Despite Illusions on TV, Quality Takes Time


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In the consumer marketplace, people may pay extra for a designer label, a recognized brand or products with celebrity endorsements. When a business invests in capital equipment, however, all the above becomes meaningless unless the equipment performs, meeting or exceeding expectations. While price, delivery and aesthetics are the usual factors people claim as the primary criteria when making a purchase, reliability, in my view, has slowly taken over the No. 1 spot as the key to customer satisfaction and repeat business.

By reliability, I mean confidence that the purchased equipment will perform as advertised over a reasonable amount of time.

Manufacturers will tell you that they are responsible for building the reliability into their products through a combination of good design, quality materials and careful manufacturing techniques.

This is true to a point. However, manufacturers today are not only under the gun to produce quality products, but are being challenged to do it in record time. America has long been a society that wants to have its cake and eat it, too. As if demanding things great but also cheap was not challenge enough, today the bar has risen to include great, cheap, and delivered in 24 hours.

One only needs to turn on television to see how this phenomenon is running rampant. Is “reality TV" changing the way we conduct business? Is it entertainment or a sign of things to come? Everything from building custom $100,000-plus motorcycles in a week to doing a full home renovation while the owner is at the movies. Is this reality? The producers of the shows try to convince you it is. It happens every Wednesday night, and they never missed a deadline yet. It appears that everything works and the end users seem pretty pleased (at first, anyway).

Today, it seems, consumers are convinced that if TV can do it, manufacturers should be able to as well. In reality, if I plunked down $100,000 for a chipper, I would not want them to build it in a week - but that's me. And as for my home, I would prefer they let the concrete dry before they start putting the walls on top.

Call me old-school, but I still believe Rome wasn't built in a day. Even if it could have been done, the extra time was needed to make sure that it would last.

So, how can you make certain you get your money's worth? Time, procedures and accountability.

No matter how many people you throw at a product to complete it, it takes time and testing to assure the quality is there and that the reliability is built in.

Contrary to reality TV, a lot of things can happen to a product once it rolls off the assembly line. Leaving aside obvious abuse and catastrophic accidents, even some fairly common practices can add to your repair bills, increase downtime and reduce the useful life of your equipment if procedures are expedited or even skipped altogether.

The majority of manufacturers I have met take pride in the products they produce. Years of experience have taught them the steps necessary to produce a quality product that will assure reliability for the owner once they take ownership. Asking them to compromise their standards inevitably will result in steps being left out or expedited. In the end, you will not get the quality you paid for.

Working hand-in-hand with your suppliers and coordinating reasonable timetables is the No. 1 thing consumers can do to assure reliability and get what they pay for.

Stafford Sterner is President of SJF Material Handling, Inc. Sterner has more than twenty years experience in the material handling industry and sales and marketing management. In business for over 20 years, SJF Material Handling, Inc. is a Winsted, Minnesota-based full service provider of new, used and renewed material handling equipment. They also provide complete design, layout, engineering, profiling, set up, installation and testing for entire facilities. Visit SJF's estore at


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