If yours is like most shops, chances are good that a machine tool sales engineer visits on a regular basis. Probably more than one. The question is, do you trust them? Are they knowledgeable, or just fast talkers? If the latter, you might have put a sign on your front door that says “No Solicitors.”
Wanted: Machine Tool Sales Engineer. Apply Within
I get it. Some of these folks are pushy. Some don’t have a clue. But given the pace of change today, it can be hard to make a decision that will affect your shop’s productivity and profitability for the next decade or more. That’s why shops both large and small often need a little advice when evaluating different machine tools.
Don McGrath knows all about it. He’s been a machine tool sales engineer longer than most of us have been driving. Ironically, he has a degree in physics, which he earned in 1965. “I’m an old guy,” he’ll tell you.
McGrath likes sales. He also likes designing things, which explains his dozen or so patents. He retired once. His father-in-law had a triple bypass, so McGrath quit his job in order to renovate his home and get it ready for sale.
Six months later, he got a call from an ex-customer. “Do me a favor,” the guy said. McGrath was back in the machine tool sales engineer saddle.
Life’s Little Surprises
He didn’t plan it this way. He married right out of college and needed a steady paycheck. Jobs for people with physics degrees being scarce, he gladly accepted a position with the Columbia Broadcasting System, now CBS. Within six months, he was running the department. A year after that, McGrath was running seven, including the manufacturing, facilities maintenance, and industrial engineering departments.
“Life is what happens when you’re planning to do something else,” he laughs.
There’ve been other jobs. Before moving into sales, he was an independent consultant, “designing tooling systems to produce specific parts at a far more rapid rate.” He’s worked in and managed machine shops and tool rooms, operating the very same equipment he sells today.
Like I said, McGrath likes sales, but what he likes to do best is help his customers solve problems. There was the company that makes wood pellets for fireplaces. Their dedicated (and expensive) extrusion equipment was tired, so McGrath showed them how they could use a rotary table and CNC machining center to accomplish the same thing.
Another customer needed to replace a screw-making machine that had been built three decades earlier. McGrath designed a system that took the cycle time from 9 seconds per part to 1.8 seconds, increasing throughput to 300,000 pieces per month.
“I’ve been at Kent USA for four years now,” McGrath says. “I’m technically a machine tool sales engineer, but keep finding myself in this position where I’m designing, making, and inventing stuff. That’s largely a matter of spending your days talking to people who are looking for ways to make more money or figure out how to do things. And when you have a broad background like mine, you can see different ways to solve problems that the customer might have overlooked. That’s what I bring to the table.”