August 28, 2023
An old business associate called the other day with a training request. To the best of my knowledge, he’s among the last “manufacturer’s representatives” that are still active in the gear trade. I’ve posted before about my admiration for people who can build long-term relationships with customers, many times maintaining those ties through many changes of employment on both ends. No big industrial facility magically appears in a community and hires hundreds of people for forty-year careers. Mills take years to plan and build; the equipment lasts for many decades. Somebody has to remember when something was installed, who made it, when it was last serviced, and where to get spare parts. That parts-and-service thing is where our “salesmen” excelled. Some of them had more extensive records and drawing collections than the plant did. Unfortunately, too many plant managers concluded over the years that these records maintenance functions were not mission-critical. One of our reps actually sold three sets of project “binders” to the same mill over a period of ten years. Each time management changed, they cleaned out all that musty “old stuff” only to discover later that they needed it a year or two down the road. Sadly, some gear shops have shown the same disregard for their own “pre-computer” histories. Old drawings, catalogs, and calculation books that are needed to make spare parts or engineer modern replacements get swept away in well-meaning efforts to “get better organized.” That “new line” of work many shops seek might have been an updated “legacy” product, but without the records, they will never know. If you find yourself in that unfortunate situation, you might try to track down your old manufacturer’s reps. Most of them wore out the springs and shocks in multiple fine automobiles transporting a trunk full of catalogs, flyers, drawings, and price lists from mill to mill.