Wednesday, June 15, 2016

CT Scanning explodes

It’s a good time to be running a CT services business.  
There are not many companies providing service in this field and the demand for it is exploding. As new manufacturing techniques are introduced, particularly those using additive manufacturing, people are designing and making parts they can’t measure.  They are also realizing that if they can’t measure what they produce; they can’t sell it and they are looking for solutions; CT scanning is providing the solution. 

Demo machines working for a living
Wenzel’s traditional market is contact CMMs and Wenzel America has always had examples of our CMMs on display in our demo room in Wixom so that we can show prospective customers the machines and use them to help test out applications for our customers.  When Wenzel entered the CT market with the Volumetrik exaCT range of scanners, it made sense to have one of the range of machines in the demo room too.  

My previous experience has included running 3D Scanning services businesses with laser and white light scanners so when we launched the exaCT CT scanners in the USA amongst the first people we showed the product to were companies that provided inspection and reverse engineering services to the whole range of industries hoping they would suggest where our target market would be.  They were not slow to see the potential for using our demo machines on a contract basis to scan parts that they were not able to scan with their optical scanners and overnight we found ourselves in the contract scanning business.

Why the rush to use CT?
For both reverse engineering and inspection, there is no single measurement device that is ideal in every situation.  For very large objects such as buildings, plant, ships or aircraft; only a long range laser scanner is going to be able to do the job.  Similarly for high precision power-train components such as gears, shafts, pistons or cam-shafts only a high precision gear checker or CMM will suffice.  

Today there are an increasing number of parts that are made with highly sophisticated injection molding, casting or additive manufacturing methods that are so highly complex and contain features that are impossible to access using conventional methods that only CT is capable of measuring them.  Some of these parts are highly specialized parts from medical devices or aircraft but most are very familiar items such as bottle caps & closures, zip ties and all the clips holding the interior of your car together; items on which we depend on so much in our lives but which have become extremely difficult to measure for quality.

Repeat customers.
Every day we get new enquiries but the bulk of our business is from repeat customers.  The quality of the stl files used for measurement both in terms of accuracy and repeatability is so much better that other methods for the parts for which it is suitable that once tried, no one ever goes back to conventional measurement.  

I liken someone used to laser scanning seeing stls files from a CT scanner to being like someone seeing colorTV for the first time having only ever seen black & white.  The cost of getting scans done is not as expensive as people expect either and often works out cheaper than if they had parts optically scanned, either as an outside service or by their own people.

In addition to the regular business we get from our service provider partners, we also have developed relationships with companies making safety critical products in the Medical field and in the Automotive industry with such products as safety belts, airbags and ignition switches where the work is long term in support of product development right through first article inspection, launch and tool life management.  Such customers are the bed-rock of a long term business in both service and the sale of scanners. 

The future?
I look at it like 3D Printing was 20 years ago; few end user purchasers of machines with the early growth of the industry driven by service providers.  Back then it was the growing use of 3D solid modeling that fuelled the growth of 3D printing, nowadays it is 3D printing itself that will fuel the demand for innovative measurement techniques and as 3D printing expands – CT scanning will grow with it.

Keep it simple; Fast quotes, fast response time.
In the mean time we at Wenzel America are continuing to invest in capacity.  We recently added an exaCT “S” machine to our service capacity that enables us to scan parts to resolutions as high as 4.5 microns.  If we will continue to be responsive to our customers need for fast quotes and turnaround time on scanning we will continue to do good business, educate our customers in the advantages of the technology and demonstrate its benefits.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Lawn Sprinklers and Metrology Software

Every spring, I engage in a ritual that is shared by millions of homeowners across our country. It is a task that I find tedious, frustrating, and never I seem to get better at. I’m talking of course, about adjusting my lawn sprinklers. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a hard task, you only need a screwdriver and 15 minutes to get it done, but it’s a fifteen minutes that leaves me with wet shoes and muttered promises of upgraded nozzles and new, more precise spray patterns. Of course, I never upgrade the nozzles, but that’s a different story. 

The problem is, I don’t think about this task for the next 51 weeks, so the details of how to get done quickly, and efficiently, always escapes me. This year however, things were a little different. Thanks to the folks at Rainbird and their YouTube channel I managed to get through this task in record time, and with dry shoes.
It turns out YouTube isn’t just about cats and video games, but it’s also a great way to share technical information such as drywall repair, excel programming, even CMM programming tips. 

At Wenzel, we have been pushing content to our YouTube channel in an effort to provide users of Open DMIS with a quick, easily accessible way to find information on tasks within the software. Simple things, like setting up an alignment, outputting to Excel, or calibrating an angled probe, are all items you can find in our video series. Check out some examples here:

Making a 3-2-1 Alignment
Calibrating an Angled Probe
Output to Excel

Why do we do this? The reason is simple. We know from our own experiences, how frustrating a simple job can be when you stumble on a small detail. So we want to push information to our users in the easiest, most accessible way possible, so that at the end of the work day, the parts have been measured, and no one walks out of the quality lab muttering promises of next time with wet shoes.

Monday, June 6, 2016

How good is your Net Promoter Score (NPS) ?

Customer Satisfaction Surveying became popular during the 1970’s and was recognized as an important business indicator and marketing tool from that time onwards. The two main thrusts of the process were that;

    1. The undertaking of the process itself sends a message to customers that you understand the importance of ensuring that customers have a positive experience.

    2. Whilst current sales results are the best indicator of how a business is performing today, customer satisfaction survey results give an indication of how well the business might perform in the future.

Up until 2003 there wasn’t a standardized survey, so it was difficult for companies to understand whether their surveying results were good compared to their peers. In 2003 Richard Reichhold published an article in the Harvard Business News called “One Number You Need To Grow”. The number he was referring to was the Net Promoter Score or NPS. He advocated that whilst it was fine to ask other more specific questions in surveys, there was one key questions that determined really how satisfied a customer was. 

“How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague? “

This is a clever, psychological question when you think about it. Reichhold is not just asking the respondent how satisfied they are, but is piling on added pressure of recommending a company/product/service to someone else.

So how is the NPS scored and calculated? The customer is invited to give a score of 1 to 10 in response to the question above. 

Scores of 9 and 10 are defined as ‘Promoters”, scores of 7 and 8 are defined as passives and scores of 6 or below are defined as detractors. The NPS is calculated by subtracting the % of detractors from the % of promoters. 

So the range of NPS can be from -100 (all detractors) to +100 (all promoters) and anything in between. The % of passives are not used in the calculation at all. The idea is that the 9’s and 10’s are going to go around sharing their positive experiences they had with your company and its products/services and the detractors are equally going to share the negative experiences they received. The passives are not committed or motivated to do either, so are therefore not considered.

So the NPS enables us to compare one company’s performance to others around the world and in all business sectors? Well no it doesn’t, but you can compare to similar business in the same geographical area.

This “Deep Insight” blog gives a good insight into the factors that can affect you NPS and which might be considered a good NPS score.

So what is a good score? For sure -100 is really bad and +100 is amazing, but the article above suggests that for their clients a score of +30 or above would be considered excellent. They do point out that most of their clients are in Europe or Australia where they believe that their clients score typically 1 point lower that in the US for example. So we might say that you need to be scoring above 40 in the US to be considered very good.

A couple of other points I’d like to add from our experience at Wenzel America;

    1. Sample size is important for a reliable and statistically sound result. It is recommended that you get at least 100 survey results per evaluation period. 

    2. The most important comparison of your NPS is to your own results in previous periods. If you NPS score is growing over time, there’s a fair chance that that your business is growing and will continue to grow if that is the case.

    3. Add a few other questions in addition to the all-important NPS question so that you can find out more specific feedback about products and services. BUT, don’t ask too many (less than 10) – too many questions will stop people completing the survey (how many times did that happen to you?)

    4. Emailing a link to your customers to an online survey will increase the amount of respondents. We use Survey Monkey – I would give them a 10 – easy to set up, good statistical analysis, good value for money. 

For a relatively small company like ours we have to work very hard to satisfy our customers. We have a large territory and a small (but dedicated) team and sometimes we can be overwhelmed, but I am pleased to report that over the last 2 years our average NPS is 45.4 and we remain committed to improve it.

Andy Woodward 
President, Wenzel America