A tale of two purchases

Job shop managers discuss potential laser cutting system buys after Fabtech.

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Riding to O’Hare from McCormick, the site of Fabtech, in the airport shuttle van, I was listening to a discussion between two guys in the seats behind me. They too had just left the Fabtech show and by chance met in the van. I say "chance" because it turned out each was involved in purchase negotiations for a laser cutting system, so this obviously got my attention.

First, I was very impressed by the knowledge of laser metal cutting by these job-shop owner/managers. One had signed a purchase agreement with a leading equipment supplier at the show after many weeks of intense investigation of all the leading suppliers in the market. The other was close to doing this with a different supplier, but still had some questions that arose at the show, causing him to reassess his buying decision.

I won’t go into details on all they said, but I can tell you that they were very thorough in their analysis and had asked many questions that others might have missed. In short, these guys had done their homework well. Even though they were buying from competing suppliers they seemed to have received satisfactory answers to all their questions.

What came out as we neared O’Hare (it’s an hour plus drive at rush hour, so they had plenty of time to talk) was that the final buying decision hinged on: after-sales service, distributor experience, and location and training offered. In fact, the purchaser said his decision was clinched by the level of factory and onsite training offered to his programmers. The other narrowed his search down to the location of the nearest serviceman and how fast he could get to the plant to resolve a problem.

At no time did selling price come up. The only inside disclosures were about the perks that the suppliers offered to clinch the deals. If I mentioned them here, it might tip off suppliers as to who they were.

As a casual observer, I was impressed by the level of expertise these guys showed about fiber lasers and automation. I would have liked to turn around, introduce myself, and complement them, but modesty and a quick exit from the van interfered. Perhaps they will read this and accept my congratulations.

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