"The AHTD Model at Work" by: Frank Hurtte
Monday, April 23, 2012
Posted by: Cassie Nelson
The AHTD Model at Work
Frank Hurtte – River Heights
There may be hundreds of articles detailing the how’s and
why’s of the knowledge based distributor.
On a personal level, I have authored over 200 articles covering such
topics as account planning, targeting, specialists and just about everything in
between. But to the best of my knowledge
– and following a couple of quick "Google” searches, not a single word has been
invested in chronicling what happens where the rubber meets the road in our
industry – at the customer.
After traveling the country (even the world) explaining
exactly what makes the AHTD-style knowledge-based distributor different, I
decided it was time to detail a story with painstaking detail as to what makes us
unique. So sit back in your chair and
spend the next three minutes following the "feet on the street” of the
Turn your attention to the Windy City, the City of Broad
Shoulders - Chicago, Illinois where we had an opportunity to follow the work of
Standard Electric’s Jim Roth. Standard
Electric is a multi-state player in the Automation Industry with locations in
Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. They use
a three prong approach to customer service with outside salespeople,
specialists and trained post-sale application specialists. The technical prowess of their specialists
and applications guys tops the ladder of automation knowhow. This point alone would be a differentiator in
a crowded market of automation wantabes.
But instead of hitting on this point – let’s drill into their outside
Jim Roth is a technical guy with credentials to prove it. Prior to joining Standard Electric, he worked
in the communications industry. He
combines his knowledge of technically oriented automation products with a deep
appreciation for helping his customers solve difficult applications. This doesn’t happen in some shallow color
glossy world, instead he carries a roll your sleeves up and pitch in sort of
toolbox. Now on to our story…
One of Jim’s customers is an OEM producer of machinery
used in the production of pie crusts for commercial bakeries. This OEM has a 40 year track record of
producing a "bulletproof” machine capable of handling all types of abuse with
little or no maintenance. Global demands
for enhanced productivity, ability to connect to other automated machinery and
the need for added features is sweeping into every facet of manufacturing – and
the baking industry is no different.
As the customer launched into the design of a
revolutionary new machine, they requested information covering advanced
terminal blocks and I/O concepts from one of Standard Electric’s supply
partners. The lead was passed along to a
Standard Business Development Specialist.
The Specialist quickly followed-up and discovered potential for other
Jim came into the discussion shortly after the initial
terminal block call. As he assisted the
customer through the control architecture, he developed a picture of the
customer’s need for a state-of-the-art PLC driven machine with electronic operator
interfaces. It was during the
conversation on HMI devices that Jim, David Baime, a Standard Electric PLC
Business Development Specialist, and the customer switched to deep needs
The OEM’s operation is lean and mean. They invest a great deal of effort into getting
customer breakdowns back online without costly trips to the field. They have discovered the opportunity cost of
making a trip measures in the thousands of dollars. This is an added burden to both the bakery
and to their organization. The human
wear and tear of emergency customer visits play havoc on employee morale and
family life. How could these be avoided? Would it be possible to monitor and
troubleshoot the machine in real time?
And since problems were often caused by some previous condition, would
it be possible to harvest historical data on the machine’s environmental
Jim took the customer’s wish-list and suggested they meet
in a few days to explore options. It was
during this meeting he presented the option of new technology available from a
rapidly emerging company from Belgium named eWON. The eWON product not only has a unique
approach to connecting intelligent devices to the internet, it contains the
capability to capture historical trends and initiate alarms.
Jim’s experience across the applications of several dozen
OEM accounts told him, customers were leery of allowing machinery makers access
to their internal internet connection.
Internet security and concerns of malicious attacks on propriety
information had created a conflict between the end user’s IT staff and those
responsible for maintaining the equipment.
Their concerns around "poking a hole” in the firewall limited the
machine’s functionality and caused his OEM customers to create clumsy
workarounds. The eWON system’s
one-of-a-kind design solved both issues.
In a meeting with the customer’s design team, Mr. Roth
and yet another Standard Specialist walked through the various control
architectural design options. For each
option, Jim brought out the specific advantages and outlined the cost versus
customer value driven by the option.
The eWON system tied to the Standard supplied PLC,
sensors and inputs would allow the OEM opportunity to monitor and troubleshoot
the system via eWON’s Talk2M cloud-based software. This combination provided the customer with
the right level of security and makes the decision to allow access to the end
user’s internal network an easy decision for the IT department of the bakery.
But the proof is in the pudding. In our industry happy customers are critical
for developing additional business opportunities and building long term
partnerships that drive success. We
would be remiss in providing some follow-up from the customer’s end. The customer liked the system so much he
submitted an article to Control Design Magazine. (Read about it here: http://www.controldesign.com/articles/2012/IN12Q1-taste-troubleshooting.html)
Knowledge-based selling is a hand’s on team sport. The differentiating point is not product
understanding, it’s a depth of transferable application expertise. While Jim and his team of Specialists would
never pass themselves off as the kings of the pastry crust machine, their willingness
to listen to customer needs and transpose past application experience to help
them build a more successful machine carries massive value.
If you have an example of one of your own street level stories, I would
love to hear from you.