A One Stop Shop
Most of our blog posts focus on the specifics of our industry – installation methods, refractory material, case studies and refractory product discussions. Our main goal is to educate and allow our readers to learn more about how we think and approach specific jobs and situations.
We try not to use our blog as a shameless self-promotional platform, but we’re bending the rules a bit on this post because it focuses on something that we feel is unique to us and provides a specific benefit to our customers. It’s about providing solutions instead of just materials and labor.
Products, Services and Solutions
As a refractory contractor, we’re in the services business.
As a refractory distributor, we’re also in the product business – we stock the largest inventory of refractory materials with 500 miles of Memphis, and are the sole supplier of Plibrico refractory products within a 4-state area.
We also design and build custom products. (We’re in the process of installing a very unique solution that we will talk about in a future post.)
Over the years, as we’ve learned about our customers’ businesses and what they are truly looking for, we’ve innovated and changed our business to provide the solutions that they need. For example, many new facilities don’t have the space to fabricate parts on-site. So we handle the work in our shop – fabricating steel and applying anchors, creating doors, form casting and precast shapes, and creating panels. We even stock the inventory and deliver it according to our customer’s production and maintenance schedules.
The One-Stop Shop for Refractory Installation and Maintenance
Our customers have continually asked us how we can help them innovate using the equipment they already have in place. And almost every new potential customer tells us they’re looking for a one stop shop that can handle numerous issues, instead of simply a refractory installation or repair.
There are certainly some great specialty refractory contractors who focus on one or two installation methods or offerings. But we’re a bit different in that we’ve shaped F.S. Sperry to focus on providing a comprehensive solution instead of focusing on a single task.
Being a comprehensive solution provider requires an array of skills, both deep and wide, across the entire company. And those solutions have to be designed around what our clients are looking for, so they solve real problems.
From our experience, these are the 5 things that our current and potential clients most commonly tell us they’re looking for:
- Get here quickly. They want a crew who is available in case of an emergency situation (refractory lining fails, etc.) with guys who can review the damage, assess the situation and provide a very good idea of repair time and costs. This allows them to decide if they need to jump on it quickly or plan for it at a later point in their process cycle.
- Get in and get out. When onsite, they want guys to come in and get the job done right as efficient as possible, and then get out. Most don’t mind paying for quality work, as long as you come in with a sense of urgency about what you’re doing. Nobody wants to pay labor costs for people who waste time.
- Communicate. When new things are uncovered, for example, a tear out is needed, they want us to clearly articulate a step-by-step approach – this is what we see initially, this is what we see now and this is a short-term fix/long-term fix with shutdown.
- Understand and recommend. Their existing team of maintenance managers and technicians want to be able to work with a team who can help them identify the best and most economical solution price wise, time wise, and application wise for the particular problem they have. This requires the ability to listen, understand the true problem, and to have the experience to provide the right recommendation.
- Provide versatile expertise. They want us to be flexible and have a strong knowledge base to provide solutions that span multiple scenarios or equipment (e.g. working on situations with a tunnel furnace, a melt shop, a kiln and a galvanizing line); they want an expert who can answer questions across all areas and address issues. They want to be able to call you, talk about issues and have you provide a creative solution.
Over the years we’ve evolved our business to do our best to meet these client needs. It’s an internal focus of ours – providing a solution instead of a material – and building strong relationships with clients.
While common in other industries, we think that that is unique in the refractory contracting world; we’ve seen some real characters in our industry come and go over the years.
Being a true solutions provider requires more than just product expertise. It requires creativity and the ability to see the situation from your vantage point.
It’s been a focus of ours for a number of years, and we look forward to showing you some examples of our innovation in the coming months.