Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Looking to The Rising Sun for answers

I'm preparing for a trip to Japan next week where I will be presenting my mid-year report on the industrial laser marketplace. Because my PowerPoint slides will be shown in Japanese, they were submitted for translation several weeks ago, and therein lies a conundrum- present what I had prepared or, because the market seems to be leaning more towards a slow-down, extemporize – possibly causing the simultaneous translator a migraine.

For months I have reported the strength of the markets served by industrial lasers and touted their ability to overcome downward adjustments that all the experts were predicting. And I still believe this, even though daily news shows softness developing in some of the market stalwarts that have kept sales and revenues at a high level.

At this point in time, the laser system supplier’s books are, for the most part, full for 2011, with backlogs in place into the early weeks of 2012. By all accounts these orders seem secure and I have yet to hear of concerns about cancellations or shipment delays.

My colleague, Dr. Tom Hausken of Strafegies Unlimited, reports that a round of recent West Coast corporate interviews confirmed the "jobless recovery" scenario, seemed to show some market uncertainties and expected flat sales for 2012. Tom and I share a lot of data and therefore I tend to listen more attentively to what he says, even though we have been known to object to each other's conclusions at times. So I'll file away his notes for consideration as I start my 2011 annual report in November.

One thing I intend to discuss with executives of Japanese companies I will meet with next week is how they survived the recent 10 year economic stagnation in Japan. The idea of a similar situation in the U.S. has been floated by some economists and I intend to see how such an occurrence might impact the dynamic laser market.

Stay tuned for my Japan report in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


After 27 years of editing Industrial Laser Solutions, it was inevitable that I would make a significant error, since one of magnitude had never been made previously. I should qualify that — once we published an issue with the cover image upside down. This was never noticed by readers, perhaps because the subject was five-axis laser cutting and the photo looked like it could be a multi-axis machine.

The error I refer to was in a News item posted on the ILS home page, referencing exhibitor comments about the upcoming trade show LaserTech India 2011. Inadvertently, by my mistake, their comments were attributed to another trade show, Laser India 2011, which will be held a few weeks later. Complicating this was the fact that ILS is a media partner of this trade show; ironically, the original News posting was done because ILS supports all events that promote the industrial laser technology, regardless of affiliations.

The error might have been noticed by one of our staff and corrected if it had not been for two mitigating factors. First, our offices were powerless, as was most of our geographic region from the effects of the powerful hurricane Irene. Secondly, the timing of a potential error notice was poor because our offices were closed for the long holiday weekend, and our staff was widely scattered, enjoying the last holiday before schools reopened.

Thus the error was called to my attention by e-mails from the principals of the two trade shows, an unfortunate situation because affected parties seek immediate relief. To make matters worse, the battery in my laptop gave out while I was driving around in my car to find some free Wi-Fi, so I was unable to respond to the e-mails until power was restored at the time our offices were closed.

With some assistance from an obliging company IT person on his holiday, a short corrective News notice was posted followed by a corrected rewording of the first notice that was intended to set the record straight. The offended parties were generally understanding about the unintended error and mostly mollified by my suggestions for ongoing corrective actions.

The object lesson for this embarrassing imbroglio: check and recheck your facts, just like the saying, "measure twice and cut once". Also, have a plan for quick response after catastrophes strike.