Pallet rack is typically a rather large investment for a company, especially if you're a transportation or distribution company of size. That said, it's worth taking a few minutes to think about what you should be looking for in a pallet rack dealer.
1. What is Their Return Policy?
What is the company's return policy? If this is your 1,000th time to buy pallet rack, a company's return policy might not be as important to you, but if it's your first or second time it is probably going to be a rather important 'nice-to-have'. In the age of the internet, you'd think everyone allows returns, but most pallet rack dealers don't or they charge a 20% or 25% restocking fee to do so.
2. How Many Types of Rack Do They Sell?
The more manufacturers they represent the better.
Same with condition. Pallet rack is essentially just rolled steel, so it lasts a rather long time. A dealer that offers some combination of new, used and refurbished pallet rack is likely going to save you 25% to 30% over the dealer that only offers new pallet rack from a single manufacturer.
3. Do They Carry Inventory?
There are a lot of one-man-bands in the material handling industry. If your dealer doesn't carry inventory, how are you going to buy one or two additional beams if your count wasn't perfect when you designed your warehouse?
If you are looking to buy less than a truckload (~$20,000) worth of pallet rack, you're likely going to get stuck with the entire freight bill. If the dealer buys an entire truckload at a time and stores it in his warehouse, you only pay for a portion of the freight.
4. Who Does Their Installations?
At first glance, those who do their own installations probably won't consider this important. But, consider the internal expertise a company builds when they use their own installation team. The difference in knowledge is kind of like a medical products salesperson versus the surgeon that uses the tools. The salesperson doesn't really understand what happens onsite. Assuming there's a decent feedback loop between sales, estimating and installation - the company's designs are likely going to get easier and easier to install as the team learns from mistakes.
If you're looking for someone to install your pallet rack system for you, then who does the installations is more important. Most dealers will outsource their installation teams to a third-party that focuses 100% on installation. This may sound nice, but think back to the first paragraph on installations. It's highly unlikely that the dealer is going to learn anything nor does he have any incentive to do so, since his cost is covered.
An in-house installation crew also provides flexibility. Need to add another bay of rack? No problem, they can run back to the warehouse, grab what is needed and install it right there.
5. Can They Help With Permitting?
Most of the time, a city won't require you to pull a new permit in order to install or rearrange pallet rack in your warehouse. But, if it's a larger project or you are moving in to a new building, it's rather likely that the city will 'drop-in' to see if you're violating any codes with your new setup.
So, it's helpful if the dealer you bought your rack through has experience dealing with the various jurisdictions. Not only can they help smooth things over with the city if they are being difficult, but they're more likely to develop a compliant design the first time through.
6. Do They Provide Design or Consulting Services?
Designing a new warehouse or distribution facility has enough moving parts already with financing, internal approvals, customer requirements, etc. So, it's helpful if you can lean on the expertise of your local pallet rack dealer to provide a layout that works.
A good CAD drawing can save you a lot of headaches down the road.
Furthermore, once you start incorporating conveyor or packaging lines you really want to make sure you get the layout done right the first time. Almost all dealers that provide these services charge an hourly rate to do so, but it could be well worth your money if it saves a lot of logistical or product headaches from ever popping up.
7. What is Included in Their Quote?
This sounds rather broad, but it really boils down to making sure you're comparing apples-to-apples when you look at different quotes. A couple of the key things to look for on a quote include: freight cost, sales tax and any additional fees.
Some larger dealers will add a fee on to your invoice if you don't buy a certain quantity of wire decking or beams, even though they quote a base price per unit.
Similarly, other dealers will send you a quote that doesn't include freight. Assuming they don't carry inventory, they're going to need to get the product from the manufacturer to you. In that case, you're likely to be hit with a surprise freight charge at the end.
Finally, make sure tax is included on your (if applicable). All of these tactics are meant to make a dealer's headline 'subtotal' look lower. But, they're really just tricky ways to make some additional cash after they've already hooked you.
There's a lot more to a pallet rack dealer than just the price they offer. Asking these seven easy questions will reveal a lot about their operations.