Speed to quote is key. everybody wants information faster

20 May 2021

From why confusion still exists over load testing to why Handling Systems International (HSI) is expanding its online tool the Quotinator for on-demand quotes, Bret Lussow, director of business development, talks to Hoist about the challenges companies face today.

HSI launched its Quotinator last year, utilising the DriveWorks platform of SolidWorks to provide scaled drawings and quotes for its NikoRail enclosed track cranes, standard jib and gantry cranes.

It had been using DriveWorks since 2017, to automate the design process of its cranes, with DriveWorks Solo, but realised it wanted to create a customer facing online tool, so upgraded to DriveWorks Pro.

At HSI, cranes range from 6 feet to over 300 feet, handling multiple capacities from 500lbs to 40,000lbs. Part numbers can also range from 80 for a small system into the thousands for a larger system, making them extremely configurable.

Since purchasing DriveWorks Pro, the company has been working on Quotinator, which uses DriveWorks and SolidWorks to provide scaled drawings and quotes, accessible via its distributor login on HSI’s website. The Quotinator was Beta tested internally for two months before it was rolled out to distributors and doubles as a sales tool, because it can track who is interacting with the site.

“The feedback we are getting from clients is that they want more quote tools to make quoting quicker and more accurate, more drawings, and more 3D CAD,” said Lussow.

“Speed to quote is the key. Everybody wants information faster. I have found that more often than not, the one who can provide the information the quickest is often the one who gets the order. Nobody has time to shop anymore. HSI developed Quotinator, which gives the customer a quote and 3D AutoCAD drawing in minutes and the reaction from the market has been amazing.”

HSI is constantly improving and adapting the configurator and product options in response to customer demand and it now wants to integrate DriveWorks into its CRM system. It is also utilizing the form building tools found in DriveWorks to enhance the look and feel of the UI to make Quotinator even more user friendly, particularly on mobile phones.

As for Lussow, who has over 28 years in the industry, having previously worked for and managed his family rigging shop; Thompson Sling Co. in Houston, Texas, before joining Harrington Hoists as VP of Business Development and Kito Americas in Manheim, Pennsylvania, he has now spent the past four years at HSI in Chicago.

“Business has changed in that “contact” is less than it has ever been. Our industry is about the relationships. With Covid and a younger workforce relying more and more on the computer and the internet, the opportunity to sell and present is harder than ever,” he said.

“Like all industries, there have been some good years and some poor. The obvious poor years were 2001, 2009 and to some extent 2020, but the strong years (mid 2000s, mid 2010s) outweigh the poor and is what makes this industry so fun. When things are good, this is an interesting industry to be a part of. The people in our industry are genuine, hard-working and not afraid to get their hands dirty.”

The best part of the job he says is ‘visiting the end users that use our product, seeing what they manufacture and learning about their business and products’. “I have been fortunate enough to see some great factories and travel the world in search of the next big opportunity. I also, really enjoy the social aspect of sales, especially grabbing a cold beverage at the end of a hard day with some great colleagues. But my least favourite is the travel time (spent in airports or sitting in cars), hotel rooms and fast food,” adds Lussow.

“Sustainability is probably more important than ever considering the Covid concerns. Impacts on workers, climate and materials is important. People want to know what they are buying and who they are buying from. Simply claiming a business is sustainable is not enough.

“We see lots of good ideas from younger people in our industry but it’s hard to get the “old school” to think differently. As the workforce turns over, you will see more and more innovation. Material selection is changing and the new electronic technology is offering new options never seen before.”

His only complaint would be ‘what ever happened to good salesmanship and customer service?’

“There used to be a time when you could talk to people, work through issues, explain needs and concerns. How do you express this in an email or chat room? I hate to see us moving away from people to people contact. Business is still all about relationships, if you take that away, what value do any of us really offer? We need to be strategic advisers to our customers, any of us can be executors, but the best salesmen help customers identify needs,” he said.

For Lussow, load testing is always a hot topic because there still seems to be confusion at the end user level.

“We often get asked the question, ‘Do I need to load test my crane after I install it?’ and the short answer is, yes. While we manufacture pre-engineered cranes, HSI has no way of performing this test on the cranes because we do not assemble them prior to shipping; it is up to the end user or installer to perform this task once assembled in the field,” he added.

HSI manufactures cranes to a specific deflection value, however, the value of this formula is theoretical and will be increased during field load tests due to variables such as: installation, foundation rigidity, or the standard variation in thickness tolerances for the piping, tubing, steel plate and sheet metal. Some variation above (or below) deflections defined by the manufacturer is considered normal.

When measuring deflection for safety standards, the deflection is measured at 100% capacity (L/150 for HSI 351 Heavy Duty jib cranes), rather than the 125% load test. During load testing at 125% deflection values will be greater than published deflection. Using this formula, ‘L’ (meaning Length or span) measured in inches / 150 will result in a theoretically calculated deflection. Load tests at 125% of rated capacity plus other variables can result in higher deflection.

“Yes, load test your new crane and keep those records on file and remember deflection will vary depending on if you load test at 100% or 125%,” said Lussow.

In regard to Industry 4.0 Lussow says he is still ‘old school,’ but does recognize the benefits of embracing technology. “This doesn’t mean I always agree with the ideas or see the benefits, but we all certainly need to entertain the new ideas being generated. Most of them are good,” he said.

His parting words for the next generation of employees is, even at sales level, you need to know CAD or SolidWorks: “It is almost impossible to quote anymore without detailed drawings. We simply cannot wait on a separate department or individual to create these documents. We need to provide customers good detail and speed to quote (and in this case to provide drawings) because it is the ‘new name of the game’.”