This edition of the Fastener Training Minute with Carmen Vertullo was originally published January, 18th 2024 as “How do you certify your fasteners to your clients?” during episode 196 of Fully Threaded Radio.
Well hello everyone, and welcome to the Fastener Training Minute. This is Carmen Vertullo coming to you from Carver Labs in beautiful El Cajon California, and from the Fastener Training Institute.
Today’s topic, like many, came as a result of an email that I received where a client had an issue. In this particular case the issue was relatively simple, but it could lead to a larger topic, and that larger topic has to do with controlling the risks associated with giving your customers advice about the use of fasteners. In this particular case, the customer said to my client they need something in writing that says “your threaded Rod will do such and such” and so my client came to me and said “how do I handle this?” I said well it’s very important that you handle it correctly and when I come back I’ll tell you how we dealt with that, and I’ll also help you to control the risks associated with this Risky Business that has nothing to do with fasteners but has to do with your behavior.
Welcome back everybody to the Fastener Training Minute, this is Carmen Vertullo and today we are talking about how you safely give your customers advice in the use of your product, or I should say how would you advise them. Now this instance as it turns out came from one of my clients and they literally got an email where a customer wanted to know in writing that their 1/4 inch Threaded Rod was adequate to hold an electrical box hanging from the concrete ceiling of a parking garage, because the inspector saw this and the inspector insisted that they either needed to use a 3/8 threaded Rod or they needed to use two quarter inch threaded rods to hold one electrical box. I have photos of this and if this was television we would show you the photos but it’s radio so you have to imagine it. You’ve been in parking garages plenty of times you’ve seen all kinds of crap hanging from the ceilings of parking garages, and in this case it’s a simple four inch square galvanized steel electrical box hooked on to a conduit with some wires obviously coming into it.
Now it is good practice to never hang anything overhead or safety-related with one fastener, whether that’s a screw in concrete or a piece of threaded Rod or whatever. So it’s a good idea not to have one but in this case this conduit that connected this box, had another piece of threaded rod and more boxes and threaded rods all up and down, so the principle would be: (and this is not what you would tell your customer), but the principal would be if that threaded rod fails, is the thing going to fall down? Or is there another threaded rod downstream that will keep that from happening?
Now you can have that conversation with your customer, but at the end of the day, all you should say about your product (your threaded rod for example) is this is quarter inch threaded rod and it has a tensile strength of whatever, and you could conceivably advertise a safe working load based on that tensile strength of let’s say 1/4 of that weight. That’s as far as you should go because you don’t know how they’re going to attach that threaded rod into the concrete. Is it going to be epoxy in a hole, or they going to use a drop-in anchor of some sort, or are they going to use a concrete screw with a bracket. Who knows what the rest of that Contraption looks like, but at the end of the day, your job is to protect your company from liability whether you’re a salesperson or an advisor or even an engineer. If you want to advise the client based on the application just be careful to include an authoritative citation that’s not yourself. In other words a specification or a standard, or you could refer them to someone else such as me to help them decide with calculations if needed, whether or not the fastener that you’re supplying is adequate for the application.
Now you don’t want to be nasty about it and you don’t want to lose a customer over it and you don’t want them to just say “i’ll go use someone who is going to help me out”. It is possible to help them out in an authoratative way, and give them the answer that they need or lead them to it, without putting your company at risk. And the main way that you do that is to ensure that you have some kind of a policy in a the company which everyone should read and sign, that states that you are not allowed to give applications advice to the customer other than the performance of the specific material or the specification or standard that it’s derived from and that if the customer asks for that that you must let them know that hey we’re not Engineers we are fastener suppliers and as far as we can go as to tell you what the performance of the item might be.
This also applies to things like torque. How tight should I make this bolt? Now it’s okay to provide the customer with a torque table or a work table or a chart or the Fastener Training Institute information that you might have from one of those classes or even from the IFI technology connection. But at the end of the day you are telling them: “here’s the correct torque for this Fastener in a standard application“, and it’s the customer’s responsibility to know whether or not it’s suitable for their application.
Well I hope I didn’t scare any of you off from being able to provide good service and advice to your customer there is a way to do it if you ever find yourself backed against the wall where you might lose a sale or you have a situation where you’re going to annoy a very good customer if you need some help please don’t hesitate to call me I have lots of weird wiggle words and ways to phrase things that will let your customer feel like they’re being well taken care of in spite of the fact that you can’t give them exactly what they want in terms of the information well that has been your faster training minute to helping you to control the risks associated with the risky business of selling fasteners. Thanks for listening