Sales

A Cog’s Case for Corporate Utopia

David Durham, Regional Sales Manager, EDAX

Not too long ago I went to my optometrist to get an eye exam for some replacement glasses. My last pair had been stolen after my car was broken into in broad daylight during lunch at a restaurant in the Bay Area. (What the thief planned on doing with my prescription glasses is still a mystery to me.)

Figure 1: The old phoropter* (top) and the new phoropter** (bottom).

It had been at least a couple years since my last examination, but I was prepared to be guided through all the typical tests, culminating with that “giant-machine-with-multiple-lenses” pressed into my face to help the optometrist determine the prescription that would best correct the errors in my vision. I’d later learn that this machine is called a phoro-optometer, or more commonly a “phoropter.” And, contrary to my previous experiences with this instrument, it was now a super-sleek, slimmed down, digital version of the machine, using a computer controlled digital refraction system to cycle through the refraction options instead of using stacks of physical lenses that had to be manually cycled by the optometrist.

It was much smaller, quieter, faster, and easier than the version with which I was familiar. I was thoroughly impressed. But I was even more impressed when the instrument was pulled away and I saw the Ametek logo emblazoned on the side of it.

I couldn’t help but reflexively blurt out “Hey I work there!” to which the optometrist looked up from my file and began curiously interrogating me about my history in the eye care industry. Sadly, he quickly lost interest after I explained that I worked in a different division of Ametek that manufactures EDS, EBSD, and WDS systems.

After my exam, for some reason I felt a bit intimidated about not knowing more about Ametek’s business units outside of the EDAX niche to which I belong. I knew Ametek was a huge corporation, steadily growing larger over the decades — mainly by acquisition of smaller companies – but I’d never really grasped the sheer size and breadth of everything Ametek does. This wasn’t the first time I’ve been in this type of situation. Prior to joining EDAX/Ametek I worked for another scientific instrumentation corporation, slightly smaller than Ametek but still a similar type of behemoth with a wide range of companies making products that service comparable industries and applications. Even at that corporation my knowledge of the business outside of my business unit’s portfolio was very limited. These places are just so big!

Working at large corporations like these can, at times, be a little bit discouraging if you think of yourself as just a single cog in a machine with thousands of moving parts. Giant corporations certainly seem to have a bad reputation these days and I’ll admit I’ve experienced my fair share of corporation-induced angst over the years. Working within a large bureaucracy can make completing the smallest internal tasks overwhelming. Being in a smaller company that is acquired – I’ve been through two acquisitions — can be disruptive to business and cause a lot of anxiety.

But is there a good side to these mega-corporations? I think so.

I can find some important benefits that could be argued to outweigh the negative aspects, not just to the cogs like myself but also to the markets that they serve. Whether or not these apply to other more prominent mega-corporations is debatable, but I think they seem to be reasonable positive characteristics, at least from my experience in the scientific instrumentation field.

Having the brand name recognition has always been an advantage. Customers (and their procurement departments) are typically more willing to do business with companies that have a long history of manufacturing products. Being in business for multiple decades with a proven track record of having the resources to reliably deliver products to the market and consistently service its user-base generates heaps of reassurance for customers that a younger or smaller company just can’t provide. It works similarly for vendors as well – it turns out that people are always more willing to sell you stuff if they’re confident that your company will pay for it.

Being in a large corporation also offers a huge advantage in the ability to research and develop new technology and product improvements. This can come by brute force – having deeper pockets to invest more money into R&D – or even by utilizing the synergy between individual companies under the corporation’s umbrella. EDAX is a great example of this in a couple ways. Ametek’s purchase of a new business unit in 2014 facilitated the development of EDAX’s groundbreaking Octane Elite and Octane Elect EDS systems, allowing for speed and sensitivity that had never been achieved before in any other EDS system. Collaboration between EDAX and another sister company within the Materials Analysis Division of Ametek, ushered in the release of EDAX’s new Velocity™ highspeed CMOS EBSD camera, by far the fastest EBSD system available. Realization of these two milestones of innovation would have been significantly delayed without the help of Ametek’s resources.

Figure 2: The Octane Elite (left) and the Velocity™ Super (right), two of EDAX’s products that were developed, in part, with the help of other business units inside Ametek.

But what I think tends to be the best part is that, as long as a company is meeting its targets and things are humming along nicely, corporations – at least the good ones, in my opinion — are usually happy to just let the business unit do its own thing. Having an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality is the ideal way to keep the key talent happy and keep the business growing and making money. It also makes it possible to retain some semblance of the original company culture that contributed to its success in the first place. This is the holy grail for us cogs – being able to keep that small business feel while also being able to take advantage of all the big business benefits at the same time. Again, EDAX is a good example of this, with many of EDAX’s employees being legacy staff hired on long before the EDAX acquisition. This tells me Ametek must be doing something right.

So, I guess it’s debatable. While we may be willingly marching our grandchildren into a dystopia where three or four companies own all the businesses in the world, there are some undeniable advantages that working for a big company brings as well. And I take some comfort in the fact there are some very intelligent and innovative people behind the curtains, trying to do good things to make their customers happy and generally improve the lives of everyone in the world. We may or may not see all the things like the better phoropters out there, but our lives are almost certainly benefited by them whether we realize it or not.

* Photo from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoropter
** Photo from http://www.reichert.com/

What’s in a Name?

Matt Nowell, EBSD Product Manager, EDAX

The Globe Theatre

I recently had the opportunity to attend the RMS EBSD meeting, which was held at the National Physics Lab outside of London. It was a very enjoyable meeting, with lotsof nice EBSD developments. While I was there, I was able to take in a bit of London as well. One of the places I visited was the Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. While I didn’t get a chance to see a show here (I saw School of Rock instead), it did get me thinking about one of the Bard’s more famous lines, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet” from Romeo and Juliet.

I bring this up because as EBSD Product Manager for EDAX, one of my responsibilities is to help name new products. Now my academic background is in Materials Science and Engineering, so understanding how to best name a product has been an interesting adventure.

TSL

The earliest product we had was the OIM™ system, which stood for Orientation Imaging Microscopy. The name came from a paper introducing EBSD mapping as a technique. At the time, we were TSL, which stood for TexSem Laboratories, which was short for Texture in an SEM. Obviously, we were into acronyms. We used a SIT (Silicon Intensified Target) camera to capture the EBSD patterns. We did the background processing with a DSP-2000 (Digital Signal Processor). We controlled the SEM beam with an MSC box (Microscope System Control).

Our first ‘mapped’ car.

For our next generator of products, we branched out a bit. Our first digital Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) camera was called the DigiView, as it was our first digital camera for capturing EBSD patterns instead of analog signals. Our first high-speed CCD camera was called Hikari. This one may not be as obvious, but it was named after the high-speed train in Japan, as Suzuki-san (our Japanese colleague) played a significant role in the development of this camera. Occasionally, we could find the best of both worlds. Our phase ID product was called Delphi. In Greek mythology, Delphi was the oracle who was consulted for important decisions (could you describe phase ID any better than that?). It also stood for Diffracted Electrons for Phase Identification.

Among our more recent products, PRIAS™ stands for Pattern Region of Interest Analysis System. Additionally, though, it is meant to invoke the hybrid use of the detector as both an EBSD detector and an imaging system. TEAM™ stands for Texture and Elemental Analysis System, which allowed us to bridge together EDS and EBSD analysis in the same product. NPAR™ stands for Neighbor Pattern Averaging and Reindexing, but I like this one as it sounds like I named it because of my golf game.
I believe these names have followed in the tradition of things like lasers (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation), scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus), and CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart). It generates a feeling of being part of the club, knowing what these names mean.

Velocity™ EBSD Camera

The feedback I get though, is that our product names should tell us what the product does. I don’t buy into this 100%, as my Honda Pilot isn’t a self-driving car, but it is the first recommendation on how to name a product (https://aytm.com/blog/how-to-name-a-product-10-tips-for-product-naming-success/). Following this logic, our latest and world’s fastest EBSD camera is the Velocity™. It sounds fast, and it is.

Of course, even when using this strategy, there can be some confusion. Is it tEBSD (Transmission EBSD) or TKD (Transmission Kikuchi Diffraction)? Does HR-EBSD give us better spatial resolution? Hopefully as we continue to name new products, we can make our answer clear.

To Attend, or Not to Attend Trade Shows? That is the Question!

Roger Kerstin – US Sales Manager, EDAX

From the point of view of a regional Sales Manager, for a long time, trade shows were the ultimate way to bring in new customers and reach many of your existing customers all at the same time. However, previously gigantic shows like Pittcon now continue to get smaller and smaller every year. When I attended my first Pittcon in 2000, it was so big that only a few venues in the country could host it. Now it seems that it could be placed anywhere and there is no longer a size issue. With more focus on the internet the trade shows almost seem like they are not needed any longer.

EDAX at AAFS EDAX at TMS

As you see I said almost. I do feel that participation in tradeshows is and will continue to be important for a long time both for vendors/exhibitors and customers/participants. As exhibitors, they allow us to meet with current customers, see new and exciting trends and/or products, and talk to potential new customers. All of this in one place. Yes, it can be expensive to attend these shows all the time, especially the larger ones but let’s just think about the cost in more detail. Let’s think about it from the perspective of the exhibitor. If we get 50 leads from a larger show that maybe costs $25,000. Wow, that’s $500 per lead. If I were to go out and try to visit 50 potential customers it would take weeks and there would be a lot of travel and a lot more expense. I would say that overall we would probably spend more to visit these 50 potential customers across the region and it would take 4-5 times as long. So not only are we spending more money, we are taking valuable time in doing so.

Sometimes I hear that the exhibitors are saying the show is too long, or that it was a waste of money. I can even say that I have said that in the past as well, but if we look at the bigger picture, it really isn’t that bad. At a trade show we not only have attendees that are there to look, learn, and possibly purchase products or services. They are also coming to see us or other companies like ours and we can be passive and not get a lot out of it or we can be nice, friendly, and accessible. If we are the latter, then we potentially can start up a new relationship with a new customer. At some shows we also have a team there that usually wouldn’t be with us on the door-to-door visits. At a show, we may have product support, sales, service and if needed can address all avenues with one meeting. Potential customers have a chance to see new technology advancements at close hand and can even request an individual demo at a given event. To do this elsewhere would be costlier and more time consuming for both us and for our customers.

EDAX with TESCAN at Pittcon 2017 EDAX at M&M 2016

Some of these large shows probably do need to be shortened as it seems at some of them, the last day is a time where the vendors meet vendors and not a lot of customers are coming around, but even on that note it could be beneficial as this is where we make connections with others doing similar things and there could potentially be partnerships or mutually beneficial outcomes. In short, I will continue to support the value of our events and tradeshow attendance – we look forward to seeing you at ‘M&M 2017’!