I am writing this column while in the middle of the 1999 Electrical Discharge Machining Conference and Exhibition in Chicago. Here, I get the opportunity to visit with folks from all walks of metalworking life and discuss their Web strategies.
I am happy to report a growing trend, one that is strongly felt in the midst of EDM '99:
Metalworking professionals are starting to view the Web as a tool—their tool. They're taking ownership of the thing, and applying it on their terms, for their businesses.
Well, Hallelujah, I say.
And the best news is that the applications and understanding surrounding them are subtle, effective, and relatively hype-free.
To wit, here are some observations from Chicago and all over the machine tool cyber-trenches. I predict they will bode well for your shop and our industry.
Two distributors of machine tools are discussing the meaningful applications of their Web sites. While listening to them, I discover that—for the time being—they're going to focus on improving direct, technical customer communications in lieu of marketing efforts because "service is our strength."
More and more Web sites specifically targeted for our industry—technical, market-specific, and e-commerce sites—are cropping up with greater frequency, from shops to builders to operators. This alone shows that the realization of what this tool can do is spreading to those levels that will be most crucial to metalworking Web viability: where the chips are.
And if you want more proof of our industry coming to meaningful terms with the Web, look no further than this issue of Modern Machine Shop. In it, among the myriad links to MMS Online, you'll find Mark Albert's column (page 8) and Pete Zelinski's feature article, "Work The Web" (page 76). Both of these pieces detail real individual achievement in applying this tool for specific needs. On a grander scale, they represent real progress in our industry's search for our own Web identity and voice. I urge you to look for your own possibilities within and beyond the words of these two, fine pieces of work.
In other words, figuring out how to apply a complex tool properly is best handled by those with the most experience.
And that would be you.