Application of Yard Ramps

We are sometimes asked about the traction when using yard ramps for loading docks outside in the elements. Bluff Manufacturing uses a serrated grating in combination with a diamond deck steel plate. Both surfaces offer a bite for the fork truck drive wheel and as long as the driver is competent most operations can continue year around. Yardramp Loading Platform Snow

Quick fact – all turning surfaces on platforms and on yard ramps should be made of steel plate. Grating does not do well over time where forklift truck tires are changing direction. The bearing bars tend to lay down and droop.

Good selling…….

Buying decisions are made for one of five reasons…Reason #5 Service

In looking back at the other four articles in this series, I need to point out that these are not numbered in order of importance.  The statement is; when you or anyone else chooses one product or service over another it will be for one or more of these reasons.  Because price is  listed first, it does not mean price is most important.  Now………….

We all know the difference between good service and poor service, but more and more there is also “no service”.  Sometimes, the level of service is associated with the price.  Case in point;  some of us shop in the SAM’s type of store.  Not only are there no people to help you, you have to find your own boxes.  We gladly sacrifice our local grocer’s high caliber service for wholesale pricing.  Other times I go to “Grocery World” and let the kid carry my bag to the car.  I am pleased with both shopping experiences because my expectations are fulfilled both places.  It is when there is a disconnect between expectations and offering that there is a potential for dissatisfaction.

You can set your business model up for any level but you cannot go back and forth on individual transactions because you will disappoint. Whatever the highest service level you offer will become the minimum against which you will be measured.  “The only thing in the middle of the road is a dead skunk” (or in Texas – armadillo).  Test it.  Stand in the middle of a discount store looking needy.  Are you surprised when lots of people in red vests go by without so much as a “can I help ya?”  Now visit a department store (selling the same brands) and repeate your experiment.  Your blood will start to boil after about 3 minutes.  Your expectations are vastly different. 

What are your customer’s expectations of you and your company?  Do you discuss them with your team?  Do you measure how well you do?  Are there incentives within your organization that reward good service?  If the answers to any of these questions is “not so much” you have a potential for the disconnect of expectations.

This is where I could be totally self-serving and talk about the service level at Bluff being as high as it is ……. but I will resist.

Good Selling

Constructing a Site for Portable Steel Railboard Use

Bluff Rail Board 

Portable steel railboards (rail boards) are a great solution to bridging the gap between railcars of all types and loading docks.  Bluff Manufacturing has been manufacturing railboards for these applications for decades and it seems that no two rail sites are alike.  Due to that fact, every railboard built is a custom fabrication for a specific site or set of conditions.  There are four major components that provide the parameters for railboard design specifications, they are:
 1. Capacity of forklifts that will be traveling over the railboard
2. Customer’s desired width of the board to service their site
3. Railroad track rail-top elevation as it relates to the loading dock surface elevation
4. Railroad track distance from the loading dock surface to inside of first rail
 It is amazing how much rail sites vary all around the country particularly in relation to #3 and #4.  Obviously, no standards or guidelines have been followed in constructing these sites.  In many cases involving improper elevations or tracks being too close to the loading dock, less than desirable board designs are forced into service with very steep grades.   For those of you involved in designing rail sites to be built with knowledge that portable railboards will be in use, I would submit to you the following ideal track elevations and distances from docks for their use:
 Car type                             Elevation                  Distance
Standard box car                     43″                            74”
Refrigerate box car                  49”                            74”
 Following these guidelines will permit board designs that when put into service will provide desirable grades for forklift travel.

John Key
Plant Manager and former Plant Engineer
Bluff Manufacturing, Inc.   

Steel vs. Aluminum Dock Boards… you make the call

As the Plant Manager for Bluff Manufacturing, I often find myself looking over our products staged for shipping to our customers and thinking to myself, “Why would someone order that product?”  This question always comes to mind with respect to large aluminum dock boards, AC and BC products.
Example:  a few weeks ago a customer ordered a BC6096.  This is a 15,000 lb capacity aluminum dock board with bolted-on steel curbs.  Unit weight for the product is 396 lbs.
Why do people buy aluminum products instead of steel?  The most common response I hear is “because aluminum is lighter than steel”.  A board as described in the example above weighs far too much to be positioned by hand and it appears to be destined for a dock application involving a forklift due to the capacity of the product ordered.  The BC6096 weighs in at 396 lbs.  A 15T6096 all-welded steel dock board weighs in at 840 lbs.  Will a forklift care about the additional weight?  I would suggest that the answer to that question is “no”.

For people out there shopping for portable dock board solutions that offer superior rigidity, durability and longevity, I would submit to you that all-welded steel dock boards will always prevail over any aluminum dock board product whether welded or bolted.  I will also submit to you that if you shop comparable size and capacity products in steel and aluminum, you will be pleasantly surprised at the value in all-welded steel products.
While we will continue to manufacture aluminum dock board products because they do continue to have appropriate applications, I would always recommend for any forklift application that steel is king.

Plant Manager and former Plant Engineer

Buying decisions are made for one of five reasons…Reason #4 Technology

Sometimes we get lucky and there is a glaring difference in the features of our product, one that sets it apart. If we are really lucky it is one for which the customer feels justified in spending more. This is the part of the job that demonstrates either our professionalism or that we are just someone doing a three to five year detour into the world of sales.

We must first know our product. You would be surprised how many times customers will tell a salesman about a feature that is there (or missing) and it is NEWS to the salesperson. We are guilty of not reading the catalog we hand to the customer. There is really no excuse in being ignorant about the features of a product you are trying to sell. Manufacturers develop resources for your use. Your own company places a premium on your knowledge. Sales meetings, training blogs (like this one), podcasts on selling and other assets are at your disposal 24 hours a day.

The next part takes more work. You must also know your competition’s product. How else can you help (that is your job) the buyer make the right choice. You point out the ways your product is superior and the benefits of the features you offer. A lot of time the technology is pointed out but not the benefit and it is the benefit that will sway your customer. Take the following as an example.

Bluff manufactures an accessory item that can be bolted on to many of our boards and plates. We call it an EZ-Roll.Bluff EZ-Roll Attachment for dock boards and dock plates

The item has heavy telescoping pipe and phenolic wheels and lots of things that make it a well designed addition to a great standard product. However, it is the benefit that it brings that will cause the buyer to consider it. It will allow one person (perhaps a small person) to put the dock board or dock plate in place without assistance and do it safely. That benefit may loom over all others in your customers mind.

If you do not know about it you cannot point it out. If you do not point it out, your customer will make his decision assuming that all products are equal.

Good selling,