Perhaps one of the most significant contributions the Internet has made to our daily lives (outside of being able to connect with people we never spoke to and didn’t even know in high school) is the ability to find the rock-bottom price for just about anything we need to purchase easily. With a quick search on the right keywords, or a visit to megasites such as Amazon.com or eBay, we can find exactly what we’re looking for and save a lot of money to boot. Or so it would seem.
The truth is that strategy works for some items but not others. If you’re looking for a Sony video camera, or a new Chevy Volt, or an authentic 1950s Wurlitzer “bubble” jukebox they’re great. But when it comes to purchasing warehouse and industrial supplies and equipment, the waters get a lot murkier.
The problem is that most times you don’t have a specific brand or item in mind, so you search on a more generic term such as “shelving” or “casters.” What you return in results may or may not fit your requirements – but you won’t really know because there’s no one to ask. All you’re looking at is a very general product description, a photo and a price.
That’s the difference between shopping at a general site and one that specializes in warehouse and industrial equipment and supplies. With the latter you can explain what you need, ask questions and ensure that when the products are delivered they’ll actually work in your application.
By now you may be saying “oh, sure; how complicated can it be?” Here are three examples of where gaining a little assistance can save you some time and trouble, and ultimately work out to be less expensive than going cheap.
Wire shelving. Not all wire shelving is made to the same technical specifications or quality level. There is often a huge difference between wire shelving built specifically for industrial purposes and the kind made in the Third World (without regulations), sold from a personal website or account (without a physical location) and shipped from a public storage locker (without liability insurance). You may save a little money up-front, but you’ll basically have wire shelving that’s suited to holding towels in your bathroom or garden tools in your garage, but won’t hold up in a warehouse setting that requires them to hold more than 300 lbs. because they used 7/8 inch diameter posts and collars. And good luck trying to return it when you realize it won’t work.
Shelving from big box stores is usually just as bad. It normally has a split post that allows it to fit neatly into a car trunk. Convenient, sure, but don’t expect that post to support the weight of auto parts, frozen foods or a dense pickface of office supplies for long.
If you use a site where there’s expert help available, you can check specifications and tolerances, explain your application, and ensure you receive the right wire shelving the first time. You won’t end up paying twice, and you’ll actually be able to keep your project on schedule.
Casters. Sure, those casters look all nice and shiny, and the price is great. But you won’t like them nearly as much if they end up leaving black marks on your expensive Berber carpet after just three months of use. You may pay a little more up-front at a dedicated warehouse equipment online store – but you’ll save in the long run on cleaning bills. And replacement costs when you get tired of looking at those black marks.
Finish. You’ve heard the expression “all that glitters is not gold.” Same goes for the finish on products. An NSF-rated manufacturer puts layers of protection between the raw steel and the zinc, chrome, epoxy or stainless finish. Without that rating, you’ll probably have something that looks like a bathroom faucet in a cheap motel over time: puckered, peeling and rusting. A dedicated warehouse site will only sell NSF-rated products, ensuring you’re not replacing your work before its time.
While it’s nice to get short-term savings, warehouses and other industrial settings are not short-term propositions. And choosing the wrong products can end up costing you more – much more – in the long term.
By limiting your search to online stores that are backed by companies with specific expertise in warehouse and industrial supplies and equipment, you’ll get more than good pricing. You’ll ensure you’re only looking at products that will stand up to your environment, and that you’ll be able to get the help and advice you need to decide between them. That’s a smarter move all the way around.
Carol Thorsen is the Manager of Wynright Corporation’s Inside Sales, WarehouseEquipmentStore.com and Government Services Operations. During her 18-year tenure, she has held positions in sales training, product management and applications engineering. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Carol holds certifications in Materials Management and APICS, and has studied industrial automation and systematic layout planning.