Monday, January 30, 2017

Are you my Mentor?

I was lucky to have had a few mentors I my life. I firmly believe I would not be in a position to be writing this without these special individuals guiding my life. Whether you are like me and come from humble beginnings or started with millions of dollars you probably had a special person or two that really made a difference in your life.

So, what is a mentor? A mentor is an experienced and trusted adviser.  When I read this definition, I could not shake the question; Could a company be a mentor? I think so. In my short time at Wenzel I have witnessed many activities that fall under the experienced and trusted adviser banner. We have helped many first time CMM buyers find the right product even when it was not a Wenzel CMM. We have hosted students to teach them not about Wenzel but about professionalism, industry skills and self-confidence. We pride ourselves in advising customers with truthful information.


As a sales guy, I have the privilege of traveling… a lot. In my travels the common thread is the company I am visiting has a hard time finding talent. I would love to praise Wenzel for our mentorlike behavior but without your help our industry is in trouble. We all need great people to fill open positions so let’s put in a little work together and solve this! When you go back to work ask yourself; Is my company an experienced and trusted adviser to new hires or students in the field? If not now is the time to become part of the solution.

Small steps the make a big difference. Present industry information to high school students. You may only help one kid but look at it as planting the seeds of greatness in somebody. Reach out to your local community. It is great advertising and you have a chance to meet possible employees that would be missed otherwise. Partner with other companies to start/help trade programs. As a company, you can’t bring it all but collecting a few helpers (even competitors) can round out the message and offer more opportunity for all involved.

I ask that anybody reading this please share a mentorship experience in the comments so we can compile them and showcase the importance! If you would like to join Wenzel in a consortium to improve the workforce, please email Scott Romain at

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Birth of a Salesman

As I adjust to my new position at Wenzel America as a Product Specialist in Gear Metrology, I’ve been exposed to many roles that fall upon me,one of them being Sales.

etrade-baby-then-and-now-1.jpgI’ve done much training in the past of how a product works, how its software functions, and navigating through equations in order to churn variables into numbers on a printout.

However, it is a different dance when a customer wonders whether your tools are the best, or rather, if it fits their needs just right.

If I’m honest, my naive self has subscribed to the evil stigma that salesmen are vicious creatures that just want to rope a customer into a product at any cost. The truth is that a salesman really should need and want to provide a solution for the customer.

There are various ways to go about this, and all require their own finesse….

A salesman might opt to know as much about the product or service they’re selling in order to fire off the right information to an operator who might end up running the machine. This makes the salesman as relatable as possible to the customer. 

Another method of selling is to let the customer know that we might not have all of the answers for him, but we’ll be able to find the right person for them who does. Finally, a tactic that gives the personal touch is by saying that we aren’t like “the other guys.” This shows that the company as a whole has something else to offer that is unique. Regardless of which persona you might prefer, a salesman should know how to present a product, and this requires some technical knowledge.

This is where I believe the customer will appreciate me. I love understanding how a product works and what it can do for me. However, this doesn’t necessarily translate to a good solution for the customer since I can be seen as more of a reference book that has the answers instead of a tailor that will suit your needs. A salesman should know just enough to be able to relate to the customer without boring them or scaring them off with technical jargon.

Again, this might require some intrinsic need to understand the product, some genuine charisma, and maybe a bit of luck, since it takes ten times more effort to gain a customer than to retain one.
wgt specs.PNG

Nevertheless, how did I start “training” fellow salesmen into delivering knowledge about Wenzel’s gear inspection machines? Mainly with easy bullet points to remember. The main aspects to highlight for our gear inspection machines, for example, is far more important than all of the technical details which can be easily reference in one of our brochures.

When it comes to technical terms, a simple mnemonic device, or memory association, can assist in remembering many little details. For example, as soon as one colleague saw a picture of a drive shaft, he remembered it as a dumbbell. 

IMG_0184.jpegThe funny thing is that engineers already have a nickname for these parts, although it is ‘dog bone.’ This reminded me of my 7th grade language arts teacher, Ms. Dalton, who, when first starting the Harry Potter series, referred to the character Hermione as simply ‘H’ because of the complexity of her name. Simple tricks like these in a salesman’s toolbox can aid in their credibility and expertise when providing a solution for a customer.

In that regard, simplifying the abilities of something like a gear inspection machine such as which probe thread size can be used or which models have a movable tailstock to a salesperson is just what customers will be looking for.

By the same token, the Sales team here at Wenzel America has been very knowledgeable explaining to me how I should approach a customer, e.g. if they already own one a Wenzel machine or what type of demo I would need to prepare for a customer. They’ve taught me the importance of how to communicate with who exactly I’ll be speaking with or teaching. 

This is a much different skillset than explaining software and numbers, which rarely change; people’s receptiveness, on the other hand, varies greatly. This will ensure that customers receive the best service from us no matter who they are interacting with.

maxresdefault.jpgEven though each have their own strengths, there is little argument for how effective a duo it is when both salesman and technical engineer assist with customer relations. Communications between all parties benefits all, as it should in many parts of the manufacturing process.

Just because I’ve moved from one country to another doesn’t mean that I have both my feet in one culture. In the same regard, customers now know that Wenzel’s team is a diverse, yet customer-centric one.

If you’d like to get in contact with one of our experienced salesmen, please do so at If you have any other tips or anecdotes about how you’ve related to customers or salesmen, leave a comment below. We always like to hear your points of view!

“I’m usually the guy without a suit”

Mariano Marks
Product Specialist – Gear Metrology
ASME GD&T Technologist Certified

Lost in Translation

Most people have mixed experiences when dealing with some form of troubleshooting and support. Whether it’s a company IT department asking the important questions like “Have you turned it off and back on again?” or a patient (if a bit patronizing) customer support representative attempting to guide you to the right menu all while you protest “No, the button isn’t showing up there, so where am I supposed to click again? OH THERE it is” (rinse and repeat).

At the end of it all, generally the  issue ends up being resolved, but not without some struggle to ensure that the important information isn’t lost in translation. Even seemingly simple things can easily be missed or confused in this sort of troubleshooting environment.

When you add the complications of an industry like metrology, machine space, coordinate systems, and alignments all contribute (add was already used earlier)add a layer of complexity that make traditional phone support nearly impossible. Tools like Teamviewer exist, giving us at Wenzel the ability to take control of a customer’s computer and environment directly, eliminating the likelihood of translation errors. But what happens if that’s still not enough? What happens if there’s an actual language barrier involved as well?

IMG_0535.JPG“Where is it now?”
“It’s moved…. maybe like ten metres”
“TEN METRES? That’s not right, where is your ‘0’ again?”
“It’s right here by the part”
“Are you completely sure?”
“Yes of course! Everything is designed the same way!!”

That’s an excerpt from conversations I’ve had with one of our design solutions’ customers who had a problem getting their CAD/Fixture/Mill locations to line up correctly in the milling environment.

After spending some long hours with video conferences, screen sharing, and good old-fashioned phone calls, we still hadn’t been able to find the resolution for their discrepancy between their CAD model and machine location. I made the decision that a visit would be the best way to resolve the situation.

Luckily enough, shortly after arriving, it was clear to me that this customer’s problem boiled down to three issues all with a strangely similar theme:

  • The ‘on the phone’ troubleshooting and explanations allowed small, important details to fall through the cracks
    • (I completely missed ensuring the use of a necessary coordinate system for alignment)
  • The CAD data created by a laser scan and then used for milling had a different ‘0’ (origin) than the CAD used for the fixture coordinates.
    • (This was illustrated by importing both CAD models into the software using the same alignment translation; they were about a metre apart)
  • IMG_0925 (Edited).JPG
    Cultural, language, and time-zone differences during training and troubleshooting also contributed

Anyone spot what those three things have in common? Translation... or maybe getting ‘lost in’. All in all, these issues, while individually minor, while individually minor issues added up to create a frustrating “We don’t know what we don’t know” circumstance for the customer, and myself, during the ‘traditional’ troubleshooting process.

Simple turned complicated quickly. I’m grateful for the opportunity to go on-site and provide hands-on support. With all the information easily available for interaction, and the customer’s full cooperation, we were able to turn complicated back to simple and resolve the issues.


So, what are the takeaways from this experience? Upon reflection, I was a little surprised that they aren’t so different as the takeaways from some major troubleshooting I’ve completed during my previous career in aerospace.

  1. The simplest explanation usually is the right one.
  2. Always pay attention to even seemingly minor details, both as a customer explaining the problem and most importantly as the personnel providing support. Nothing can slow down a process more than unexpected and unreported change and it’s always best to troubleshoot within an unchanged or predictable environment.
  3. Good training, documentation, and implementation are critical to success.
  4. Always check and re-check to ensure you have all the right information…. and that CAD ‘0’, really is CAD ‘0’. (Or maybe just that your ground wires are connected!)

I’d like to personally thank this particular customer, and all of our customers for their continued support.

Stuart Nichols
Applications Manager