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Value Engineering

MezzanineNew opportunities to grow material handling sales

Did you know that approximately 50 percent of all elevated work platforms installed in new distribution centers are built by the general contractor at the time of construction? What do you suppose those contractors use to build these structures? If you said, “Concrete and steel,” go to the head of the class.

Some mezzanine manufacturers estimate this segment to be as much as 50 million square feet per year in solid economic times. Concrete is not a bad choice—it is strong, noncombustible and waterproof—but the material handling industry has traditionally been left out of this segment of the market. However, there are other choices that have the potential to create significant new business opportunities for your organization. With a little upfront homework, as much as 40 percent of this market could be secured by the material handling industry, including systems integrators, dealers and rack and mezzanine manufacturers.

Recent advances have positioned engineered wood products to be in-creasingly effective choices for flooring on elevated work platforms. Selecting engineered wood panels instead of concrete saves 30 pounds per square foot of dead load on the structure, which equals 1.5 million pounds on a 50,000-square-foot mezzanine.

In addition, concrete structures need to be considerably more rigid to prevent damage to the concrete decking that comes with flexure. To be free from flexural failure, concrete decking must be prevented from deflecting more than L/360, while an engineered wood platform is designed for L/240.

As a result of smaller dead loads and a greater allowable deflection, footing sizes can often be re-duced or eliminated and the required amount of structural steel in the work platform can be reduced by as much as 35 percent. When footings can be completely eliminated with closer column spacing, a potential tax savings may also be gained.

This cost savings opportunity is not limited to one supplier’s product. Plywood, oriented strand board (OSB), high-density polyethylene (HDPE) laminates over wood panel products, and engineered composite panels are all examples of materials that can be substituted for concrete and provide significant savings op-portunities for your customer. Be sure to check with the end-user as well as your supplier to make sure that the product you are quoting will perform well when subjected to the loads (point, uniform or pallet jack) that the end-user might require. Also, be sure to check the manufacturer’s warranty to verify that the supplier stands behind its product.

Taking Advantage of the Opportunity
As mentioned above, capitalizing on this opportunity requires some homework by the distributor. First, identify your prospects. What companies are adding distribution centers in your geographic region? Who are the players that need to be influenced in the design process? When is the project going to be built? What is the timetable for bidding and contract award? Will there be a requirement for a mezzanine or elevated platform? If so, is the platform scheduled to be built by the general contractor? If it is, then such a project is a prime opportunity for your company to provide a value engineering proposal.

To further prepare yourself, meet with your (or your manufacturer partner’s) engineering staff to design and analyze the structure, prepare a bill of materials and do a cost analysis to determine what it takes to build the structure with concrete versus engineered wood products.

Finally, secure the inquiry. You have done your research and provided the end-user with a significant cost-saving alternative. That should be enough for a prospect to listen to your proposal. It’s a great way to forge a long-term relationship with a new account. Ergonomics and green benefits can also be incorporated into your sales pitch.

While dealers and distributors may not get too many contracts directly with general contractors, how many end-users could be influenced to purchase from your organization if you were able to present them a value engineering proposal with the potential to save them hundreds of thousands of dollars? In today’s challenging economic climate, it seems that exploring this question further is a no-brainer.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association
Greg Doppler Meet the Author
Greg Doppler is president of Cornerstone Specialty Wood Products, located in Cincinnati, Ohio, and on the Web at www.resindek.com.

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