Randy Norman

Randy Norman

Answer Man

Randy Norman Receives
Inaugural 2017 IADD Pillar Award

Like the pillars that have supported temples from antiquity for millennia, the IADD’s Pillar Award aims to recognize and reward industry colleagues who have, over many years of dedicated service, unselfishly shared their knowledge and time for the benefit of others and of the Association. It is their many contributions that embody the IADD’s existence.

Recently when the IADD created this award, there were many IADD members and presenters who came to mind as deserving candidates. But one person came to EVERYONE’S mind as the perfect recipient of the inaugural award - Randy Norman, Senior Technical Advisor, Preco, Inc.

So when IADD heard a rumor that 2017 might be Randy’s last Odyssey and that he may retire soon, IADD’s leadership moved quickly to surprise Randy at the Odyssey in May with the award.

Jeremy Guest, President of the IADD and President of Diansuply, Inc., explained, “I have been active in this industry since 2005, and because of my active involvement with the IADD, IADD•FSEA Odyssey and IADD TechTeam, I have met, heard and seen in action many of our best and brightest experts in our industry. And because both Preco and Diansuply are members of the Central Big 6 Chapter of the IADD, I have been lucky enough to tour Preco and see first-hand Randy putting on a Chapter presentation inside his own company’s walls.”

“Randy is one of the most generous and knowledgeable presenters. Over almost two decades he has continued to provide quality programming for countless educational events, and he’s so good that even if the topic is something you’ve never had to understand, you are still interested! He’s served on our TechTeam since its inception and is the man many of us turn to first with our most difficult diecutting questions. And he always seems to have the answers.”

“People like Randy are a huge reason the IADD and Odyssey have been successful. We preach education, and Randy is one of the reason why we can call ourselves the definitive industry resource for diemaking and diecutting.”

If you haven’t been fortunate enough to meet Randy or experience one of his excellent presentations, the following dialogue will give you a glimpse into his charm.

How did you get started in the industry?
I worked for a major publishing company based in NY, USA. After 14 months I transferred to Oklahoma City, OK, USA from Kansas as a District Manager covering four states. I was getting ready to transfer again to Houston, TX, USA to become a Regional Sales Manager covering the southwest district, but the company sold to a larger publishing company and they laid off the entire sales organization, 98 of us. I moved back to Kansas City, KS, USA and answered a blind ad in the newspaper. When I interview for Preco, they asked me what I knew about hydraulic presses and I told them “Absolutely nothing!” They hired me and told me I didn’t have any bad habits to break, and they would do “on the job” training.

Describe your career path.
I would love to say that I had a plan, but truthfully I am doing the same thing that I have always done. I had no career plan/path. At the time, I was a “sales coordinator.” I was basically a secretary putting out quotes for the sales staff. Back then, all of the quotes were hand written, given to an executive secretary who would type them up and then the quotes would be reviewed for errors and re-typed. Depending on the quote log, it could take several days to get out one quote. I brought in my typewriter because I could type faster than I could write and also because nobody can read my handwriting, including me! I was the first person in the sales department to get a computer once IT discovered I could type. A sales quoting template was designed and quotes could be generated in as little as 15 minutes for standard presses.

From there, I was put in the field as a sales manager. Typically, I took over a territory until Preco could replace me with a “real” salesperson. At one time or another, I have had territories in all of the US, Canada and Mexico. In the past, they wanted salespeople to live in their territory. My wife would not move away because she had family in Kansas City and no other siblings to take care of them. She also made a lot more money than me, so the choice was easy—I would not move from Kansas!

I also changed my title on my business card from “Sales Coordinator” to “Applications Specialist.” I quickly discovered that companies didn’t have time to see a Sales Coordinator, but they would make time to see an Applications Specialist, someone who could look at processes and improve production by making improvements to their Preco presses.

Who were/are your role models and why?
I would have to say first and foremost would be my dad. He was a “peddler” his entire life, and I learned the trade from him!

My second role model was my boss at Preco, Ron Hofmann, Vice President of Sales. I learned a lot from him on how to interact with customers, both in person and over the phone. To me, one of the hardest things to learn was the ability to tell the customer “NO.” I know that sounds counterproductive.

Finally, it would be Joe Raney. He is a machinist at Preco who trained me about the workings of our presses along with mechanical thought processes on our equipment. He would never give me the answer or solution to a problem. He would make me work out problems. That way, as he said, I would remember them. If answers are given to you, you don’t learn!

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the industry?
Convincing the customer that the only way to make more money than their competitors is through automation. Companies pay approximately the same for equipment, utilities and labor. By using automation one can decrease labor costs. Automation allows the knocking out and stacking of parts faster than a human can pick parts, count and stack. By using specific types of tooling, automation can de-slug parts much faster than a person can. All of this reduces manual labor costs and increases your throughput. More product for less money!

In such a competitive industry like ours, why would someone want to share their knowledge? What have you gained from that?
I wouldn’t be in this industry if there weren’t people who shared their knowledge with me! I have always enjoyed teaching. In our industry, new ideas are usually old ideas that were forgotten. I can’t tell you how many times that I have come up with a “unique” idea for parts handling, cutting or stripping only to be told “That is what we used to do 20 years ago!”

What advice would you give to someone who is just considering entering the industry?

Listen! I have been in the industry now for over 30 years and I still learn something everyday. I am positive that is why I am still here today. Before I worked at Preco, every sales job was the same. First you learn your product, and then you learn your customer base. In my younger years, that took about one to two years, then the selling became really boring and I would look for a different job. In the manufacturing industry, there are so many different products being produced, your ability to learn is unlimited!

What is your vision for the future of our industry?
Let’s face it, hydraulic press manufacturing is a dying industry. There are not that many machine builders left. A lot have gone out of business or been bought out by their competitors. There are very few new manufacturing facilities being built today to sustain a lot of machinery builders. Usually, we compete with other manufacturing companies in replacing obsolete or worn out equipment. Or it is an existing customer expanding their manufacturing and they need more equipment. We are constantly looking for additional types of equipment to build and market. Jack Pierson, the founder of Preco, always used to say “Do nothing that someone else is already doing. Do not spend our resources on anything that is not unique unless it complements our existing products or strategy for growth.”

How did you get involved in IADD?
Truthfully, I don’t remember how I got involved. I know I was involved in the first Odyssey in 2001. I was invited for input about specialty diecutting.

What has your IADD participation meant to you?
I am involved in several organizations throughout the industry. This one has always been my favorite! What I saw from day one is that this was an organization that really focused on education. Many other organizations are more social than technical. I would like to see the IADD become more involved with other associations. I know that this is easier said than done, but there are a lot of associations that would benefit from the IADD! I know there has been a lot of success partnering with the FSEA and GFA.

IADD congratulates Randy Norman as the 2017 Pillar Award recipient. See other IADD awards amd honorees online here.