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Profile on Carestream NDT

Carestream brand logoIn this second instalment of IR’s vendor profile series, in which I share our reasons for offering their products, I will be introducing you to Carestream NDT.  I hope you enjoy these short essays as much as I enjoy reminiscing about some of my experiences with the vendors we have selected.

When I was a practising radiographer we apparently had choices. I seldom knew what they were however, because there was no representation to let me in on a lot of those choices. NDT supply businesses didn’t always operate in the best interests of their customers.  In my mind there are two main types of supply businesses. A few businesses are either of these extremes, but most fall somewhere between one and the other.

There is the warehouse-type business. This includes most online stores.  They can be large or sometimes small businesses.  In this model the customer needs to do the research themselves to make sure the product they are considering fits their purpose.  Usually the sales are initiated by a clerk at a long counter full of clerks, who knows little about the product other than how to find it in the warehouse. After sale service is usually limited to warranty issues and after warranty problems where it’s up to the purchaser to find a service center. This is usually facilitated by calling an original equipment manufacturer hotline that is located in some faraway place on the other side of the earth. We have all experienced the aggravation in this scenario. It’s the type of business that is growing in every industry because costs are low, thus profits are high, which makes it an attractive model. These types of businesses often leave you frustrated because there is no empathy for your situation and little help.

The other type of business is a specialty service-orientated business that has experts on the ground who are able to answer your questions or find answers to your questions. These businesses will make it their priority to make sure you get all the facts about your options so that you can make an informed decision.  They will then train you once you have made that decision. This service-oriented business often services the products it sells in-house or via a distributor.  They are there to help you through every question or problem you have. That way you can concentrate on what you do best and not product issues. This business type is becoming less and less common, partly because it is cost intensive and partly because our culture is changing. Nobody has time for our problems.  They have too many of their own and they subscribe to the one-solution-fits-all attitude. The clerk is treating you the way they are most often treated when they try to purchase a product–poorly.

Carestream NDT is a specialty service-orientated company.  However the original company known as Kodak Industrex, the NDT side of Kodak, in my humble opinion was not. As a one-time owner of an NDT service company, I did use Kodak film products.  I had no issues with the product, (although today’s product has gone through several improvements). What was a problem was finding an informed and caring individual who would give me two minutes of their time. It was always up to me to do the research and find solutions or answers.  This was done using an XJ mobile phone, (if you can remember that far back), and no internet of things. Yes, the internet was not mainstream back then, and no, dinosaurs had already passed. Because I could never get reliable information in a timely fashion, this forced me to keep using the product or products I knew and limited my ability to work with better solutions.

That all changed when Carestream NDT purchased Kodak Industrex, which is when IR broke through and became a full service RT supplier. Kodak film was always a leading product worldwide, it was just Western Canada and to a lesser extent the US where it was seldom used. In fact, the legacy of Kodak’s poor business model is still seen in some company quality assurance manuals where only one specific film product is listed. This is changing, as it should.  The three main brands of film found in North America today can all offer solutions based on their differences in contrast and latitude.  All of them meet specific criteria for the various industries that use them–aerospace, nuclear, petrochemical, etc. What it all boils down to now is getting good service and having choices.

Carestream NDT is one of those companies that develops and manufactures its own premium products. They are located in Rochester, New York, which is in the heart of what was Kodak’s birthplace. Their facility is one of the largest I’ve ever been in and demonstrates that this company is serious about what it is doing. Since purchasing Industrex from Kodak, Carestream NDT has improved their full range of film products and has also developed their own CR and DR equipment and related software.

At one point IR was asked to help in the development of one of Carestream’s CR systems, the HPX-PRO. It is a truly portable CR system that we were able to do extensive testing on. It has met every challenge we threw at it and the software is written for the radiographer using common terms and phrases from our industry. Working with Carestream’s engineers and developers was one of the highlights of my career.  I have made true friends with many of those committed and brilliant individuals. It was a time I will never forget. Hosting them in Alberta and introducing them to real field situations with extreme weather conditions, exposed them to the realities that NDT techs are confronted with all the time. I remember one particular day just outside of Drayton Valley when we were on a pipeline site in sleeting snow, standing in what amounted to a giant semi-frozen mud puddle. As we approached, slogging through the mud, a CEDO who was carrying an armload of cassettes invariably dropped them with perfect timing directly in front of us. Realizing that this was an opportunity, I directed two of the engineers–one mechanical and one software–into the darkroom so they could see how mud-covered and disorganized films, (and in the future image plates), would need to be dealt with. I think it was one of the defining moments for the development of the HPX-PRO, which as I understand it, is the bestselling CR system in the world today.  They saw first-hand the enormous problems RT techs using digital modalities could potentially face every day.

The team behind the scenes at Carestream is impressive but the team on the front lines is also star-studded.  I seriously mean that. They are as committed to customer service and professionalism as IR is and it is this commitment that has made our relationship what it is today. IR and Carestream align perfectly in our client strategies so it is no wonder that we have done so well with their products. Carestream and Industrex products are now mainstream in Western Canada. I’d like to say it was all IR’s doing but without the change in ownership and the new faces who are committed to us as distributors, and you as the clients, we would still be struggling with limited choices.

Call it luck or fate, IR has found a digital RT and analog film source in Carestream NDT, with the best products and the best service from great professionals in both development and on the front lines. We are proud of our association with Carestream NDT.  They are a formidable company of tremendous size, with a small company attitude.  They listen to what IR has to say, which is relayed directly from what you have to say.

I know it is difficult to change some traditional ways of doing things.  If it works why change it?  I can’t argue with that, but times are changing. I just got off the phone with a new digital client who has taken the plunge and is now face-to-face with change.  I know he will have questions and I know I will get the answers that he needs from people who want to keep him as a customer forever. Carestream NDT is a specialty business that we can both count on.

Thanks for listening and remember…for the unknown there is NDT, for NDT there is IR.

Cheers!

Brian Sargent
IR Supplies and Services

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