First Friday Club

In this fast moving internet age, what makes an Institution? The answer still has to be time, and a life independent of the originating enthusiast. So the First Friday Club qualifies, having now passed ten years of operation, and last week having none of the original journalist attendees. Started by Chris Rand, then Editor of Industrial Technology, and Bob Brooks in 1998, the club is designed to bring around 15 editors of the UK engineering press together for some 15 minute presentations, launches or updates from 3 or 4 of the major suppliers, the ones that want their attention, and provide products worth writing about. Then there is the further opportunity for one-to-one interviews and chat over drinks and lunch: the event is held in The Cheshire Cheese, an ancient London pub on Fleet Street. The club saves the editors time, by concentrating several presentations into one event, and saves the supplier companies money. More important these days, with so many editors working from home, it provides a useful meeting point to see both their colleagues and competitors. For many years John Fisher of Fisher Marketing has been entrusted with organizing the event, and some of the regular presenters are Rockwell Automation, ABB, Erwin Sick and Powervar: but any supplier can use the First Friday Club to present their latest developments in an economical way (Link).

Apparently there is a similar engineering journalist’s club in France, but maybe it would be worth copying in some other countries. Last week in the UK, the Rockwell presentation concentrated on a new Allen-Bradley Ethernet communications module that can plug into their E1 Plus motor protection overload relay, to provide facilities such as overload/underload warning, and jam protection signals. Previously only available via proprietary systems like DeviceNet and Profibus, the Ethernet interface with built-in web server and email or text messaging capability to warn of impending problems, can now bring intelligent and remote motor control to any motor fitted with the E1 Plus, which has been widely supplied over the last 12 years (Link).

Powervar followed up with a presentation explaining their SecurityPlus on-line UPS system. Combining the benefits of a low impedance isolation transformer, a noise filter, and a surge diverter, the SecurityPlus is said to provide completely conditioned power. With remote RS232 and USB communications, the UPS interfaces with Powervar remote monitoring software, allowing remote control of the power supplies: in some cases this can allow energy savings by allowing remote automatic shutdowns of satellite systems during inactive periods (Link).

So, many thanks to Bob Brooks and Chris Rand for their innovative thinking in creating the First Friday Club: Chris went on to create another institution in the making, and the other Talk websites, starting early in 2000. This is another radical approach to finding effective customer communications for engineering suppliers, as you are aware. Moving on yet again, Chris can now be found in his new venture, an internet marketing consultancy (Link), from where he supplies a daily blog of internet marketing tips.


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