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Fireside Chat with the Xperts: NDT with Jeff Darby


On this week’s Fireside Chat with the Xperts, we at Creative Electron are very excited to announce the addition of Jeff Darby to our team, as VP of Business Development.  Jeff brings his years of experience in NDT from his time with Carestream, to Creative Electron.  This represents a great opportunity for Creative Electron to extend our unique capabilities and offerings to the non-destructive testing industry.

Jeff Darby’s expertise in NDT, combined with Creative Electrons customer-focused approach to providing X-ray inspection solutions will lead to amazing results for our customers.  Opportunities exist for our partners to move from film-based solutions to digitized imaging.  In addition, some will be able to replace manual inspection practices with automated or even fully autonomous inspection systems.  We are so pleased to have Jeff aboard.

Enjoy the video, and then reach out to us directly with any question.  Register for upcoming Fireside Chats with the Xperts and view our archives here.

Transcript:

David Kruidhof:
Okay. It’s time for another fireside chat with the experts. Welcome, everybody. I’m really excited to introduce our guest. He’s not so much a guests going forward now. We have Jeff Darby here with us, our new VP of business development, and again we have Dr. Bill Cardoso here with me as well. So, I’m really excited about this conversation, really excited to have you on board Jeff. So let’s just go ahead and dive right in. Bill, I wanted to have you start us off a little bit of a background. How we here at Creative Electron know Jeff, our history of this last year or so and give us some of that history.

Bill Cardoso:
That’s probably one of the easiest questions you’ve ever asked me.

David Kruidhof:
This isn’t stump the chumps, Bill.

Bill Cardoso:
Oh, wrong segment. Jeff is always throwing some weird questions at me trying to stomp and he always succeeds, of course.

Bill Cardoso:
Yeah. So it was a few years ago we had a project with a local customer here in San Diego and they were looking at pipes, more specifically fuel pipes for aircraft, and we’re inspecting the welds on these rolled pipes. And in the process of looking for or putting together, integrating a solution for this customer that was complicated or… I shouldn’t say complicated, complex solution with automation and software development. We talked about artificial intelligence, and one of the critical pieces of this all integration was the sensor we were going to use to image these welds. It turns out that since these pipes were used in aviation, the customers of this customer was very strict in what type of imaging systems they would require, they would accept an image from, right? And as you guys know, there’s quite a bit of qualification that goes into process of making sure the image that you see properly represents the weld, right? So that if you say that their weld is good, it’s actually good, the sensor is not by any chance hiding or misrepresenting what’s the level two, level three is looking at.

Bill Cardoso:
So their process, the customer was using the film to image those welds and we were looking to digitizing that cabinet that they have. And as we looked for solutions, Carestream popped up as the qualified sensor that the customer accepted. And that’s when we got to know Jeff. And I was very impressed by not only he’s experienced, right? And how much he knew about that application in a wide breadth of different applications, but also how his integrity and his honestly dealing with not only this project, but the other projects that we’ve been able to work with him in the recent past.

Bill Cardoso:
So, I’m super excited that Jeff gave us the honor to join our team and I think allow us to greatly grow the company, especially in the NDT market, which is an area that we’ve been investing heavily in the past few years.

David Kruidhof:
Jeff, maybe you can give us a little bit of your background history in the industry and why you decided to come on board.

Jeff Darby:
Absolutely.

Bill Cardoso:
He might like, why, what am I doing here?

David Kruidhof:
You’re right.

Jeff Darby:
As I sit here on my second day with the company, here in California, I do want to start just by saying thank you for this opportunity to join such a great organization. And I really think it’s great because of the people. So I’ve enjoyed meeting each and every one so far. And I know I haven’t met everyone yet, I certainly look forward to that, but I would say that as I look at my history, in both work and personally, it’s really led me to this company. So I started my career in medical imaging, spent the first 25 years of my career both as a single contributor, as a salesperson working for Philips selling X ray, CT, MRI, and just really enjoyed the healthcare space. Went through various levels of the organization, leading sales organizations, working on IDNs, and then had an opportunity… When I turned 50, I said, you know I’ve been doing this for a long time, I want to do something different.

Jeff Darby:
And so at that point went to work for Carestream, in this industry I’d never heard of called non-destructive testing, NDT. I’ll tell a story. So the very first sales call I ever went on in NDT was for a company based down in Salt Lake City. And so you go through the process of getting on board, you go through security, you get a visitor’s badge. And so they started taking me out to the bunker, which is in the middle of the desert, and we came to a fence and they said, “Here, I want you to put your visitor badge in this box.” And so took my visitor badge off, put it in the box, and then the cars proceeded into the bunker. And as we got in there, I said, “Guys, I’m not sure I understand. I just went through this process, you know who I am. Why did I leave my visitor badge out there?” And they said, “Well, if there’s a problem while we’re imaging the solid rocket fuel containers, we want to know who was in the bunker.”

Bill Cardoso:
What’s in the bunker?

Jeff Darby:
I said, “I’m not in healthcare anymore.”

Jeff Darby:
So that was my entree into the industry. As an industry, what’s fascinating about it is I’m not looking for blue hospital signs anymore. Every day is something different. Yeah, you come in contact with oil and gas customers, aerospace, military customers. And so for the last five years, I’ve been leading the organization at Carestream, which also is a phenomenal group of people, both on the research side, as well as on the customer facing side. And what I see is a lot of correlation. When I was at Phillips, very customer focused, at Carestream, very customer focused. And then as… One of my responsibilities was to look for new partners for Carestream. And I had the opportunity, through an introduction of another contact, to meet Bill at one of our industry trade shows, just a couple of years ago.

Jeff Darby:
And Bill had just a great perspective on the industry, great questions that he was asking, and so I could tell that not only was it an interest in what Carestream had to provide, but it was also direction of the industry and where there were growth opportunities. And so here recently, I had the opportunity then to really evaluate where I was, and said, at Carestream, I’m sewing one piece of the puzzle that our customers are looking for, and as I got to know Creative Electron over the last year, realized that not only was Bill and team interested in the sensor, the receptor for the image, but they’re putting together the whole solution. And that was extremely appealing. And so as we entered into some discussions, that’s really where I saw the opportunity, collectively, between myself and Creative Electron. And that’s really what was the impetus for the conversations.

Jeff Darby:
So very excited, because as we talk to our customers, what we find out is that they don’t have a partial problem. They don’t have, “Hey, I’m having this little thing,” they have big problems. And they’re looking for a company to provide integrated solutions. Creative Electron brings the software solutions that are customizable to each customer because our customers are all unique. That old saying, “If you’ve met one customer, you’ve met one customer.” And so customers want to know that if they have a hardware challenge, that we have a team that can solve that for them. If they have a software solution that’s unique, based on what their customers are requesting, we’ve got a solution for that. And so the idea of having a totally integrated system with a solutions based group that can solve those problems, really, that’s what led me to being here today and I just want to say thank you. It’s just a tremendous opportunity to be part of this organization.

David Kruidhof:
[crosstalk 00:10:26] happy to have you aboard.

Bill Cardoso:
Yeah.

David Kruidhof:
Sure.

Bill Cardoso:
Super stoked.

Jeff Darby:
And also, I just wanted to expand. So as Bill mentioned, my role is business development. And I think that there are a lot of different directions that that can go in, and I can tell you that from my perspective, just like at Carestream, that there’s a tremendous wealth of knowledge at Creative Electron. And so I’m going to be coming to each one of the team members and having a conversation to understand where they believe there’s growth opportunities, also going to our customers and getting voice of customer to help identify what we’re doing well, where we’ve got opportunities for improvement because that to me is the most important thing. We can think we’re doing a really good job, but if we’re not getting validation from our customers, then we’re missing a key board. And I’m very pleased to say that each one of the conversations over the last day and a half that I’ve had as an employee, have involved, here’s the perspective of the customer. And I think that’s absolutely critical to our growth.

Jeff Darby:
So, again, as we look at growth, and talking to the customers, one of the best sources of information is our existing installed base of customers. And so really looking hard at why did they buy from us? Do they have opportunities to expand their organization? Not only that, do they have other problems that we can help them solve? So, clearly from an installed base, I think there’s great opportunities to continue to be an ongoing partner for these customers. I look at NDT, I believe NDT is a huge opportunity. As Bill mentioned, Creative Electron is an authorized distributor for Carestream, both on the equipment side, as well as on the consumables, the x-ray film. So anything that I can do to help assist customers in that space, I’m still here. I clearly have the contacts and with Creative Electron, have the backing to be a fantastic partner for you.

Jeff Darby:
And then the other thing is looking at… We’ve been able to help a lot of customers solve problems. So are there customers and other segments of the industry where the solutions that we manufacture, here in California, where they could also help those customers? And so as I’m learning about the company and the solutions, certainly, it’s an open slate, a clean slate, looking at how business is being done today, as well as where we can be moving in the future. And that’s certainly my focus and appreciate the opportunity to be part of this team to head that process.

David Kruidhof:
Yeah, it’s pretty exciting. As Bill mentioned, we’ve been doing some NDT stuff for a couple of years, three, four years now here and there. As a company, our history was primarily with electronic components and electronics as a whole. We’ve had customers over the years come to us with different applications and a lot of times when someone asks you to X-ray something you’ve never X-rayed before, that’s the most exciting, right? For us, we’re just, “Oh, well, yeah, let’s take a look at that ballistic plate. I’ve never seen a ballistic plate under X-ray before, let’s do this.” Industries that have been X-raying things for years, that need to be brought up to date with the X-ray technology, those are exciting projects. Working with customers who don’t understand that you can use X-ray outside of a dentist office, those are exciting opportunities to take them through that education process and, and work with them to help them see what you can see with X-ray.

David Kruidhof:
So it’s been a lot of fun and we’re really looking forward to continuing this. Part of our mission statement is, “To bring X-ray technology to industries that don’t realize they need it and don’t realize it’s an option for them.” Maybe they have misconceptions about safety or about cost of it, or just what it can do, right? Because, again, they’ve only seen dentist images or medical or bone X-ray, those kinds of things. But really, it’s useful in so many applications. A lot of industries already know that and some don’t yet. So it’s really looking forward to continuing down this path in a more concentrated way as well.

Bill Cardoso:
And that’s what really excites me, is we engage a customer. Because it’s part of our mission statement, we allow our customers will become more partners to see the product in a different way. Right? So it’s allowed them to realize what X-ray technology can provide them that sometimes they had no idea. We start with the customer and a machine that apparently simple, goes from a simple machine and they realize that how much we can provide them. So now they need two sensors and two X-ray sources in their barcode scanner, and a cobot. Now, the projects get a level of complexity that’s really exciting because we can go from providing the customer with an image, to provide the customer with a solution, right? With an answer. And I think Jeff’s going to be instrumental in helping us achieve our vision to go from automated systems to autonomous systems. Right?

Bill Cardoso:
So we have the data scientists in our staff, in the software developers, who can take an image and turn that into a green red light, right? And then can use that green red lights to push an automation system and we have the mechanical engineers here who can design that system to automatically fail and lock bad samples, you only pass good samples, right? I think this holistic approach is really exciting to me, right? We can walk into a costumer and… We don’t want to be just providing them with a gray scale image, we’re going to provide them with a transformative or a significantly change in… We want to improve our customer’s lives, right? And we can do that by allowing them to implement X-ray technology, to really change the product, right? To make them better. And the people who’re operating the machines today can be moved on to different tasks, better tasks, right? I’m really excited to have Jeff on board to help identify those opportunities and bring that value to more and more customers out there.

Jeff Darby:
And I am too. I think that as we come out of COVID, what we’re going to see is just a huge emphasis on productivity, making operations more efficient, because I do believe that there will be quite a push in all of the businesses that we’re touching. And I think that part of productivity is taking customers who have already made some investments, for instance in film-based processes, and converting them over to digital where they have four different options in terms of image accessibility and archival, the speed and efficiency by which you can acquire those images. So I think that there’s also going to be customers that are challenged currently with what they have, that are going to be looking for solutions to improve the efficiency of their operation. So clearly, I see that as a big opportunity for an integrated solutions provider like Creative Electron to enter into those conversations.

David Kruidhof:
Now, we’ve, we’ve worked with customers who… Well, Bill mentioned are dealing with film, right? And there’s specific obligations where film is your best option, right?

Bill Cardoso:
Yeah.

David Kruidhof:
There’s certain ways that they can image things that the flat panel is not going to do the job with. But this customer there’s really no need for the film. And processing that film is a huge headache, especially in California. All the chemicals involved in that. So moving those customers to a fully digital solution is really going to save them money in the long run. And there’s other customers who use portable detector, the portable source to image products that there’s no zero reason for that. I put in a cabinet, it’s much safer, it’s easier, automate how the material is getting into it, and, again, there’s there’s many situations, applications where a portable detector, a portable source is the way to go.

David Kruidhof:
But a lot of times we run into people who only know that. So they’re using it for applications where it adds a lot of complexity, it adds a lot of labor time to it, really slows down the process. So, yeah, it’s very interesting. We enjoy working with these customers and helping them out and going through that education process. We’re not afraid of working with them through a process to arrive at a solution, right? I don’t have my widgit A that you have to buy, right? We work through it, find out what that one customer’s unique application is and then maybe the solution is film, maybe it is a portable detector and source, maybe it’s a fully autonomous cabinet with robots in there and software analyzing things. It could be any of those scenarios or could be a manual digital X-ray machine, like our standard systems, right?

David Kruidhof:
That’s really exciting to be able to go after these potential customers that need to learn, right? We’re here to help them simplify their process and make it work for them, work better for them.

Bill Cardoso:
That’s where having an expertise in the house makes a difference, right? Because it’s not a one solution fits all. Like Jeff said, “You met one customer, you met one customer.” Right? It’s not like you know what everybody else needs. How often, David, do you come across a customer say, “Oh, you bought the what? As long as you need.” Right? We see all the time. If you have to go to Home Depot on a weekend and you don’t take your Ferrari, right? You want to go from zero to 60 in three seconds, you don’t drive your F-150, right? There are certain tools for certain jobs. And our job, each match what our customers need to the tools available out there, the best tools available out there to match those needs.

Bill Cardoso:
And that’s why our sales team is actually extremely technical. Right? We have PhDs in our team. Because when a customer calls us, we want to present the best, the most knowledgeable people out there. Right? Who can take them from what A to Z, from the problem they have to a solution that can address what they’re looking for, instead of just pushing whatever product we have in stock or in the shelves, which for us doesn’t make sales. We are here to develop long-term relationships. Integrity is a key piece of what we do and we want to… And again, part of our mission statements, right? Is that, “Our customers become our partners,” because we are looking at long-term relationships. We’re not looking at transitional experiences where we service something today and goodbye, I don’t see you again.

Bill Cardoso:
And for customers looking for that kind of relationship, we show them other providers that they can go after.

Jeff Darby:
Well, Bill, I think along those lines too is the focus on the service after the sale. Having been here a day and a half, a lot of the conversations have been around the support network that is in place. So it’s not a case of we’re going to a solution and you’re not going to hear from us again. Being an American made company, right here in California, with all the support right here, you’re assured of getting a live voice on the phone if you have a problem, whether it’s a hardware or a software problem, and chances are the person you’re going to be talking to played a role in the assembly of your product before it left the factory here.

Jeff Darby:
I think that’s the other thing is people are very happy with technology but we all know that things break and they want to be assured that there’s someone there that’s going to take care of them long-term. And with the retention rate that Creative Electron has, there’s proof in that pudding that the model that we have here works. So that alone, I think, opens up additional doors for us to pursue those customers.

David Kruidhof:
Absolutely. Well, we have everyone here, right? We have software team here, manufacturing is here, engineering is here, our sales team is a little bit more scattered,

Bill Cardoso:
Especially now.

David Kruidhof:
… but service, right? I guess it’s mostly out of this building. So they get time on machines before they get shipped to the customer. A lot of times they’re the ones doing the final quality check to make sure that, yes, this meets the specs the customer expects. The customer’s going to be happy with this, let’s ship it. Someone in that position has the power to say, “Wow, don’t ship this thing. I just found some issue.” Right? We can’t ship now because the customer is not going to be happy. We empower employees to do those things to make sure that we are delivering on our promises, both when it arrives and going forward as Jeff was saying.

Bill Cardoso:
Yeah, and that’s… This can be the topic of a future conversation. But the new process of growing a company, right? If you understand what is the purpose of the company… And our purpose is to bring X-ray technology to our customers, right? And to customers that sometime has never seen an X-ray image before. So when we have a purpose that’s customer oriented, as we grew, we had plenty of opportunities to just take manufacturing and outsource it, right? We can go to Asia, we can go to other places, but we chose to keep manufacturing in the house, to keep engineering in the house, keep software development in the house instead of outsourcing it because we saw as a core purpose of our company to bring value to the customer. And we found the best way to bring the value to our customers is to be able to provide them with a one-stop shop. Right?

Bill Cardoso:
We didn’t want you to be in a position where if something failed, the software has a bug we say, “Oh no, it’s somebody else’s problem. It’s this guy’s problem,” right? No, it’s us. The bug stops here, right? So when we engage a customer, we’re able to provide them with this, said before, this holistic approach, right? Provide them with a solution that really solves the problem instead of viewing one piece of the puzzle. And again, that goes back to the purpose, right? And we felt that it becomes harder, I think, to make those difficult decisions because sometimes it’s fiscally better to outsource than to do things ourselves, right? It is cheaper to buy a cabinet from overseas than making our own cabinets in Southern California. But, having the ability to change and customize and transform to meet our customers, we chose our main purpose is customer experience.

Bill Cardoso:
That makes that decision even though it’s fiscally better, easier to keep those things internal. So that’s I think a piece of for growth and our corporate mission to keep the purpose in mind and again, having Jeff here is just going to make it a bit better.

David Kruidhof:
We just had a customer who has a six foot long product and their vendor they were buying from before basically said, “This is the size of our cabinet, cut your product.”

Bill Cardoso:
It’s your product.

David Kruidhof:
“You want to X-ray it? Cut it. And then you can look at it. No problem, I will fit right in.” When they came to us, we were like, “Oh, we’ll make a hole on the side.” “Isnt that a radiation problem”? We can even handle that. All right. There’s extra safety measures we’d take in terms of building the cabinet. You can’t just cut a hole next to the source and expect radiation to stay in, but we’ve handled these things, right? It’s not that complicated to place an entry port for these kinds of things and shield it properly.” And the customer is ecstatic, right? Thought this was impossible to do, it like we’re talking to the wrong team. Well, it is 10:30. So I guess we’ll stop here.

Bill Cardoso:
All righty.

David Kruidhof:
As always, this goes by too fast.

Bill Cardoso:
Way too fast.

David Kruidhof:
Since we have you around every day now, I’m sure we will have you back on for the fire side chat again in the future.

Jeff Darby:
Thank you very much. I’m very happy to be here and part of this team.

David Kruidhof:
Awesome.

Bill Cardoso:
All right.

David Kruidhof:
All right, thanks Bill. And I appreciate your time and everyone else, will see you again in two weeks.

Bill Cardoso:
All right, cheers. Bye-Bye.

Jeff Darby:
Bye-Bye.

David Kruidhof:
Bye.

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