I have two close friends, Jim and John, who live in my hometown of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and we get together every year at hunting camp for pinochle, brews and fellowship. Two years ago, I arrived at camp and was chatting with Jim on the front porch when John pulled up. Jim and I looked at John’s car and grimaced, because John’s car was the ugliest color we had ever seen on a car. I think it was an off shade of magenta. Then we started to laugh. We laughed because John is colorblind.

When John went to the auto auction to replace his car, he could have used some help with the color selection. He had no idea why he managed to get such a good deal. We said nothing. 

We make decisions every day that affect our business. These can range from hiring a new drill rig hand, to deciding on a DTH hammer model or what mud products to use. We are not experts on all these things, but we know our needs. We know what has been working for us and we tend not to stray from that.

How do we know if there is a better product that would improve our bottom line? A better method? A more cost-effective way do doing our jobs? And then, is it worth the investment to change?

Years ago, I worked with a guy, Mike Bays. I was managing the drill string manufacturing and he was managing the hammer bit side. A lot of the bits were going for use in the mining/quarry industries. Mike always said, “Show me a worn out bit and I’ll design a bit that would do better.” Although theoretically correct, practicality would usually prevail. Manufacturers can’t do well making special bits for every customer. But they do offer a variety of designs and maybe they can help you choose the best one for your application. This is help.

In an earlier issue, we talked about how selecting drill pipe diameter and connections can affect your drill rig’s effective hole size range. Talking about this with the rig seller or drill pipe suppliers will help guide you. At the worst, it can confirm you are making good decisions.

So, where do we go to get this help? 

My first thought is to go to the vendors from which you purchase these items. You might ask, “We’ve been running these mud products and they seem to work OK, but is there something better? “ Or, “What about these PDC bits. Would they work here and be more cost effective?” Often sellers will sell you what you request. You’re happy and they are happy. They should already be doing this, but they do not always know the whole/hole story.

How sure are we that they are selling you what is best for you, and not what provides the best profit margin for them? Maybe your best option is not a product they handle? When other salespeople drop by, do you give them a chance to tell you their ideas? Don’t be shy and think that because you don’t buy from them that you can’t pick their brains. Trust me, we like it when we get asked questions and can offer our advice. It ranks somewhere between being ignored and getting an order.

Another source is trade journals like National Driller. Look at the ads and read some articles. I have been displaying my columns in my booth at trade shows I attend. Some people have read my columns (more than I had thought), some admitted they only scan the ads, and those who said they did not get National Driller got a free subscription card.

Speaking of articles, I wholeheartedly agree with fellow National Driller columnist John Schmitt when he writes about trade shows and conferences. Exhibitors are there to talk to you. They can tell you about their products and what is new. Maybe they have a different perspective on your drilling operations. Explore the room for information. Take advantage of free advice. How did that compare with your source? You lose out when you ignore the trade show aspect. Stop by every relevant booth. Talk is free. 

My experience as a buyer was in manufacturing. We had many tooling salespeople stop by. Our CNC manager, Lenny Ferrent, had the responsibility. He spent time with most, and we kept up with the best technology for our applications. That help enabled us to better do what we did. It was free help. It was like having an expert on the payroll, except they were not on our payroll. We improved and became more efficient, thanks to Lenny and those salespeople. Whether it was tooling, machinery or raw materials, we picked a lot brains and relied on them for expertise and insight. The time spent reaped great benefits. This was help.

In blasthole applications, there are usually options to help fend off wear, especially in single-pass operations. The bottom gets worn out and the top still has paint. We have offered many options and helped customers stretch their drill pipe dollar. 

As drilling contractors, you want potential buyers to call you. You want the opportunity to see what their project is, offer insight, maybe some suggestions, maybe a quotation. Maybe you get a contract. Maybe you don’t. Even then, isn’t that better than passing a competitor’s rig on a jobsite and wondering why you were not called? In business, all we want is the opportunity to offer our services. We want to offer our help. 

So, take advantage of salesmen knocking at your door and on the floor at the next trade show, take advantage of the help being offered. Contractors do not gain anything by only talking with their current suppliers. See what is new. See who is new. Stop by and have a conversation with some of the more experienced (hint: older) people. You might find some help to make your job easier, safer, more efficient, more competitive and more profitable. It is really quite painless. One of my favorite sayings about trade shows is, “Come to see what your competition is learning.” The help is free.