Services, services, services.
02 April 2008
Providing services beyond the simple sale of products is important to scaffold manufacturers. As Germany's Peri says; “business wouldn't be successful without efficient products, but also not without services. So it is always a combination of both.”
Peri told SI that it has been developing its services beyond production and sales of equipment for three decades to cover the various demands of its customers.
The company was reluctant to say that any one service – from those spanning project activities from design to rental to scaffolding maintenance – is more important. “Because every project is different, all services are important. Peri is flexible enough to provide support for each individual project with very specific requirements.”
To do this it employs 850 engineers, and sees “...projects becoming more and more complex in combination with a shorter time schedule”. Its engineers help deliver the planning and design services that help contractor customers resolve construction complexities.
An important tool, says the company, is the Peri CAD software that its engineers use to “easily optimise construction site processes.”
To help contractors work to tight project schedules, Peri provides a variety of logistics services “...to ensure efficient use of its equipment.” First, it says it has the “world's largest formwork and scaffolding rental stock providing the fastest possible delivery service through its network of 100 stockyards.” Its yards also provide cleaning and repair services.
Other Peri logistic services help reduce site congestion. One is organising the storage and flow of sometimes-big volumes of bulky scaffolding materials on the construction site. Another is delivering its equipment on organised pallets and transport containers having designated attachment points.
The overriding goal of these logistics services is to timely deliver equipment to the job site. Logistics centres, such as the “lager” that is part of its headquarters in Weissenhorn, contribute to that goal. That facility has a stock area over 90000 m2, from which Peri ships 170000 t of equipment per year (85 trucks per day). About 100 people work there, in both the rental and new equipment stockyard.
Across the Atlantic, system design and layout services give Universal Manufacturing Corp in Zelienople, Pennsylvania a competitive advantage in its rental and contracting markets. Sales manager Mike Bredl told SI those services, delivered by five engineers, “get us a lot more business. We provide an ability that some of our customers don't have themselves. We get a higher price, too.”
“There is a growing awareness of imported products,” he said. “Users want to see data evidencing that designs and products are good. Our technical service promotes the quality and manufacturing [source] of our product. It helps to differentiate us.
“We see it as a way to grow our business. Not because imports will become more significant, but because people are relying more upon qualified technical work and product. They can't take the chance of using questionable providers.”
Quality is also the theme of another scaffolding manufacturer, Sweden's Haki. Its UK subsidiary signals the importance of quality through the service it considers most important – training.
Managing director Paul Brunt told SI that customer training “...helps them get the best out of our product, particularly in the area of safety.” (See box story.)
He sees government influence to increase site safety becoming stronger, and he views that “as an opportunity. We are structuring our business around responding to the safety issue.”
Mr Brunt tells SI that the company, based in Tamworth, Staffordshire, has increased its staff by 30% during the past 12 months, all on the services side of the business. Currently, ten out of a total staff of 40 deliver services.
“Twenty percent of our revenue is invested in training and product support,” he says. That number includes €750000 annually to run Haki's dedicated training facility – doubled in size early last year to accommodate 500 students per year – near its headquarters.
Mr Brunt says Haki UK hired two full-time trainers, who split their time training 50/50 between Tamworth and customer sites. Additionally, Haki appointed one of its employees as training manager last year.
These resources train Haki personnel as well. “One of our problems is finding people with scaffolding experience. There is a growing shortage in the UK,” he said. “We need to continually increase the skill levels of all our people.”
Mr Brunt said Haki's training, compared to others, “...is quite in-depth.” One benefit of that training attention-to-detail applies to its temporary roof business: “We have a strategic plan with SGB [part of Harsco Corp] to develop that business, and we actively train to support it.”
So, whether it is training, technical services, or logistics, It is clear there is more to scaffolding than just erecting and dismantling it in today's market. Astute manufacturers are figuring out how to deliver more than just the iron.