Wondering and ranting

Published
August 03, 2018 - 02:45pm
Wondering and ranting

Ever wonder what it would be like to sell machine tools for a living? Rantings of a Machine Tool Salesman by Scott Walker provides a flavor of that wonderland career. Semiretired, Walker is chairman of Mitsui Seiki USA Inc., Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, where he started as vice president of sales in 1991. The company specializes in building heavy metal and mother machine tools.

The self-published, 330-plus-page book compiles a selection of the biweekly newsletters that the company included in each employee’s paycheck envelope starting in July 1999. The original intent was for employees throughout the company to write the newsletters, and the book does include some that Walker didn’t pen. But after badgering workers to write something and then pleading with them to meet the biweekly deadlines, Walker determined that it would be easier to just write the newsletters himself.

The book also includes “looking back” comments, as well as a “looking forward” one, to update and elaborate on some of the newsletters. A smattering of photos and illustrations helps to visually describe some of the topics covered. These include the images that accompany the description of titanium end plates for a Boeing 787 Dreamliner airplane and the photo Walker took that shows the individually unique pattern of spots on a whale shark.

The newsletters sometimes describe business activities at Mitsui Seiki. More often, they convey information about Walker’s family, travels and hobbies. They also provide sentimental reflections, particularly around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Selling machine tools isn’t all that Walker does. His past and current interests include throwing darts, diving, playing guitar, making wine, woodworking, oil painting and reading.

Curiously, Walker wrote that reading for pleasure was impossible for him because of his dyslexia until the age of 40, which is when he started painting “and something clicked in my brain. I haven’t any idea what it was, but I started reading and haven’t stopped.”

One recurring theme in the book is Walker’s positive relationship with the trade press. I always considered him a good source, meaning someone who would return my phone calls, and I have interviewed him numerous times. Once, in 2007, we discussed how Axsys Technologies Inc. was machining the beryllium segments for the mirror in the James Webb Space Telescope with Model HS6A horizontal machining centers from Mitsui Seiki. The company’s involvement in the JWST project is one that Walker proudly mentions at various times in the book. I had to chuckle, though, when he noted NASA initially planned to launch the telescope in 2011. The launch will now occur no earlier than May 2020.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Walker for informal conversations at the International Manufacturing Technology Show, which is another recurring theme. He acknowledges the importance of IMTS, where Mitsui Seiki commits significant resources to its exhibit, but Walker calls the biennial event his “stress nemesis.” His feelings are possibly summarized best in one newsletter title: #$@&%*! IMTS.

But reflecting on his first IMTS, with his father in 1965, he also wrote: “Just as I stood in front of a Futuremill machine so many years ago, wondering what all those blue chips were, please take this opportunity at IMTS to wonder about the machines there today and their potential. This is our nature as toolmakers: to wonder what we can do
next and then develop it.”

Walker will be signing books during IMTS 2018 Sept. 11, 12 and 13 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Mitsui Seiki's booth (338519) in the South Building of Chicago's McCormick Place.

Related Glossary Terms

  • centers

    centers

    Cone-shaped pins that support a workpiece by one or two ends during machining. The centers fit into holes drilled in the workpiece ends. Centers that turn with the workpiece are called “live” centers; those that do not are called “dead” centers.

Author

Editor-at-large

Alan holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Including his 20 years at CTE, Alan has more than 30 years of trade journalism experience.

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