In these times of low prices and all-out war of one rubber track supplier against the other what is a rubber track manufacturer to do in trying to gain a foot hold in the ever-expanding rubber track market? As wholesale and retail prices of rubber tracks continue to fall in the face of rising raw materials costs and declining currency value, how can a manufacturer gain an advantage over others? One way is to offer extended warranties on their products. But what is the consumer really getting in the “increased” warranty terms? What does the actual warranty cover? Does it cover sidewall damage? Does it provide for “road hazard warranty” coverage? The answer to each of these questions? No.
Many manufacturers of rubber tracks, from China, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Japan and other countries provide a warranty against defect in materials and workmanship. What does “materials and workmanship” really mean? How does a consumer know what is a defect much less a defect in materials or workmanship?
To answer these questions, I have reviewed every track manufacturer’s warranty statements. One thing in common, all warranties cover consumers against defects in materials and workmanship. Another thing in common, no manufacturer’s warranty covers anything other than defects in materials and workmanship.
Here’s the kicker and here is where the marketing people get you, the consumer, hooked on their products. Manufacturers offer insanely long warranty coverage periods. Some think this is a big statement about the quality of the product the consumer is buying. Others, like actuaries, believe the manufacturer is playing a numbers game. If the claims rate is x and the sales are y then it equals out and the manufacturer wins in the end, much like the casinos in Vegas.
The truth of the matter is, neither of the assumptions listed above is accurate. The facts are in the warranty statement itself. “We guarantee the product against defects in materials and/or workmanship for a period of…X….”. The reality is this, and most consumers do not know this, IF there is a defect in materials or workmanship the product will generally fail in the first 50-100 hours of use. For the normal machine operator this will happen in the first 90 days after product installation on the machine. In my tenure I have seen Warranty offerings go from 6 months all the way out to 36 months. What normally happens when a user files a claim at anything beyond 12 months the supplier becomes very strict on claim acceptance.
I have reviewed well over 10,000 claims in my more than 25 years in the rubber track industry. I know what you’re thinking, “You’ve had 10,000 claims?!?!”. No, I have not. What has happened in my years in the rubber track industry is this, because I have done this for so long, longer than just about anyone in North America, people have trusted my opinion from all over the world. Claims will be sent to me for independent/third party evaluation. I create reports for consumers to take back to suppliers. I create reports for distributors to take back to their overseas manufacturing partners. Many times, the reports are not in favor of the user and many times they are.
The purpose for writing this article is to help two facets of the industry. First, to let the distributors who buy these manufacturers products not to fall for the gimmicks put out by manufacturing marketers. Secondly, to educate the end user so they do not fall for marketing gimmicks and pay higher prices where it is not warranted.
What should end users look for in a product?
1. Look for a reputable supplier. Reputable meaning longevity in business. Check out their standing with the Better Business Bureau. Have there been any complaints filed against them?
2. Who is the manufacturer of the product they are selling? Many distributors will be hesitant to say who manufactures the product as they like to put across the illusion that they are the manufacturer. When it comes to distributors in the United States, there are less than a handful that are the rubber track manufacturer.
3. Get a printed copy of the company’s Warranty Statement and procedures for filing a claim before purchasing product. Sometimes the amount of work entailed in filing a claim is far too complicated, so knowing the procedures before you buy can make filing a claim on the back end easier.
4. Does the supplier handle the rubber track claim “in-house” or does their warranty hinge on what the manufacturer says about the claim?
5. How long has the Distributor been buying from their current supplier? Again, the distributor may be hesitant to supply this information.
6. What is the claims rate for the product the end user is purchasing? With many manufacturers the claims rate on Track Loader Machines can be far higher than Mini-Excavators. If your company is purchasing CTL tracks be sure to confirm the claims rate of CTL’s, not the average claims rate of all types of tracks. This can give a false impression of product quality.
7. For many buyers, relationship means everything when buying products. My advice is this, know from whom you are buying. Are they trustworthy? Do they have history in this field? Do they admit when they don’t have the answer and offer to get the answer?
It is my desire with this article to educate the consumer and the distributor to make the best decisions possible. Don’t be taken in by marketing ploys. Do your homework on the front end to save yourself much heartache as well as money on the back end.