The Specialist

In the second of a series of guest articles exclusively published in Lift and Hoist International (LHI), Tad Dunville, regional sales manager at Pintsch Bubenzer USA LLC, urges purchasing decision makers to consider the benefits of sourcing from specialist manufacturers.

Pintsch Bubenzer, Crane Brakes,

They felt like slippers. I was on my way to a steel mill and I knew my Danner work boots were the right choice. The boots were smart, comfortable, airy, and easy to slip off and on at TSA. The Portland, Oregon, based bootmaker makes great footwear and I’m a loyal customer. But I’m not interested if they launch a clothing line. Why? Because Danner is a specialist provider of super-tough boots and it pours passion and expertise into every pair it makes. Since 1934 it has perfected an art so its products last a long time whilst protecting workmen’s feet in tough environments like mills, mud, and mayhem.

My company, Pintsch Bubenzer, is a specialist manufacturer in an entirely different marketplace; we make high performance disc and drum brakes for port cranes and other severe duty applications. In many cases, our product is requested as single-source in specification documents. This article isn’t about us per se, but more intent on reminding people of the value that products of specialists present. In turn, we work with fellow specialists who provide, say, overhead cranes for ports or steel mills and the benefits for all parties, particularly end users, are exponential.

Specialist manufacturers diversify, as we explored in the first article in this series but importantly they stay in their wheelhouses.

Let’s pick out some key advantages.

The first thing to address is the misconception about the aforementioned value. I readily accept that it’s a waste of time—and money—to call Danner or Red Wing to buy a pair of shoes for one-off use on a watersports weekend. Likewise, a low-end, low duty cycle crane that’s lifting light loads very occasionally doesn’t really require a Bubenzer brake. However, there are many instances whereby a higher quality product made by a specialist manufacturer is overlooked without investigating the price or long-term return on investment. We make 10 times as many brakes as a leading competitor, allowing us to be very price-competitive despite continually improving the product line.

Like a lifting equipment company that primarily manufactures steel mill cranes, a specialist provider can totally immerse themselves in a sector. They typically get so close to their customers that their innovations are more in tune with progression in the marketplace than they are their own trade or product sector. It’s not about making the best crane, but the best steel crane. That’s what matters to the steel industry.

Interestingly, customers drive a specialist provider towards evolution and improvement, whereas a non-specialist or broad supplier pushes so-called enhancements onto various marketplaces, which often results in forcing a square peg into a round hole and / or a submersible product with a waterproof feature at work in the middle of the desert.

Herein lies an important point: a generalist supplier of many different products to a multitude of markets often starts promoting certain features that are actually limitations. In most cases, a brake is spring applied because it doesn’t require electricity to close it; a magnet or thruster disengages it. On a Bubenzer brake, the spring is separate to the thruster. A company that isn’t a specialist in the sector wouldn’t have the leeway to make such an enhancement, as the marketplace proves. The result is they tell customers their method works better because maintenance guys can’t access parts to tamper with them.

End users should more readily scrutinize that mindset. Efficiency, good practice and safety aren’t based on “hiding” parts from trained personnel who work on or around equipment. If it hinders productivity or makes maintenance more cumbersome, no part should be confined somewhere under the misperception that it can’t be tampered with. There are a myriad of adjustments that can be made to a crane—changing parameters on frequency drives, adjusting brakes, replacing wire rope, etc.—and in all cases a lack of knowledge and understanding can be deadly. An absence of training and expertise is therefore the problem if mistakes are made, not that a manufacturer has exposed a component a maintenance man can tinker with.

Best foot forward

It’s a commonality with specialist providers that they constantly evolve and update product lines so they adapt to the equally fast-moving end user markets where they’re applied. As it pertains to Bubenzer, it means foot-mounted, motor-mounted, drum, and disc brakes are subject to continuous improvement and a customer feedback loop that is only possible because we focus so intensely on this space. We have respected competitors and many provide decent products but some of them haven’t been updated for 30 years. Think about the progression that has been made over that time in each of the markets where that product is put to work.

Specialist providers tend to invest more time and money on research and development too. A successful company with a small area of focus is likely to generate healthy turnover, much of which gets ploughed back into the product. Bubenzer, for example, doesn’t have to worry about putting money into cable festoons or crane wheels; it’s all about brakes.

Without getting too technical, take the aforementioned thruster as a case in point. Energizing the thruster (a small motor that drives a hydraulic pump) releases the brake shoes from the drum; when the thruster is de-energized, the brake is activated, as the springs and levers apply shoes to the drum or disc. A traditional motor would run the entire time the brake is open for the whole cycle. A Bubenzer thruster only works to open the brake, and then the motor can stop so it is only on for 5% of the lifting or lowering cycle. Consider the resulting savings on electricity and wear.

A good analogy in conclusion is a rodent infestation. Do you want the best, fastest, biggest, most efficient mousetrap, or no mice to catch? That’s sometimes how specialists view a market versus a competitor with a broader focus. We strive to eliminate mice rather than improve the mousetrap.

Tad Dunville
Regional Sales Manager, Pintsch Bubenzer USA LLC
[email protected]

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