Volume 36, Issue 3, March 2001
Implementing Damage Control Measures for Architectural Aluminum Shipments
It’s a common problem in the glass and metal industry—damaged products (see related story in November 2000 USGlass, page 48). Nevertheless, when dealing with material as fragile as glass, one would expect some damage. Through the years, glass manufacturers have developed and put into practice a wide variety of damage prevention and quality control measures. These range from simple procedures, such as using safety stickers, to elaborate ones such as creating specialized handling and transportation equipment for glass.
But what about damage to the architectural metal products that form the framework of the glaziers’ industry? Who addresses this problem and in what ways is the situation handled? Contract glaziers report that they spend an inordinate amount of time filing freight claims and reordering materials. They lament the need to reschedule installations, and realize that their time could be better spent developing new business and on project management. Freight carriers are blamed for sloppy product handling, and suppliers constantly hear pleas for better, stronger packaging.
Without a doubt, suppliers and carriers need to develop procedures to reduce damage to architectural metal. However, action is always better than reaction. There are proactive steps that a contract glazier can take in order to cut damage rates on architectural metal supplies.
Transporting Architectural Metal—The Danger Zone
Contract glaziers have united in their demand for an answer to the problems involved in transporting architectural metals to the glazing contractors that purchase them. Damage to storefront and curtainwall lineals is said to be almost a foregone conclusion. Given that 20 boxes of stock lengths may travel through multiple shipping hubs before reaching their final destination, there is a huge opportunity for damage to occur. This is compounded by the fact that forklifts and other equipment often replace the gentler handling architectural metal requires. Additionally, high freight costs, delayed shipments and hassle-filled freight claims are inefficient, wasteful and annoying.
Thankfully, there are some positive steps contract glazing companies can take to ensure their architectural metal supplies are transported safely. When possible, work with a supplier who can ship direct from the manufacturer to the end-user. If this is not an option, take a look at the shipping and handling operations used by your supplier. Less-than-truckload shipping by a common carrier may include frequent transfer of product from one truck to another, thus increasing the chance that damage may occur. A dedicated shipper retains product on one trailer, lessening the chance of improper handling and the resulting damage. Other transportation options abound—everything from contract haulers to customer pick-up. Once again, the incidence of damage will decrease if a responsible choice is made.
It is also important to check with your carrier to determine where responsibility for freight damage lies. Is damage claim responsibility consigned to the final recipient of the product—you, the glazing company-or is it in the supplier’s court? Do you own the product when it leaves the supplier’s docks (Freight-on-Board [FOB] shipping point), or is damage-free delivery the supplier’s responsibility (FOB destination)? If you deal with FOB shipping point terms, is your carrier responsive to your requests for information? Are your damage claims handled quickly and responsibly?
Evaluate the general business operations of your carrier. Are freight costs consistent and in line with accepted practices? Are shipments delivered on time?
Know the answers to these questions and make your transportation choices based upon the answers and on the proper match to your business operations.
Transporting architectural metal is, indeed, the danger zone. Getting involved in the decisions and
processes of this crucial phase of product delivery will save lost hours later in the execution of your project.
Handle With Care
Although controlling the dangers of transportation is not wholly in the hands of the recipient, the way in which architectural metal is handled when it reaches its final destination is. Inspect architectural metal when it arrives. Make sure the packaging is intact and undamaged, and expand your search for damage to the product itself. Whether you are doing a field installation, or a shop pre-assembly, inspection upon receipt will prevent later interruption of your project. This will save time, money and the customer’s good will. Protect your architectural metal materials from moisture and sun. Unwrap materials promptly and carefully. Much nicking and chipping can occur when extrusion lengths are scraped against one another and/or stacked, or when full packages are broken for smaller jobs. Store architectural metal in a dry place, out of the way of accidents. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Cooperation Makes It Happen
It is certainly not the sole responsibility of the contract glazier to monitor damage control problems for the architectural aluminum industry. Suppliers and carriers must assume some responsibility for quality control. However, a proactive stance on the part of the glass and glazing industry will go a long way toward reducing damage to architectural metal. By developing a strong relationship with your supplier, and with carriers when necessary, much of the frustration of damaged architectural metal products can be avoided.