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EXCELLENCE - A day in the life of a Fastener Salesman…

A reliable car, a fully-charged mobile phone and an up-to-date call sheet are indispensable tools of the trade for on-the-road sales. But for Steve Murray (pictured right), a technical sales representative for fastener specialist Northern Precision, the real key to his success is using his considerable product applications engineering expertise to understand and meet customers’ needs, as FAST/ISMR discovered when it spent a day with him motoring around Kent. The first port of call was Dartford-based Detail Sheet Metal, the manufacturing arm of Kentec, a leading manufacturer of fire alarms that are sold the world over. Kentec represents around 80 per cent of Detail’s production; the remainder is accounted for by mainly local companies and involves mostly enclosures and chassis in steel and aluminium of usually 16 and 18 gauge.   Utilising a recently-installed Amada punch press and a Safan bender, works manager Eric Ingham explains that the 14-employee company usually processes batches of 50- to 100-off and a wide variety of fasteners are widely used. “We’ve been sourcing most of our sheet metal fasteners, generally standard items, from Northern Precision for at least the past eight years,” he says. “We know there are other companies that will supply cheaper products – and in the past we’ve dealt with them - but their history of late delivery and wrong items has put us off.   “In addition, Steve [Murray] clearly has a wealth of fastener experience, and we regularly discuss options to improve productivity while reducing costs. “Minimal stock levels are important to us – as they are to all other companies - and anything we can do to reduce cash-on-shelves is good. That’s why Northern Precision’s next- day delivery guarantee is so helpful; it allows us to minimise stock levels, and we call off the required quantities as needed from Northern Precision.” It was back in the car to Maidstone next, to Audio Visual Sheet Metal, a precision sheet metal fabricator that produces a diverse range of fine limit sheet metal products in varied batch sizes on its LVD Strippit punch press. This is complemented by electro-mechanical work, assembly, flash testing, powder coating, stove enamelling, polishing, lacquering and screen printing, for a variety of electronic and audio visual industry customers in Dublin and Europe as well as throughout the UK. Part of a recent MBO team, director Keith Bates says the nine-employee company has been using Northern Precision for five years or so, for special- purpose fasteners as well as a selection of items from Northern Precision’s 5,000 in-stock standard line items.“We do buy fasteners from other sources,” he says, “since it’s always been our policy not to have all our eggs in one basket.  But we do find that Northern Precision offers the complete package of quality, price and service, and its next-day delivery service – after ordering the parts at 4.30pm the previous day - has helped us out on many occasions. “Steve [Murray] is also very knowledgeable, and we have tapped into his resource on several occasions especially when we needed bespoke solutions.“For example, one special produced by Northern Precision was a cross-drilled blind stand-off, an earth pillar for a lighting control panel. We’re now on our third run of 5,000- off, and by working closely with Steve we’ve been able to project-engineer cost-down savings as the project has progressed.”   With many years’ experience in fastener sales and use, and over nine years on-the-road with Northern Precision (, Steve Murray obviously has extensive product and applications engineering expertise that enables him to ‘speak the same language’ as his customers.   In addition, he can also call on the high level of experience from the directors at Northern Precision’s head office.   Surprisingly, he does not carry a price list: his role is to liaise on a regular basis with his clients – he has more than 400 live customers throughout the South of England and he usually clocks up around 35,000 miles a year.   Back in the car, and down the road to Pegasus Precision, a company that has in the past used Northern Precision fasteners in the production of specialist components for the medical (diagnostics machinery and electron microscopes), bank security and aerospace sectors, for example, working in predominantly aluminium, stainless and mild steel up to 3 mm thick.   Owner Barry Rham assimilates fastener supply from Northern precision to his policy of product supply to his clients: “It’s all about customer service – not price. I would rather pay a bit more to get a good service,” he says.   Back into the car (again) and a short ride to Ashford-based Kent Metal Developments, a premier stillage manufacturer and sheet metal specialist. It has been using mainly standard rivet bushes to up 6 mm diameter from Northern Precision for the past five years or so.   Director Brian Ward explains that the sheet metal sub-contracting operation is customer-led, and produces a wide range of products from mild steel, aluminium and brass, and including machine covers, fabrications for the automotive industry (including fine limit products for Bentley), as well as mobile ‘phone mast section brackets (in kits of parts) in addition to a wide range of stillages.   Using an in-house portfolio of CNC laser cutting, punching and press brakes to work a range of metals up to 12 mm thick (larger work is sub-contracted), the company’s capabilities also include powder coating, wet spraying and vapour degreasing and phosphating. Brian Ward says he expects his suppliers to react in the same way he has to for his customers.   “The name of the game is quick response,” he says, “so we have to be confident that our fastener supplier is like-minded.  Northern Precision has always supplied the right products at the right prices and right on time. I can’t say better than that.” Issued November 2006 on behalf of: Northern Precision Ltd, Unit 3 Durham Lane, Armthorpe, Doncaster DN3 3FE Tel: 01302 836010 Fax: 01302 836012 Web site: Contact: Mr. Steve Smith, Director of Sales & Marketing Editorial enquiries: Read other news from 2006
Steve Murray, a highly experienced Technical Sales Engineer for Northern Precision Ltd Detail Sheet Metal (Kentec) recently installed Amada punch press. Audio Visual LVD Strippit Turret Punch Press. NP
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