Tag Archives: Featured Employee

  • Scott Lueder: Industry MVP

    image001Scott Lueder is an OEM Sales Engineer for SMW Autoblok, and he’s gathered a range of experience in the workholding and aerospace industries. With 12 years under his belt in workholding and 10+ years in aviation sales, his knowledge gives him a unique perspective in his role.

    Go With What You Know

    Scott has a background in Criminal Justice, but decided to pursue a more industrial career after he started selling aircraft parts during college. He kept that gig for 13 years, and then left to seek another, more secure job opportunity. He landed a job at a different workholding firm before settling into his position with us in 2012.

    Scott enjoys the flexibility of his job in the different projects he undertakes, He’s a quick learner, and he loves the fact that he gets to learn new things on the job every day. Right now, Scott is working on a specialized, menu-based industry tool that will allow customers to custom-select product kits to fit their specific machine needs. While this is a challenging task, the kit options are endless; he is thrilled to find a way to make the live of our customers easier.

    IMG_1057Family and Fast-Pitch

    In his free time, Scott loves to spend time with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all softball fanatics, and Scott has been coaching his daughters’ various teams for 13 years and counting. Scott is currently the third base coach for his daughters’ recreational league, helping the players with valuable mechanical training for pitching, swinging and catching. The program is a bridged program to enhance girls’ skills as they prepare for high school or college softball. Seeing his players improve and advance in the sport and in life is his favorite part of the job, not to mention that he has coached both of his daughters in the sport, making his hobby a true family affair.

    One piece of wisdom Scott gives to his players is, “Never apologize for making a mistake. You are supposed to make mistakes to become better players and better adults.” This piece of advice carries, and Scott follows this concept in his own life, not letting mistakes get him down but learning and growing from them.

  • Derrick Smets: A Driving Force

    IMG_0085-Rohm-0236Derrick Smets, SMW Autoblok’s regional sales manager for the Southern IN, OH, and KY areas has proven himself to be a perfect fit for the SMW Autoblok family. He carries with him 10 years of industry experience and a zeal for corporate and personal success. Derrick joined our team this past May, but don’t let that fool you—he’s been part of what we do for much longer than that.

    Back to His Roots

    Before he was hired full time, Derrick seasonally interned with us back in 2006-07 while he was earning his Engineering degree at Purdue University. After graduating in 2008, Derrick headed elsewhere in the industry to put his engineering degree to use before joining up with us almost 10 years later.

    With his previous experience at SMW Autoblok as a young adult and the engineering and sales experience he picked up from his first few positions post-graduation, Derrick was a natural fit to fill his new role. He says our innovative direction excited him, and the way the company works together keeps him thrilled about his work.

    IMG_3735Cars, Camping and Kids

    When Derrick isn’t working, he’s spending time with his wife and young daughter. Together, they enjoy regular road trips to Myrtle Beach and extended camping trips with the in-laws. A self-described athlete, Derrick also grew up playing hockey and baseball and still plays recreational softball or even volleyball when time permits.

    But if he’s not exploring the great outdoors or being active on the field, Derrick’s probably behind the wheel or under the hood of a car. He admits loving to work with all kinds of vehicles, especially his own Audi S4. His frequent work on it has resulted in him turning his original 330 horsepower engine to a hefty 498 horsepower one. Seeing the outcome of all that hard work is the most rewarding part of the hobby.

    Derrick and his wife are expecting their second daughter this August, right around their wedding anniversary. He’s not too worried about losing a bit of time with his hobbies, because his family is what he loves to spend his time on most.

  • Mike Sullivan: Forging His Own Path

    ScanManufacturer representative for SMW Autoblok, Mike Sullivan, represents and sells the SMW Autoblok product line for us in the Western United States (California, Nevada and Arizona). With 28 years of industry experience under his belt, he has represented our brand for eight years now, and nothing is slowing him down.

    Although he never saw himself in an industrial and highly technical field while in sales classes in college, he ended up diving feet first into the manufacturing industry, starting out at ATS Systems, a machine tool accessory distributor. A dedicated and driven man, Mike was the company’s fifth hire, and by the time he reached the 20-year mark, he was Vice President and ATS had well over 88 employees.

    In 2009, ATS had a change in ownership and soon after, Mike found himself a casualty of a massive restructuring of the business.

    The Founding of Sulli Tool

    He kept his chin up and didn’t lose hope. He followed up his ATS experience to one of their product lines, SMW Autoblok. Mike’s familiarity with workholding and the industry in general gave him the experience and confidence to start his own business, Sulli Tool, whose first signed client ended up being SMW Autoblok. Today, Sulli Tool represents five leading industrial companies and is continuing to grow. He loves how his job differs each day, allowing him to be a part of emerging technologies in the automotive, medical, dental and aerospace industries.

    IMG_0899Mike fosters a close relationship with SMW Autoblok and places immense value on our U.S. industrial presence. In general, when representing product lines, he looks for companies with U.S. sales and service support, and is proud to work with us, having all those pieces in place.

    Sports and the Great Outdoors

    When not at work, Mike loves to spend time with his wife and two sons. Both boys are extremely active in sports. His weekends are often filled with soccer or football games, which Mike is no stranger to considering he was a multi-sport athlete growing up. When he’s not cheering them on, Mike is boating or golfing. He owns a boat—an unnamed, albeit impressive 27-foot Hallett that tackles the Colorado River for tubing or water skiing when he has the time. He describes himself as a “lizard on a rock” due to his fondness of the sun and the outdoors.

    In fact, Mike’s favorite competitive sport he was involved in growing up was swimming, so it is no surprise that he continues to enjoy life out on the water. But that competitive drive is definitely what makes Mike an MVP in our industry, and ATS’s loss was our gain when he opened Sulli Tool.

  • Life has its Ups and Downs: Larry Sulenski Likes the Downs

    larry_sulenskiLarry Sulenski, Regional Sales Manager, joined SMW Autoblok 15 years ago, but he has been closely associated with workholding for well over 3 decades. He owned his own company working as a manufacturer’s rep for over 18 years and gained experience at another workholding company for awhile as well. But in joining SMW Autoblok, Larry liked the idea of working for a larger, international company with superior products and great people.

    This was driven home soon after he joined Autoblok when he became involved in a large project that involved 70 spindles turning ten different parts with 6 or 7 chucking devices. Coordinating the project involved trips to Charlotte, North Carolina and Japan for manufacturing and traveling to Juarez, Mexico to install the machines. “It was a great experience for me and the whole company,” recalls Larry. “We had never completed a project of that size up to then.”

    IMG_1897Downhill Racer

    Hands down, Larry’s favorite sport is downhill skiing. His parents put him on his first set of skis when he was 7 years old, he’s been a ski bum ever since. He raced on his high school team, leading them as Captain in his senior year. After college, he started racing in recreational leagues and continued, up until recently, for 20 straight years. Overall, he has been skiing for over 50 years.

    Ski resorts offer the leagues for people who like to go faster than recreational skiers. Just like a bowling or golf league, his team met once a week, skied their runs and would then retire to the bar to have a few brews and comment on the more spectacular wipeouts of the day. Sometimes the course is set up for slalom and others for giant slalom. In the latter, the gates are further apart and the speeds faster.

    The team (which consisted of Larry’s siblings and friends from their high school racing team) made it to the state championships for a couple of years. For Larry, the highlight was when he had a finish time within seconds of a professional female skier from Austria.

    Larry counts himself lucky that he has been able to ski quite a few mountain ranges around the world. The Rockies, the Sierra Nevadas, the Appalachians, the Alps in Germany and Austria and Mont-Tremblant, outside Quebec. His favorite spot, however is Telluride in Colorado, because it has some of the steepest runs in North America and Larry likes to go fast! The “Plunge” has been compared to skiing down a straight vertical wall!

    Family Fun

    Today, Larry is more likely to be found spending time with his wife of 25 years, their three children and three grandchildren, who live near their Detroit home. Although in great condition from is his skiing days, Larry says the grandchildren, ages 8, 5, and 3, can wear him out completely in about an hour. “It’s totally worth it,” he added. “They are one of the greatest joys of my life.”

  • Kris Zellmann: Machining Means Profit and Fun

    image3Kris Zellmann, Regional Sales Manager, learned his way around chucks in his dad’s Brookfield, Wisconsin machine shop. Since his father distributed and serviced the brand, there were always a lot of SMW Autoblok workholding around. After attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Kris followed his brother Kyle’s path to work for the company. (Another “K” sibling – Kurt – escaped the “chips and coolant” bug and became a fire captain.) Kris started with inside sales and soon moved up to his current position with a territory consisting of Iowa, North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

    Kris believes his success as a sales manager comes from growing up in a shop environment combined with his knowledge of the product line. “It’s not easy to memorize a 300-page catalog and come up with a match between the needs of the shop and the right product,” he said. “For me it’s an extension of my personality.”

    image2Machining for Fun and Profit

    The truth of this can be found in his personal life where he can often be found machining parts for an assortment of vintage cars and motorcycles. Some of his gems include a 1959 El Camino, a 1973 Land Rover, two 1962 Norton motorcycles, a Moto Guzzi (once used by the California Highway Patrol) and a 1972 Husqvarna (Steve McQueen’s favorite ride). Kris enjoys restoring the vehicles and taking them to shows and events around the country.

    Although he worked on the crew of a Vintage Porsche racing team though high school, hauling race cars all around the country and preparing them for club drivers, Kris is not inclined to race his restorations. He does like to take them out on the open road, though, which explains much of his home machining. Motorcycles are not designed for riders over 6’5” tall, so some machining of oversized parts are required before Kris can get his feet off the ground.

    When Kris drags himself away from his workbench, it is usually to travel. He likes a mix of culture and sand, having traveled to Europe and beach locations such as Cabo San Lucas.

    Family Feeling

    Kris also enjoys going out with Kyle on his boat, although shop talk takes up 50% of their conversations. Their situation is not unique. Kris appreciates the home-like feel of the company, which is a family in more ways than one. Brother/brother, husband/wife and father/son combinations are not uncommon. In his opinion, this is just one more of the things that makes the company so strong and a pleasure to work for.

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