Most readers of my “Fastener Talk” blog know Brian Musker as co-host of the popular industry podcast, Fully Threaded Radio (FTR), which is termed “voice of the FCH Sourcing Network”. As the technical mind behind the industry’s largest web based fastener search engine, he estimates he has processed nearly 10 million fastener inventory listings to date. This makes him one of the foremost experts in fastener inventory data, which is fascinating in itself, but anyone who has heard Mr. Musker’s musings on FTR knows that he commands a diverse range of knowledge that adds unexpected dimensions to the show. His commentary frequently touches on the future of technology, advancements in aeronautics and science, world travel and fine scotch whiskey. So when I heard the FTR boys were preparing a long-awaited interview for their podcast, I jumped at the chance to get in a few preview questions with Brian Musker.
Traveling Salesman (TS): Thank you, Mr. Musker, for spending 10 minutes with me ahead of your upcoming FTR interview.
Musker: The interview was Eric’s idea, OK? (Eric Dudas is Brian’s business partner, and co-host of the FTR podcast, available at www.fullythreaded.com) But I’m glad to talk with you, and I see you’ve blocked your number so I still can’t be sure of your true identity. All I know for sure is that you are the person who comes to the Las Vegas show each year in disguise.
TS: You’re introduced on your podcast as “lifetime honorary Texan”, but your accent makes me think you’re actually from someplace else. Will you explain?
Musker: Well, you have a very good ear Matey, OK? I’m originally from New Zealand, where I grew up on a sheep farm (What else…). I earned my engineering degree at the University of Auckland, and after a couple of years I moved to Aussie. I actually did my thesis in theoretical and applied mechanics in crack propagation in metals, and eventually I was assigned to Texas in the 80s. I was re-assigned to a project building submarines for the Australian navy, and eventually found myself working across Europe deploying IT systems. When I returned from Europe, I stayed in the Dallas area for several years, which is how I picked up the thick southern drawl that people hear (clears his throat, then pauses). I’ve since relocated to Chicagoland, but I still have many friends in Texas.
TS: How did you start working in the fastener industry?
Musker: Eric and I decided to start a web application development business in the late 90s. We both saw that business was going to move on-line, and we began creating database driven systems and search engines to work on the web, which was just beginning to gain adoption. We actually wrote the first on-line pizza ordering system for a Chicago chain, this was before even Pizza Hut had one. Eventually, we stumbled onto a book of fastener listings, and when we saw this data and discovered that the industry really needed help in the technology area, we knew we could create some much needed value here.
TS: You’re also known as the developer of FCH Scrubber technology. What exactly is the Scrubber and where did the idea come from?
Musker: FCH could not operate without the Scrubber, OK? It is software that’s been under development since we started the network over 12 years ago, and it keeps getting smarter with every upload. It recognizes fastener inventory data in its many forms, with all of its jargon, shorthand and even common misspellings, and it converts it into very clean and useful data. From there, we can do things like cross-reference part numbers, or index inventory listings for use on web-based shopping cart systems, helping fastener distributors faced with a really time-consuming and costly process. Data in this industry is in notoriously poor condition, OK? We built the early Scrubber because if we hadn’t, FCH would have been out of business before we’d made it even one year.
TS: So you’re doing work with the Scrubber for distributors outside of FCH as well?
Musker: Yes, we’re helping a growing number of them to get their data in shape for use with their on-line shopping cart systems. More and more distributors now see how important it is to be available on-line for their customers, and we’re supporting them in this process. Other vendors see this as well. INxSQL, for example, has built a solution right into its ERP platform that integrates seamlessly with a distributor’s enterprise data, and we’re working with those customers as well. We’re also helping some of the master distributors build part number cross-referenced lists for their customers to make on-line ordering easier. The Scrubber helps with all of these tasks and really speeds up the process.
TS: I know you could speak for hours about the future of the fastener industry from a technology point of view, but do you have any feeling about the coming role of blockchain in our industry?
Musker: Look mate, you’re right that we’d blow right past your 10 minutes on this topic by a factor of about a thousand, because this is going to be big. But let me just say that there is no doubt blockchain will be deployed in the fastener industry and it will help on the distribution side. It’s hard to grasp the concept, but we’ll be covering this on Fully Threaded Radio in coming episodes, OK?
TS: OK, I’ll look forward to that. Last question. Is it just kind of a joke on the podcast, or do you actually eat Vegemite?
Musker: Like most New Zealanders and Aussies, I grew up eating Vegemite on toast every morning for breakfast, along with plenty of real butter, OK? And I still do. I don’t understand why most Americans find it disgusting. Fortunately, I still have mates in Aussie and my sister who keep me well supplied. You should try it, it’s very good for you.
Contact Brian Musker through the FCH Sourcing Network at www.fastenersclearinghouse.com. That’s fasteners with an “S”!