout

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    Why for awhile?
     
  17. Metalmann

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    Layoff, usually.

    Nowadays, they call it downsizing, and several other cute little terms; all meaning...that you have to start looking for another job, quickly.;)

    I got laid off quite a bit over the years. Worst was in the 80s.
    I worked at one plant, (Tool Room), where one guy said that he was laid off for more than 6 years, total; out of his 15 years on the job.:eek: Being Union, he also received 95% of his normal wages, while furloughed.

    He also was a farmer, so he actually looked forward to his layoffs. More time for his hogs.:D Making bucks hand over fist!
     
  18. bountyhunter

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    Sep 7, 2009
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    Nothing. You can't convert the dinosaurs, you need to let your feet take you to something else that you think is the way to go. Trying to "re invent" the place where you work is a quick way to get yourself fired.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2013
  19. bountyhunter

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    I spent many years doing that, it was a royal PITA. The sales guys (who are supposed to be engineers) needed somebody to read the data sheet to them.... so we had to waste our time tagging along explaining to them how to do their jobs. The worst part is that meant we didn't have time to do our actual jobs..... Probably the part of my job I hated the most. I always thought that if I had to do somebody's job for them, I should get their paycheck.;)
     
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  20. #12

    Expert

    Nov 30, 2010
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    Maybe you can get a part of the sales commission. Any salesman that doesn't want to share the money can learn his job and do it himself.
     
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