What knowledge do you need in order to sell to the infrastructure market?
A technical sales force is a necessity. Representatives need to be well-versed, if not already practicing structural engineers. That’s the experience the owners and designers want to see to maintain confidence and trust in what we’re promoting. You can’t just send someone out the door with brochures and glossy pictures. They’ll ask you a lot of technical questions and if you can’t talk the talk, you won’t sell anything.
What kinds of questions should a salesperson expect to hear?
You need to know what loads are applied to the structures, what critical limit states need to be satisfied, construction methodologies and details, longevity, performance due to fatigue loadings, general material properties. Those are the main things. They’ll want to know how it performs relative to what they’re using now. If you don’t understand what they have now, you can’t sell them the future.
What equipment or knowledge is needed to manufacture products for the infrastructure market?
One of the things that still fascinates me is that there are highly-scientific elements that are precise but there are some that are still an art. The key to developing new products is putting a strong emphasis on both art and science. Closed molding is a unique animal and it requires not only having the right equipment, but also the right people that have been in the trenches. There are a lot of nuances to manufacturing a quality part that are not evident from other aspects. It’s not rocket science, though. Other companies should look toward keeping an open mind to these crossover technologies and how you can modify those processes to make products that have value.
Which elements are scientific, and which are artistic?
The scientific parts are the precision of cutting and manufacturing pre-forms, vacuum systems, development of the materials, and engineering resins for specific applications. The artistic side is understanding in a complex composite how the manufacturing process will be influenced by the positioning of the infusion, vacuum, lay up and the transfer mediums, and knowing where to put things so the product comes out as a quality part. It’s not a terribly complex composite, but there aren’t computer models that give you the obvious answer as to how to do an infusion. You have to roll up your sleeves and figure it out.
Is there one aspect manufacturers have a harder time grasping?