A turning point named crisis

11/12/2014

The word crisis has become globally ubiquitous. Terms like “financial crisis,” “oil crisis” and “real estate market crisis” have permeated the news and captivated our attention for at least the past four years. Etymologically, crisis comes from the Greek word “krisis” meaning a turning point for better or worse. Interlake Mecalux has taken the global population’s crisis mindset as a decisive moment to grow and expand, to be a bigger and better rack manufacturer in the face of economic hardship. Since a company is a compendium of all its parts; engineering, manufacturing, customer service, sales and marketing. Synergy and cooperation between each part is the only way to succeed and get ahead in this market. In the face of adversity only the skilled make it.

John D. Rockefeller said, “The secret of success is to do the common things uncommonly well.” Success, in the material handling industry, is measured in minute increments, with no margin for error. Since rack is not a consumable product, getting a foot in the door is crucial for two reasons: first, once you fill a warehouse with rack nothing is likely to change in that space for up to a decade. Secondly, most customers tend to buy rack that matches what they already have, so getting there first will help future sales, although it certainly won’t guarantee them. A company with Interlake Mecalux in its warehouse will likely lean toward using that company again in the future, but one cannot assume that it will always work out that way. The big opportunities when selling rack, besides the obvious new installations, are relocations to new areas and enlarging existing facilities.

Kris Rossmiller, Midwest account manager for Interlake Mecalux, explained that, “with the uncertain economic times we are facing, customers are more concerned about cost than ever. Customers are becoming more aggressive shoppers and they get more quotes from suppliers prior to making a purchase decision than they had in the past.” Now, more than ever, companies have to make better products, provide better service and work harder to close deals.

Interlake Mecalux counts on its sales force and distributors to keep its name in front of the customers, so when the time comes to outfit a warehouse, the company’s rack will be among the first considered. But that is only the first step in the process and having a foot in the door is no longer enough.

Neil Camberg, President of Warehouse Rack, an Interlake Mecalux distributor, agrees with Rossmiller’s assessment of the challenges facing the sales force throughout the industry. “A rack salesman will rarely experience the same sales opportunity twice,” Camberg explains. “Every time [a salesperson] visits a customer to identify his requirements, [that salesperson] will have a new, different set of challenges. A good rack salesman must be flexible and a good problem-solver.” Camberg also emphasizes the importance of training “We train our sales force to offer CAD drawings and technical assistance in order to earn our customer’s trust and loyalty.” All of this, of course, is saddled on the backs of each sales force’s interpersonal relation with clients, knowledge of product as well as its collective technical and organizational skill set.

Selling the rack is just one step of the process, and while price is definitely important, this business is all about execution. “Once you get an order, you have to manufacture it correctly and ship it on time, that creates happy customers,” Rossmiller explains. “If you become known as a company that does these two things well, customers will seek you out.”

Warehouse construction is a process that has to be finely synchronized. The Interlake Mecalux installation team is in charge of acquiring every component needed for the installation of the rack, arranging the procurement of permits and inspections prior to starting the construction. That includes purchasing material not manufactured by Interlake Mecalux for turnkey delivery, like railings or stairs. Installation coordinators select qualified contractors and negotiate and control contractors’ extras. They make sure all site deliveries are made on time and each phase of the project is completed on time.

The driving force behind any installation is the Project Manager (PM). The PMs, highly qualified associates within the company, oversee the construction project from beginning to end and are studied in specific clients or certain products. They have to understand every facet of the warehouse building process. From rack components to lighting fixtures, floors to fire suppression systems, the PM has to make sure everyone is getting their piece of the puzzle positioned correctly and on time. Completing projects promptly and with the high quality required of Interlake Mecalux is the main responsibility of the Project Manager.

Warehouse installations are a combination of many moving elements. Making those elements fit properly creates a high quality, state of the art storage space that will provide invaluable organization and productivity for any company for years to come. Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors, which is why any good sales force prepares for crisis; sails unfurled, all hands on deck, solutions at the ready.