Emily Probst is the associate editor for Modern Machine Shop. She joined the staff in the summer of 2006 as the editorial intern editing product releases for the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS). Hired full-time in 2007 after graduating with a B.S.J. from Ohio University, she edited product releases and columns until 2012, when she moved to her current role of writing and editing case studies for both print and online media channels. In this role, she has been fortunate enough to travel the world as well as visit some interesting shops and trade shows in the United States. She also administers Modern’s blog as well as its Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.
A Google Street View tour of Gilman's facility is available on its website and Google Maps.
How do you let potential customers see your machines and manufacturing capabilities when they can’t spend the time and money to leave work and fly across the country to visit your facility? Gilman Precision of Grafton, Wisconsin, is taking an unusual approach to showcasing its capabilities: providing a virtual tour using Google Street View. I wrote about this virtual tour last week, but I thought it was important to reach out to see if they would share their story and offer some tips for other shops considering a virtual tour.
Google Street View wasn’t Gilman’s first attempt at a virtual tour. YouTube videos ultimately fell short of expectations because visitors couldn’t stop and stare at things that piqued their interest. However, when the Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce sent out information for using Google Street View to tour restaurants, bars, etc., Gilman reached out to Google to see if they would consider a street view of a manufacturing facility.
To start the process, Gilman got bids from some Google-certified photographers in the area. According to Douglas Biggs, vice president of sales and marketing, prices depend on the size of your facility, and how many photos would be necessary to cover it. Gilman paid about $2,000 for photos of its 70,000 square-foot-facility.
Once the company chose a photographer, the rest of the process took little involvement from Gilman, Mr. Biggs says. The photographer used a digital camera with a fish-eye lens on a tripod to capture images around the shop. Every 5 feet, he would stop and take four photos in each direction before moving on. The whole photoshoot took about 2 hours to complete. Afterwards, the photographer loaded the tour online to Google. From start to finish, creating the virtual tour took about two weeks.
After going through this process, Mr. Biggs has some tips for other shops considering a Google Street View photoshoot:
Consider the lighting. You want to make sure your shop is brightly lit. There is nothing worse than a dark shop.
Clean up. While he considers it a “home-field advantage” to always have a clean shop, Mr. Biggs suggests going through and making sure to clean out your junk drawers, so to speak. Like inviting guests over to your house, you want to put your best face forward.
Get as many sets of eyes on your shop as possible. Take several people through your shop beforehand looking for customer-sensitive parts and logos. Gilman used to be part of SFK until it set out on its own about five years ago. Still, there were some old calendars and displays that needed to be removed before the photoshoot.
According to Mr. Biggs, walking through the facility so slowly and deliberately was an eye-opening experience. “I’ve never walked my floor and examined it to that extent,” he says. “It’s a completely different way of looking at your shop. In fact, it sparked some ideas for the future. I now know that if we need a new machine down the road, we can do it by moving a certain machine to another location.”
After a little more than a week, Google Street View is already making a difference with Gilman's marketing efforts. The company promoted the virtual tour through an email blast, which saw significant growth in its open rate for that particular mailing. Moreover, the shop is already getting feedback from customers that didn’t realize it had certain capabilities. Business opportunities are already in the works.
The next step is to look at Google Analytics to see where people are clicking on the website next after taking the tour. Are they wanting more information on the company’s spindles, or perhaps they want to know about a different topic? Using this information, Gilman can better prepare its future marketing content.
Online marketing is a necessity for job shops. In fact, we’ve written about it several times. (This column and this later column are just two examples.) Aside from investing in your website, blogging, posting to various social media channels and perhaps sending mass emails, what can you do to promote your machine shop?
Gilman Precision of Grafton, Wisconsin, took an interesting new approach that I haven’t seen before. The company partnered with Google Street View service to provide a virtual tour of its facilities. You can view it on their website or on Google Maps. This tour lets you navigate through Gilman’s main doors and around the factory, including its class 10,000-level spindle clean room.
A virtual tour is a great way to show potential customers (and magazine editors) a little about your shop, machines and capabilities.
Tell me, are you using Google Street View service at your shop?
It’s the nature of mold manufacturing that some of the most advanced machining processes, latest production strategies, leading CAD/CAM software and most promising cutting tools are applied in this industry first. So, while Amerimold is billed as the event for mold manufacturing, there’s plenty of useful information for shops that want to stay up on state of the art in machining and manufacturing technology.
Amerimold connects more than 2,750 of the top owners, executives and engineers involved in the plastic injection mold manufacturing industry. Attendees will see the latest machine tools, materials, tooling, software, services and components for mold manufacturing.
Specific topics include mold design; lights-out machining; shopfloor automation; tooling and workholding; EDM; five-axis machining; mold maintenance; and material selection.
This year’s expert panel includes speakers from leading contract mold manufacturers like Unique Tool and Gauge and Crest Mold Technology; product technology suppliers like Makino and GF Machining Solutions; and materials and software providers including Open Mind Technologies, HRS Flow and Ellwood Specialty Steel. There is even the “Build” conference track focused specifically on die and mold machining solutions.
Along with the technical program, Amerimold will feature more than 125 exhibitors displaying products and serves for moldmaking and injection molding. The event also offers unique business networking events aimed at connecting mold builders, mold buyers and equipment suppliers.
Amerimold, the event for mold manufacturing, takes place June 15-16 in Novi, Michigan, at the Suburban Collection Showplace. Pre-registration, which extends through May 6, grants you free access to the exhibit hall and a discounted price on the conference. Full session schedules and registration are available here.
Read the March digital edition by clicking on the photo above.
Normally, Stein Seal would have no problem machining a large, bell-shaped workpiece like the one it contracted for in 2013. But to deliver the price point necessary, the shop need a mull-turn machine able to swivel the rotary table into a horizontal position. As a result, process time gets cut by two thirds. Turn to page 78 to read the full story.
Also in this issue:
How one shop used a web- and video-based training program tailored to its own specific practices to enable new hires to progress in stages from trainee to senior process engineer;
How data can prove the process for unattended machining; and
How MQL can be used for more effective deep-hole drilling.