Diapers, paper towel and roofing shingles do not conjure thoughts of high-technology for most people, nor does using plastic wrap, aluminum foil or a sheet of just about any material; metal, plastic or paper. But the fact is, within the science and engineering of creating millions of everyday products, there is a world of fantastic and intricate technology created solely to roll or unwind massive amounts of materials. It involves sensors, controllers, positioners, actuators, steering guides and much more in order to control tension, guide, inspect, wind and make slits.
As the new vice president of sales for Maxcess International, it is John Walker’s (BSECE, ’90) job to understand the intricacies of myriad products and guide a team of sales engineers in offering the right solutions to industry.
Maxcess’ Fife brand literally invented the web guide over 70 years ago. The MAGPOWR brand provides tension monitoring and control through load cells and magnetic particle clutch and brake technology. And, the Tidland brand provides equipment for slitting different types of web-based products as well as the specialty shafts that are used to support the different types of product rolls.
“In web control, we’re usually talking about rolls of product rotating at different speeds, feeding a web that needs to be guided and have its tension controlled with varying levels of precision and stability,” Walker says. “So there is a lot of physics and engineering mechanics as well as electrical engineering that goes into it. To properly select the products that a customer is going to use, you need to apply a lot of the things that you learn through the engineering disciplines.
In addition to the components that control tension and guide the webs, there are also special shafts that are used to support the product rolls. We recently dealt with one that is 24-feet long and 12 inches in diameter. These can be used to support the large paper rolls for a paper mill, which can weigh eight to 10,000 pounds. Other special shafts may need to be balanced to a G1 tolerance which is a very tight rotating balancing tolerance. The tight balancing tolerance is required due to the size of the rolls and the high speeds at which it can rotate, to prevent vibration and maintain stability in the control of the web. ”
Walker graduated with an electrical engineering degree with an emphasis in biomedical engineering. He had a job offer and planned on working for a major phone company but was intrigued by an offer from Parker Hannifin Corporation. The company recruited people to train in technical sales. He signed on out of curiosity.
“It really hit a chord with me to be able to use engineering skill and aptitude to provide solutions for real world products, but also be more in the sales world dealing with customers and exercising people skills,” he says. “So I ended up taking a job as a Sales Engineer with an industrial distributor in St. Paul, Minnesota.”
After five years with the distributor, he took a position as sales manager with Exlar Corporation, a Minnesota-based start-up marketing unique linear actuator technology. He worked there for 16 years becoming vice president and division manager prior to joining Maxcess.
New to the company, he feels a bit like he’s drinking from an informational fire hose, learning all of the company’s history and technology, as well as the web control industry in a condensed period of time. Maxcess is private equity-owned, and has purchased three companies within the web-handling industry and put them under one umbrella. As a result, Walker says the company has a sales channel with mixed experience levels and varying technological ability levels. As vice president of sales, it will be his job to solidify that and create a more unified sales effort for his team and the company.