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Top 6 Questions to Ask a Potential Material Handling Equipment Supplier—Before You Buy

Investing in material handling equipment can be a stressful endeavor. It requires a great deal of capital and experience navigating material handling equipment suppliers, along with answering many questions you may not even know to ask.

To make the decision-making process easier, here are six questions to ask your material handling equipment supplier before you buy or rent from them.

1. If I want to source all of my material handling equipment from a single provider, would you be able to accommodate that?

It’s much simpler in the long run to deal with a single material handling equipment supplier. Having to purchase/rent equipment from different dealers and being serviced by all of those different dealers can be time-consuming and costly. Working within an established partnership means you’ll have access to reliable support, a knowledgeable dealer, and access to the parts and equipment you depend on.

2. Is this piece of equipment the one I need or just the one you have in stock?

Generally speaking, dealers want to make the sale, and some aren’t above offering equipment that they have in stock as opposed to providing you with equipment that matches the specifications you provided them with. You want to partner with a dealer who has your best interests in mind, and if their only concern is making money then they aren’t right for you.

3. If I buy from you, will you be able to support and assist me with the brands you’re able to provide?

Dealers will sometimes go out of their way to supply you with specialty equipment even if they don’t readily keep it or the brand in stock. This can mean that they may lack the knowledge, experience, and ability to support that piece of equipment once you buy it. Ask the vendor if they’re an official agent/dealer of the brand to ensure you’ll be able to get the in-depth product training only an official brand agent would have. Aside from the lack of support on the dealer’s part, you’ll also lose out on access to genuine OEM parts in the event you need maintenance or a replacement.

4. What’s the warranty—and under what conditions won’t you honor it?

Purchasing new material handling equipment always presents some form of risk, which makes warranties a very valid necessity. However, not all equipment will include a warranty—or the same kind of warranty—so it’s important to verify the full details of any warranty with the vendor, including whether it features an extended warranty or something that is more short-term. Also, be sure to verify that the warranty is one the dealer or manufacturer is able to honor.

5. What is your average response time for breakdowns, and do you offer 24/7 coverage?

Part of the trust you place in a material handling equipment supplier involves being able to count on them for routine servicing, but anyone in this business knows that it’s the unplanned maintenance you have to worry about most. It’s important to ensure that your supplier can respond to emergency call-outs in a timely manner, or else you risk losing money on downtime. Make sure to ask them how long their average response time for emergency call-outs is, and whether they’re available 24/7.

Another important question is whether they can provide customer support plans to cater to your unique needs. Every project is different and so is the array of equipment you’ll need. Will your material handling equipment supplier force a one-size-fits-all servicing plan on you, or will they work with you to find a solution that fits you best? Depending on the size of your operation or fleet, you may also want to ask about the possibility of on-site engineers or maintenance personnel.

Lastly, ask if they have any guarantee on their emergency service.

6. How can I be confident your business will be here and able to support me over the long-term?

Companies come and go, especially in the competitive materials handling industry. When a dealer can no longer compete, they’re typically forced into liquidation, are absorbed by another brand/company, or cease trading—all of which can leave their current list of clients scrambling for support and answers. Even manufacturers aren’t immune to the competitive landscape, forcing them and their available support to vanish from the market entirely.

In choosing a vendor, you’re electing to depend on them for new equipment, maintenance, and support; and you want to know you are dealing with a dealer or manufacturer that has substantial staying power. If you invest your money in a brand or dealer that goes out of business, you risk losing equity, money, and support, which can ripple into your own business. Losing your dealer support suddenly can lead to prolonged downtime as you attempt to find a new dealer, a new brand, or new support for the equipment you’ve already paid for or are renting. Discover why material handling systems and processing equipment is Better with Kemper.