Once again, the right tool for the job

I witnessed an interesting debate this week within a small group of Franklin Electric’s Field Service Engineers. The topic was enclosure knockouts. Franklin Electric now offers some VFD accessories (reactors/filters) that are available in NEMA 4 enclosures that have no knockouts. That is, the conduit holes must be made by the installing contractor. Of course, a special hole saw or scoring tool is required to do this.

On one side of the table, the position was that the vast majority of water systems contractors don’t have these tools, and therefore we are not giving the customer what he wants. It’s up to us, the manufacturer, to supply enclosure knockouts across all water systems products.

CaptureHowever, on the other side of the table, a couple of others took the position that these products are going into higher end, sophisticated installations. As a result, many of these enclosures will be installed by the electrical contractor and this is their preferred method. They make conduit holes in enclosures as standard procedure and always have the tool kit to do it. This way, they can always cut only the exact hole sizes they need for the cable and Romex seals. And it leads to a better-sealed NEMA 4 installation since you don’t have to worry about water entry via the unused knockouts. Their position was that if a contractor is installing these enclosures, they simply need to invest in the right tool to do the job.

I was seeing both sides of the issue until I posed the question of, “So, how much is the tool and how long does it take?” The answer came back as, “Oh, probably less than $50 for a single and maybe $300 for an entire kit of several sizes; in terms of the actual process, just a few minutes”.  For me at least, that settled it, although it probably didn’t settle it with the entire group. Once again, as a professional contractor, you need to have the right tools to do the job. It’s especially true if that tool is a minimal investment that can lead to a higher quality installation.

Giving thanks

It’s that time of year, so though it may seem a little trite, I’m writing a thankful post. You see, I’ve learned a lot since I started this blog. I’ve learned how helpful it can be to make connections by sharing the things that I’ve seen and learned  in my water systems profession. But I’ve also learned how hard it can be to put those things into words and share them in a way that makes sense. I’ve learned how important it is to maintain a regular schedule, to be here when I say I will. Most of all, once again I’ve learned what a great industry we have and how much I enjoy being part of it.

I relish hearing your feedback and exchanging ideas. It makes me proud to be part of something as fundamental as providing good, clean water to people who need it–which, by the way, is pretty much everyone. And frankly, the best part of this industry is the people. I love the people who cross my path. They–YOU–teach me things every day.

So to all of you, the readers who follow this blog, I offer a hearty thank you. You hold me accountable; you keep me engaged. You remind me why I’m here in the first place.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Now, whom do YOU need to thank?

Inspiring confidence, part 2

A year ago, I wrote Inspiring Confidence about the numerous benefits of completing a Franklin Electric 2207 – Submersible Motor Installation Record. Although a completed 2207 has technical benefits, the real value is the confidence it inspires when you hand it to your customer after the installation is complete.

If the 2207 covers submersibles, what about aboveground pumps? Franklin Electric offers a similar installation form for those as well. In this case, it’s not called a 2207, but–you guessed it–a 2208 Form – Surface Pump Installation Data.

Much like the 2207 form for submersibles, the 2208 form for surface pumps is very complete and can be used as part of the documentation process for returning a pump for analysis or warranty consideration. It asks for a lot of information, but also includes a checklist to help make sure you’ve covered everything. And although it’s three pages long, you probably won’t need to fill out the entire form for most installations.

An interactive PDF version of Franklin Electric’s 2208 can be found on Franklin Electric’s website in the Americas Water Systems section under Special Documents on the Industrial & Irrigation Surface Pumps page, but here’s a direct link: Form 2208.

Realistically, if you’ve got a 1/2 horsepower jet pump installation, completing an entire 2208 is probably excessive. But just like the 2207, that’s not the point. The point is how impressed your customer is going to be when the job is complete and you hand him that completed 2208. Once again, by investing a few minutes, you’ll leave a positive, lasting impression on your customer; he’ll know that YOU know what you’re doing. When that system needs service down the road, he will pull out that 2208 and call you, not someone else.

WE DON’T COMPROMISE! Well actually, you do

There’s a truck advertisement out there with the tag line of “WE DON’T COMPROMISE!” That sounds good, but actually they do. Are there other vehicles that have a better ride or a lower cost or better fuel economy or the option of putting the top down? Of course there are; they’re generally called cars. That truck manufacturer has compromised those other benefits for the major benefit of hauling stuff.

All products are compromises, and with any product, the trick is finding the perfect balance between matching the need with everything else, including the ability to actually manufacture the product at a competitive cost.

Which brings us to a commonly asked question about Franklin Electric’s variable-speed, constant pressure SubDrive product, “Can I repair the components inside?”

The answer is “no” and the reason has everything to do with balancing size, manufacturability, cost, features, and reliability. As with any electronic-based product today, to get there requires state-of-the-art manufacturing technology. This is exactly what we have at Franklin Electric’s facility in Grant County, Indiana where SubDrive is manufactured. This manufacturing technology is same or very similar as to what is used in your cell phone or computer and it results in a small, very reliable package at a competitive cost. But much like your cell phone, the end product, as good as it is, is not repairable.

Could SubDrive (or your cellphone) be made totally repairable, right down to the component level? It could, but your customers wouldn’t be able to afford it, it would be terribly unreliable because of all the connections, and it would physically be so big as to take up the entire bed of your truck. That truck of yours may be a compromise, but perfect for the job.

The real reason

As the drilling season winds down for the winter months, a different season always follows in its footsteps: trade show season. Conventional wisdom around the water systems industry for the past few years has been that trade shows are on the decline, and some of our best and brightest minds have been struggling with what to do about that. I’ve had conversations with lots of smart people at state and national associations, on trade show advisory boards, from industry publications, and on show management committees. We’ve talked about beefing up educational offerings. We’ve discussed marketing campaigns. We’ve considered social media opportunities. The central question is this:

How do we attract more people?

To me, the answer is as simple as its execution is complicated: we have to give them a reason to go to the show.

Clearly, the reasons people used to come to trade shows aren’t as important anymore. Product information is available at anyone’s fingertips through email and the internet. Sales reps are more accessible than ever via email and smart phone. CEUs can be garnered from a variety of sources. Our easy-access world has diminished the importance of the trade show as a primary vehicle for information. All the reasons that once drew people to the show floor have lost some of their luster. Simply offering more (of the same) or changing a campaign or communicating in different ways won’t do the trick. We have to give them a reason to go to the show.

Here’s that reason: the people.

The water systems industry isn’t particularly sexy. We’re not making smart phones with unbelievable functionality or talking about the future in black mock-tees or making cars that plug into electrical outlets or wowing people with our newest storefront. As much as people need what we have to offer, they don’t pay a lot of attention to us. That means that it’s not always easy to find someone with whom we can share ideas or hammer out problems. Even for those who participate, there aren’t many online opportunities for learning best practices or identifying challenge areas. We can’t always boot up the computer and find the answers we need.

And that, my friends, is why we should consider trade shows in our industry as a huge opportunity. Nowhere else do we have so many people with shared interests in the same place at the same time. We should attend for the chance to learn from others, test our own ideas, and get a feel for what’s happening in our industry beyond our own sphere of influence. These events give us a chance to have conversations with people facing the same challenges and opportunities; what an incredible resource pool! That’s the message we should be sharing.

With many state and regional shows–as well as the National Ground Water Expo–looming on the calendar, I encourage you to consider them in this light. What can you learn from your peers? What can they learn from you? How well do you understand the pulse of the water systems industry beyond your own service area? Are you good at marketing? If so, share your successful practices. Do you need help connecting with customers? Bring your questions. Can’t figure out where a particular product should be applied? See where others are using it. Make a point to talk to five new people and keep track of what you learn; I challenge you to find a better place to get your hands on so much relevant information at once.

Come for the people. It’s that simple.

Note: Tammy Davis, Director of Corporate Communications at Franklin Electric, provided this week’s post as a guest blogger.