Meet The Distributor, Noel McPartland 

Spectrum Machine Tools 

Happy St. Patricks Day!

Our Meet the Distributor Q&A today is Noel McPartland from Spectrum Machine Tools

We raise a glass and discover how he and his family regular walk in the footsteps of St Patrick, why he is craving a Klopp hug and being the only man in the family, why his next home project is a man cave/bar… Slainte!

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I am originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland but moved to Ballymena which is a large town 35 miles north of Belfast 15 years ago. I have been married to my wife Denise for 11 years, although we have been together since May 1999. We bought our first home together in 2005 and we have since been blessed with 2 girls, so yes, my life is filled with drama and limited time in the bathroom not forgetting the many pairs of shoes scattered around our house, but I would not change it for anything.

We live just a stone’s throw from Slemish Mountain which is the legendary first known Irish home of Saint Patrick and we are right on the doorstep of the beautiful Glens of Antrim and the stunning county Antrim coast. We have been very fortunate during these difficult lockdown times of being able to take advantage of the many scenic walks close to us and appreciate how beautiful our country really is.

I am a massive Liverpool fan and was a keen footballer in my younger days and was still playing up until 2 years ago until a nasty ankle ligament injury put an end to it at the tender age of 40.

At the end of the first lockdown, I took part in a fitness bootcamp which saw a group of local lads training outdoors at 6am a few days a week. It was great for the mind and the soul and I even managed to lose just over 3 stone! I am very much looking forward to the gyms reopening; my last session was on Christmas eve, seems like a distant memory.

Who do you work for, how long have you been with the company and what is your job title?

I work for a company called Spectrum Machine Tools (SMT) which has very strong South African and Starrett connection. Both my MD’s are South African, firstly, we have Byron who brought the SMT company name to Ireland and now resides just minutes from our factory in Carrickfergus. Then we have Andrew who is based in SA and is also the MD of another company called First Cut which is where the Starrett connection originates as First Cut has been the Starrett partner in SA for more than 20 years.

SMT are the Starrett bandsaw and distribution partner for Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland and like our South African sister company we also sell various machine tools from lasers to press-brakes. My official job title is Starrett Brand Development Manager and I have been in the role since November 2019, so I am still relatively fresh. The pandemic has thrown up a whole new set of different challenges, but we are on an upward curve and I am very much looking forward to what the future holds. I have no doubt we will make the partnership a great success.

Tell us a little about your role in the company and what it involves?

My role is basically to enhance the Starrett brand and drive sales on the island of Ireland.

My usual traveling around Ireland visiting customers and seeking new opportunities is understandably on pause at the moment. I like many, have had to adapt how I work, and I must admit I am very much looking forward to getting back out there again. I am a traditionalist and strongly believe in building relationships with customers, and in my opinion, there is no better way to do this than being in front of them as much as possible. I am involved in most aspects of the business, from technical support to marketing, but ultimately, I am responsible for sales.

I was involved from the very beginning of the SMT/Starrett partnership, Byron and myself set up all aspects of our factory/warehouse from the welding equipment to the racking and we even filled the shelves with all the stock. We handpicked our team, set up our computer systems and set up our distribution network. We visited the Starrett facility in Jedburgh several times for technical product training, so when the transfer happened, we were ready to provide all Starrett customers in Ireland the very best service we possibly could.

What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?

That is actually a very difficult question! I love my job and would have no hesitation in saying it is the best job I have ever had or could ever wish for. With Starrett being such a successful and highly respected global brand and with the back-up from our small but talented SMT team of Byron, Andrew, Joyce, Jonathan, and Daryl, coupled with the help and support I receive from the full Starrett team; it really does make my job a pleasure.

I am most certainly a people person and enjoy nothing more than working with all our existing customers and very much take pleasure in helping them grow their business. But I have recently discovered that I seem to relish the chase more, winning over that new customer, getting that 1st order from a new customer is something that gives me a great sense of satisfaction and enjoyment.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

The current pandemic has probably made my job that little bit more difficult, especially when it comes to bringing in new customers, to build a relationship on a telephone or through an online meeting platform is very difficult indeed but can be done and I suppose we are all in the same boat. Throw in Brexit and the fact that we supply both customers in NI and ROI we have had to make various adjustments to our paperwork and internal procedures which has been a challenge. We have however managed to maintain our supply chain and our customers have been able to get products as and when required.

Do you DIY yourself? What is your biggest project?

I do but my wife would disagree! I did an electrical installation course just after I left school so have put in a few extra sockets in various rooms of our house, changed over all halogen spotlights to LED’s and installed a consumer unit in my garage. My biggest project was probably putting a large decking area in our back yard during the lockdown last year. I have also a plan to turn my garage into a gym/bar and general man-cave which I hope to begin very soon just as soon as the wife grants the planning permission!

What is your favourite tool and why?

My cordless drill sees the most action and paid for itself last spring drilling over 1000 decking screws. If we are talking Starrett products then I am going to have to say the smooth cut cordless holesaws, they are simply awesome, they cut through stainless steel channels as easy as you like. The finish of the cut is perfect and the ridge at the bottom of the holesaw as simplistic as it is was a genius addition as it stops any wiring damage. I can see why the Electricians love them!

Which one person dead or alive you would love to meet and why?

I am going to have to say Jurgen Klopp, I just want a big Klopp hug! Maybe all the social distancing has affected my decision here and with the bad patch Liverpool were going through of late I think Mr Klopp would love a hug himself! The guy is a real character, charismatic, compelling and has an unrivalled enthusiasm for football and life in general. For me he is a genius and legend but shows great humility and has an infectious smile that would light up a room.

What type of tools does your company stock?

We supply the full Starrett range, bandsaws, bandsaw blades, holesaws, levels, measuring tapes, recip and jigsaw blades, hacksaw blades, precision tools, the lot! We have a state-of-the-art weld centre where we cut and weld Starrett bandsaw blades to the customers requirements. We supply all the distributors/stockists in Ireland, so our stock range is vast. As I mentioned previously, we also sell machine tools such as lasers, plasma’s, press-brakes, and many other metal working machines.

What challenges do you think lie ahead for the industry and what do you think can be done to overcome them?

I see only opportunities; we have many things coming up including the Food division launch which I am very excited about and personally I try not to dwell on negative situations and instead try to flip them into positives. While the optimist, pessimist and the realist are busy arguing over the glass, I will have drunk the whisky! We all must keep going!