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The danger of commoditisation

09 January 2015

Andrew Georgiou, general manager at Stertil Dock Products is worried by a trend towards the commoditisation of loading bay equipment.

In these straitened times there is a danger that the complexity of loading bay installations can be under-estimated, with the end user not looking too closely at the details and thinking that a commoditised price-driven purchase will be ‘alright on the night’.

Andrew Georgiou, general manager at Stertil Dock Products explains: "It is not uncommon for us to be invited to tender for say a ‘6 tonne dock leveller’, with no further elaboration on what is required. But our products are not a commodity, they are bespoke solutions.

"It’s important to know the length of equipment needed, the gradient you are trying to achieve, the handling equipment you are using, what lorries you are using etc.”

Andrew says this trend is becoming more pronounced, as procurement becomes less collegiate and simply an accounting function focused on lowest price with little other consideration.

"In the old days, the client would have had a team involved - logistics people, transport people, building staff. They would get together and talk about their complete requirements and formulate a specification with the supplier. That rarely happens now,” says Andrew.

"The danger is the client gets what they ask for but not with the nuance they really need.”

Stertil Dock Products is geared towards providing the customer with a thorough site survey which will inform the solution supplied. The aim is to provide good lifetime costs and develop a long term relationship with the client, ensuring maintenance is correct and checking if changing circumstances require a new solution.

Andrew explains: "Recently a client asked us for a quote for two dock levellers. We said ‘Sure, we’ll give you a quote, but while we’re at it do you mind if we have a look?’

"At the site they were using a swing lip leveller, but on container vehicles so the gradient was very steep. This led to the MHE batteries running down quickly and greater wear on wheels and bearings. Also, as it was a swing lip of fixed dimension they had the problem of hitting loads at the back of the truck. We said ‘hang on lads, have you thought about a telescopic lip?’”

A telescopic lip can can move backwards and forwards to suit the load and reduce gradient.

Andrew continues: "We had to change the spec. It cost the client a little more, but the money is made back in reduced damage and greater efficiency. We don’t want decisions being made by accountants who only look at the ticket price and don’t think of operations.”

Stertil is committed to investing in its sales team. It is costly, but Andrew has no doubt it is the correct approach.

"To do it right, you need to invest in training a well-informed sales team who are comfortable with a consultative approach and technically sound. When I started, 95% of loading bay salesmen knew how to design the loading bay package. Now Stertil is one of the few companies where every salesman can do this.”

The approach is certainly paying off for Stertil with a renowned online retailer making a very signifiant investment in the company’s loading bay safety products and expertise.

The online retailer has rolled out the Combilok anti-driveaway system from Stertil across many of its European distribution centres. More than 500 Combilok units have been ordered, so far, with a contract value of £3.5 million (£1.8m of that investment is in the UK).