When it comes to one of the oldest industrial product categories around, there is usually no need to reinvent the wheel. But distributors who carry motors and power transmission products and accessories are then challenged to find new and innovative ways of creating product and service differentiation when the products themselves may not be changing at the fast clip we’ve come to see from areas like, say, safety or power tools.
For manufacturers in the industry like Diamond Chain, a supplier of roller chain, the focus isn’t on bringing new technologies into the category as much as continually improving the products and technologies that are already available. “We felt there were opportunities to significantly increase the service life of our first generation product,” explains Chuck Springman, VP of Engineering, “so we began by asking ourselves, ‘If we had the opportunity to launch the original version of this product again, what would we do differently to better serve the needs of our customers?’”
The result was a new self-lubricating roller chain series called Duralube LIVE, which is the new and improved version of an existing product series. “The end result is a product with an increase in service life of over three times, which we’re very pleased with.”
For motor manufacturer Baldor – a member of the ABB Group – the focus is on finding ways to help its customers remain competitive in an uncertain environment. This means its product development focuses on increasing reliability and decreasing maintenance costs. Baldor pro-duct manager David Steen suggests that distributors work to understand the type of equipment at work in the facilities of OEM customers and make sure they’re prepared to address any issues. “Electric motors with integrally mounted shaft grounding devices, particularly the carbon brush style or ring type, have been quite common in the OEM marketplace for over 5 years,” Steen says. “Since these motors have been in the field for several years now, when a motor fails it would be advantageous to have motors available in stock for replacement. It would also be advisable to have these integral shaft ground motors available to replace standard motors that may be failing from bearing fluting because they have not utilized a shaft ground motor in the first place.”
Having the right motors and accessories installed can greatly reduce production downtime, as well as replacement costs. In order to help guide the customer towards the right selection, Diamond Chain VP of Sales and Marketing Matt Stoneburner stresses the importance of joint sales calls. “As the manufacturer, our sales team has a technical and functional understanding of the product that can help to identify the best opportunities for deployment throughout a facility.” And when it comes to highly technical product lines, your suppliers are often so well versed and researched that you’re providing a disadvantage to the customer by not utilizing their resources. Says Baldor’s Dave Felt, Strategic Account Manager: “Rather than simply taking a brochure on the new product, distributors need to challenge their supplier to a greater depth and ‘un-tap’ the intel available from them.”
Baldor’s Jeff Moore, VP Marketing, Mechanical, says that sticking to the basics can be crucial when dealing with customers – don’t forget to talk about even the most standard of product lines, especially since they might fail to be top-of-mind for your customers. “Most customers don’t actively search out innovative solutions or realize what impact new technologies have on their business,” Moore says. “Distributors are the link that can turn these product solutions into savings for our customers. Try hosting a Technology Seminar at your customer’s site and bring in subject matter experts to discuss/present new products that apply to your customers operation. It will help your credibility and may just land you an order or big account.”