Q&A with George Taylor

A conversation with the director of custom gear sales for Fairfield Manufacturing.

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I would assume that Fairfield’s wide range of capabilities, including its design/build services, allow you to feel fairly confident when you call on a customer.

It really does. There are very few companies that we’re aware of in this industry who have their own engineering group that’s dedicated to product design and development, so we feel that it’s a great advantage. And particularly to customers who don’t want to compromise their equipment performance by using something that’s right off the shelf and that may not be the exact ratio or configured properly within the space constraints of the machine.

When you approach a new customer, or an existing customer with a new project, what are your primary concerns?

Making sure that the project meets our expectations for success, because we’ve got to factor that into our own level of involvement, or whether we bid on it or not. We ask questions like “is this the kind of project that can become a win-win for the customer and Fairfield?” and “does this project have a good chance of reaching fruition?” Once we’ve asked those questions and decided to move forward, then sales acts as the initial liaison between the customer, their engineers, and our engineering group.

I’m curious about the “level of involvement” you mentioned. On what is it based?

It depends on several things, most importantly the customer’s situation in terms of the size of the project, its level of urgency, and things of that nature. And even though the salesperson who made the initial contact usually has a sense of how realistic the project is, we’ll sometimes do an engineering feasibility study, just to make sure that the customer’s expectations can be met, as well as our own. Having an engineering staff to depend on when you’re in sales is an excellent asset, but you’ve got to make sure that you’re using your resources appropriately. So the sales representative first has to make a business case before we approach the engineering department and get on their schedule in order to get a project started.

Can you give me some sense of the range of customers you can approach?

We cover about 95 percent of our currently defined markets, in terms of our capabilities, but our real expertise has to do with torque: things that involve heavy loading and tough duty cycles. Our smaller projects might involve continuous-duty industrial drives on up to the largest ore-hauling trucks of some 450-ton payloads. There was an underground mining application we were involved in recently that was especially challenging. The customer’s machine drives were failing prematurely, and in some cases within hours. Our solution has allowed them to get satisfactory life and many times what the best of their previous designs did. That type of end result is very rewarding for the engineering staff and the customers.

Have you found yourself in a situation recently that you simply couldn’t have imagined being in 10 years ago?

One that immediately comes to mind is the fact that everybody’s hot about electric drives these days, and I couldn’t have imagined that five years ago, or even three years ago. That’s when you first started hearing about electric drives in non-traditional applications. Now everybody has a thought, if not a plan, for electric drives. Very few of them are there yet, but we’re working with a number of customers on advanced designs of that sort. Whether the technology’s there or not is still to be determined, but you’ve got to be involved in planning the applications that will probably go into production in the future. And that’s where our design/build capabilities are especially valuable, and what truly sets us apart–if you need something that’s not in the catalog, or that only exists in your mind, that’s when you need to contact Fairfield.

MORE INFORMATION  George Taylor is director of custom gear sales for Fairfield Manufacturing. He can be reached at (765) 772-4214, or via e-mail at gtaylor@fairfieldmfg.com. The company’s website is www.fairfieldmfg.com.

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is the research & development director for Thermotech Company. Thermotech is a precision custom molding company with expertise in plastic gear design, development, and manufacturing. Thermotech employs Direct Gear Design as the design methodology for plastic gear trains. McNamara has over 30 years of precision molding experience. He can be reached by email at thomas.mcnamara@thermotech.com.
operates the gear-design consulting firm AKGears, LLC in Shoreview, Minnesota. He has a master’s degree from Moscow Aviation Institute and a Ph.D from Moscow State Technical University and 40 years of experience with custom gear drive development. He is author of the book, “Direct Gear Design,” and many technical articles.