New designs and specialized techniques for a stable product
Although, in material handling, high-performance door technology has flourished in Europe since the early 1980s, it has only been within the last 10 years that most domestic companies have taken an active interest in this type of equipment. Originally conceived as a means to help reduce expensive heating costs during the last oil embargo, high-performance doors have continued to develop and now play a critical role in almost every manufacturing process.
While the basic function of the high-performance door—to facilitate or enhance traffic flow—has remained virtually unchanged during the last 20 years, product designs and the specialized technologies used to achieve the desired result (i.e., rolling, folding, sliding, swinging, etc.) have changed at an exponential rate. Some of the changes include:
- The use of PLCs to more easily diagnose component problems
- Increased performance options for door set-up and operation, type and number of activations
- Interphase with other equipment
- Programming for individual customization
- More dependable solid-state components
- Plug-in connections
- AC-inverters to vary motor speed
- Soft-start and soft-stops for less torque against motor components.
Years ago, a journeyman technician with some basic mechanical and electrical skills could troubleshoot, and often repair, any industrial door with only a few simple tools and the parts he had on his truck. In today’s market, however, most high-performance doors require a vast knowledge of motor controls, PLC logic, computer programming, wiring, electrical schematics and, in the case of some foreign-made products, even the knowledge of a second language!
Twenty years ago, an inexperienced salesperson could “hit-the-road” with only a limited amount of specialized education or formal product training and, armed with a trunk load of full-line catalogs, could expect to derive a good income. Today, however, an accomplished salesperson of high-performance doors must possess a strong mechanical aptitude, a keen eye for detail and a vast knowledge of the competition that typically requires months, if not years, of intensive education on the product(s).
In order to provide a full-range of service for customers, a material handling distributorship may find it necessary to maintain a voluminous parts inventory for all the models carried, as well as provide a reliable internal and external technical support staff and a dependable 24-hour installation and service program. It is not surprising that most “traditional” material handling companies have been slow to embrace the idea of high-performance doors.
Realizing the vast, untapped potential of the domestic door business, high-performance door manufacturers were forced in the 1990s to re-think the manner in which they introduce and market any new product. No longer can their door(s) be just “bigger-faster-stronger-better” than the competition’s; they must also be “simpler-friendlier-easier-cheaper” in order to entice the distributorship into representation and to have any realistic chance at succeeding.
To effectively achieve this result, high-performance door manufacturers have had to create and develop the infrastructure necessary to support their product, before the first unit ever comes off the assembly line.
Proper Installation and Service
In Europe, high-performance doors are not just a means of closing down a doorway; they’re a very integral part of the manufacturing operation. Thus, doors are designed with all the latest technologies. While workers in Europe learn how to properly maintain their equipment, in the United States there is typically very little effort made to keep any door properly adjusted once it has been installed. Usually that responsibility falls back upon the manufacturer and the distributor and their service departments.
If a well-made door is perceived as difficult to service or repair, the likelihood that it will be well-received by future customers is extremely remote. A distributors’ installers must have a full-working knowledge of the product’s operation and serviceability. They should possess a full-range of capabilities—electrical, mechanical, control wiring. This knowledge should be passed on to the customer’s technicians. Something as simple as imparting a few learned experiences, or passing on the “tricks-of-the-trade,” can help to make certain that the entire installation or service process remains a positive experience for the customer.
Service technicians bring with them a wealth of “hands-on” experience, and they can be an invaluable source of information, as well as an asset to the customer. It’s important to remember that your service technicians can be the “silent salesperson” for the distributorship. Because they are in front of listening customers every day, they can help to either promote a product or denounce it.
In the 21st century, high-performance doors, in whatever shape or form, will continue to have profound impact upon industry as we currently know it. As countless manufacturing companies strive to keep their products in the hands of the customer and remain one-step ahead of their own competition, the use of high-performance doors will continue to grow. High-performance door producers and distributors alike will have an opportunity to enjoy the windfall. However, in order to do so, both distributor and manufacturer will have to prepare themselves for what lies ahead.
For the high-performance door manufacturer, it means being innovative, responsive, open-minded and ready to listen to the words of its distributor network. For the distributor, it means a change in conventional thinking and a willingness to explore the world of possibilities offered by high-performance doors.
In material handling, if everyone remains objective, high-performance doors can offer a true partnership for profit.
|Meet the Author
James F. Bennett is marketing manager at Flexon, Inc. in Leetsdale, Pennsylvania.