Earlier this year, I wrote a column about a pattern I had observed. Personnel from various shops had expressed the distrust they feel toward equipment and tooling suppliers that emphasize their metalworking expertise. When these suppliers push to participate in shaping and improving a shop’s manufacturing processes, some shops fear that it’s the suppliers that have more to learn. Shops that feel this way have metalworking expertise of their own, and they don’t want to see their techniques conveyed to their competitors when those suppliers go to assist other customers.
In that column, I mentioned that I didn’t know whether my few anecdotal encounters were just that, or whether they represented a developing trend. When Tony Staub of Staub Machine read this, he wrote me to make a case for the opposite side of the argument.
Staub Machine is a job shop in Hamburg, New York, that was founded as a one-person business in 1975. It now has 15 employees and 14 CNC machines. According to Mr. Staub, “We could not be nearly the shop we are today without the help of outside suppliers.” If the choice is trust or distrust, then he opts for the former.
I’ll let him speak:
- On partnership as a two-way street. “For years, we have been trying to encourage partnerships with our customers. We believe partnership is the best way we can serve them. I want to know what they need!” And if partnership like this makes sense for his customers, he says, “then it also makes sense between the vendor and the shop.”
On contributing to expertise. “Yes, there is the possibility of your ideas being spread by sales engineers. Even the most discreet salesperson will share some information with another shop.” That’s because the salesperson may be discreet with specific secrets, but he can’t help the fact that his general expertise will grow with each project.
Mr. Staub says, “I need that sales engineer to be experienced.” As a result, he is willing to take the risk that he might in fact be helping that very experience to improve.
- A success story. “We needed a special cut-off toolholder, one that does not come with the lathe we ordered.” A machine tool salesperson knew of this need, and found the right toolholder at a trade show. “I was smiling ear to ear!” Mr. Staub says. “Instead of trying to invent and build a toolholder ourselves, [here was] a well built holder that fit our needs, and it’s stocked in the States! I may never have found this holder if it wasn’t for my machine tool salesperson.”