Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Aretha Franklin’s classic hit Respect. That’s not just because I’m an R&B fan, but because I’ve been on the road talking to customers and if there’s one thing they’re not getting from so many other caster manufacturers, it’s respect.
Our customers, like most buyers of casters and wheels, often find themselves in the middle. Distributors are sandwiched between meeting the needs of their customers and negotiating with manufacturers. Corporate buyers are trying to meet the competing demands of finding the right caster product to satisfy the engineering team, while negotiating delivery dates to keep production on target and getting pricing that will make the finance department happy. And all of that’s not easy.
Against that backdrop I can’t believe some of the horror stories I’ve heard in the past few months. Customers are promised delivery on a particular date and make commitments to their own customers or internal departments based on that promise. And then, lo and behold, the product arrives weeks late, in many cases with no advance notice. Some times hidden delays are revealed with amazing excuses. “Well, you know those casters need lathing and our CNC equipment broke down, so we can’t possibly deliver on time.”
From what I heard, it’s common for shipments to arrive with product that doesn’t meet the spec provided or that is obviously sub-standard. And, if you’re in the middle, now what do you do? It seems that the corporate caster consortiums don’t want to respond to complaints. So you have to scramble to find other solutions –fast.
Customers – whether distributors or corporate buyers – don’t need that kind of aggravation and they shouldn’t have to put up with it. Doing business with suppliers shouldn’t be a guessing game. And what’s really incredible is that in many instances customers have been using these suppliers for decades, having given them tens of thousands of dollars in business.
So much of this is a result of offshore manufacturing. The necessary lead times are enormous and quality often suffers. I’ve seen first-hand the production standards of most offshore suppliers and its not pretty. On top of that, local suppliers often need to finish goods that arrive from offshore producers. That just magnifies the delays.
What bothers me most about all this is that it’s exactly the opposite of the way my father – and my mentor – taught me to do business and the way we conduct ourselves at Algood. We don’t want to be adversaries with our customers, lying and making excuses. We want to help them serve their many masters by ensuring they meet their deadlines. We’re not looking to make a quick buck. Rather, we want to establish relationships.
But we’re also not looking for an easy ride. We want to be challenged. Our fully integrated manufacturing facility provides us with great capabilities but sometimes we have to be tested to know what we really can do. We have just received two orders to produce over 20,000 casters in less than two weeks. It’s far from beyond our ability but we can only prove that to our customers – and ourselves – when being asked to stretch. What’s for sure is that you have to be a genuine North American manufacturer to get that done.
Ultimately, we want to earn the trust – and business – of our customers. We want to be there front and centre, helping our customers to be more successful and seeing their businesses grow.
Aretha said, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.” We know what it means to respect our customers and we’re proving it every day.