Building Industrial Concrete Flooring for Owners.

Owners With The Best Floors Have The Best Sales Tool.

Owners with dependable, long-lasting warehouse floors have similar relations with their customers

Owners with the best floors have the best customer relations

Warehouse floors that interfere with production interfere with profits and customer relations.

Karl Bakke watched the sand drift past him like silt. He let a handful sift through his fingers and tossed it into the wind blowing inland from the Pacific Ocean. He picked up another handful and mixed it the palm of his hand and held it out so Carl Ytterberg could see the problem.

Carl shook his head. “This isn’t going to work.” He looked at the pile of dark sand next to the ready-mix plant again and then pulled out his cell phone. “I’m going to call San Diego, “ he said.

“Carl and I went to Maui to do some pre-planning for a job that was starting in several weeks. We always visit the local ready-mix plant to look at their materials. The rock they were using was good, strong volcanic rock. Then we asked to see their sand. The sand however was dust from the rock crusher and blown dune sand. You are not allowed to mine natural sand in Hawaii,” Bakke explained. Bakke has been a sales engineer for the Kalman Floor Company for more than 25 years.

“The sand they were using was too fine and dusty. We knew from experience it would not work in the abrasion resistant floor surface the customer wanted. We were building a freezer facility in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and we didn’t ever want a call back,” Bakke said.

“We had no choice but to call our favorite sand source in San Diego,“ added Carl Ytterberg, Kalman’s CEO.

“I made the decision to spend the $10,000 dollars, which we had not budgeted for in our bid, to package and containerize the sand and ship it to Maui. I don’t like delivering a substandard product to any customer,” he said.

“So when you see the floor, it is the best looking floor in all the South Pacific because we imported the best sand from California. It was all about keeping our customer totally happy and avoiding having to go back to fix problems. The cost for having to fix a freezer floor in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is far greater than the cost of buying the right sand and shipping it in,” he said.

That’s the kind of company Kalman is. We did not go back to the owner and say you owe us. We just took care of it and solved the problem. We did it because if this company builds another facility, we are going to get the work,” Bakke said.

The Success Of Any Distribution Business Is The Performance Of Its Warehouse Floor.

Once a warehouse or distribution center floor is built it cannot be altered. If it’s good, it’s productive for a long time. If it’s bad, it causes delays and affects profits, not to mention the owner’s customer relations.

Talk to any warehouse manager or facility owner and they will testify to the vital role an excellent floor plays in the efficiency of their operations.

“We get a lot of feedback when we’re done with a project from both new and existing owners. The owner that has switched from a standard floor to a Kalman Floor and gets a call from the warehouse manager,” explained Carl Ytterberg.

“I’ve worked for 30 years in other facilities and oh my God what a difference,” the manager exclaims. “This is the greatest!”

“We hear about these calls all the time,” Ytterberg laughed. “Warehouse managers are measured in terms of their cost for performance. If their performance is inhibited by slow-moving vehicles, that reflects on them. So they prefer to see our floor system in their warehouses.

“In the 1960s, we were the first ever to install the higher quality, premium shrinkage compensating floors. Between then and 1995 we installed at least 10 million square feet and the system began to catch on. And from 1995 to today we have installed more than 70 million square feet so it has really become the standard.

“This is when we decided to make shrinkage compensating the floor for the future. We’ve always promoted the higher quality, abrasion-resistant floor when none of our competitors wanted to bother with it. But at this point we decided there were too many repair and maintenance headaches. Our competitors now are starting to do it where years ago they really weren’t interested. We really made a market for the better floor,” Ytterberg said.

“We are now number one in the world. Every aspect of our floor systems has been detailed in such a way to serve the interests of the floor owner.”

“I’ve been at this for 28 years now and everyone at Kalman thrives on the compliments we receive from the owners. Our people have been here a long time and they are looking for more than just a paycheck. The principles of high quality, owner support and striving for excellence pays off in personal terms for each of us,” Ytterberg explained.

“Why can’t you solve these problems?”

“Years ago, our customers who were getting standard Portland cement floor from us asked us, ‘why can’t you fix these cracking and curling problems?’ We said we can and we did. And since about 1995, we stopped even offering conventional Portland cement concrete and switched to a shrinkage compensating system, which we invented, because that’s what the customers wanted,” explains Don Ytterberg.

“We began a number of years ago to promote shrinkage compensating floors as much as we could,” according to Karl Johnson, a Kalman sales engineer who has been with Kalman since 1996.

“Standard floors weren’t working and it was costing us a fortune do our warranty work. Once we really got the ball rolling, it cut our maintenance and repair work by 50 percent. When I started at Kalman we were always bidding the higher performance floor as a voluntary alternate. We’d get a set of drawings with a design for a standard floor and we would quote it as shrinkage compensating. Sometimes we would be successful but we were always trying to sell the value of the better system.

“Over time, the customer began to see the value. People understand quality and longevity. Once we get a floor installed for a new customer, they become a customer for life.” Bakke said.

“Kalman’s aim has always been to produce industrial flooring with the greatest durability and lowest maintenance requirements available. That is our reputation and that is our promise. And this is what we’ve been doing for more than 95 years,” Ytterberg stressed.

Floors That Don’t Interfere With Production.

“The concrete floor is the only system in the building that cannot easily be replaced after the building is constructed. You can patch a leaky roof but if you have 500 fork trucks running 24 hours a day, six days a week, you can’t just stop and say we aren’t going to ship product because our floor doesn’t work,” Don Ytterberg said.

“Owners put a great deal of trust in us that they won’t have to endure that problem. Our warranty lasts for up to five years but we also offer a lifetime relationship. We’ve been here almost 100 years. No matter the size of the floor — 400 SF to 400,000 SF — or the issues that arise, we are there for them. These are our friends. We need them and we hope to be needed by them.

“Our belief has always been that if we take care of our clients that they will continue to work with us. That’s how we are wired. We want to be the very best at what we do. So, we continue to challenge ourselves.

“The promise of Kalman to our customers is that the floor will serve the purpose for a very long time in a low maintenance condition. So the choice they are making in using us is the promise that the floor will be trouble free. That means modest to no cracking, low or little repairs to their equipment, high productivity where the machinery can move quickly and they can earn income by distributing their products rapidly. Abrasion resistance, cracking and joint repair all are things we work hard to minimize.

Most Owners Are Not One-Time Buyers.

“The owners we work for have a vision for their business which includes increasing their distribution arm, or manufacturing arm, in some way, whether it’s on the same property or on multiple properties. They will be well served with Kalman because we are always going deliver that high-end quality on every job. We also want them to know we are going to deliver the same product from Maine to California with the same quality,” Carl Ytterberg said.

“Nationwide experience allows us to control for local conditions. So no matter where we are working around the country we have to be quite familiar with the local aspects of the project. Our production department takes the attitude that every job is a new job. That means that we have to be sensitive to the performance of the local materials that we are proposing to use in the concrete mixture.

“That’s where the idea of the single source responsibility came into play because a lot of our clients like that. They also like the fact that since we were a national contractor we could provide a similar facility and product in the south or the northwest as we do in the northeast. A lot of the design-builders are also nationwide and once they get a good facility design going, they like to repeat what works, no matter where the facility is located.

“We really believe that in addition to selling a floor we are trying to provide the owner with a profitable and rewarding product — one that is trouble free and good looking. Many owners tell us that their Kalman floor is their best sales tool. Imagine trying to discuss the benefits of your warehouse distributing services and the customer is staring out the office windows at the floor and the watching the efficiency of the vehicle traffic. They are quickly impressed.

Anticipating Unexpected Costs.

“We had one company who had a labor dispute with their union. The warehouse in question had a floor that was so badly deteriorated that the union refused to drive on the floor to place and pick products. That’s a pretty dramatic failure,” Don Ytterberg said.

“We were called in to resurface the damaged areas. Afterward, the union sent us a letter thanking us for improving their working conditions. It was actually resulting in fewer back and fatigue failures for the fork truck drivers.

“That’s an unquantifiable cost. But if you figure it cost about $1.50 a lineal foot to replace joint filler material, or another $20 a lineal foot to cut out badly damaged joints and rebuild them, suddenly owners realize the initial extra cost for our armored joints, and drastically fewer joints, was worth it in the long run. Every dollar saved in floor maintenance and vehicle repairs is a huge payback and the payback just keeps on giving for the life of the floor.

“We want to hear owners and warehouse managers say, ‘Boy are we glad we chose Kalman because operating on this floor is superior to any of the others we’ve had.’”

Solutions For Future Expansion Challenges.

Adding to existing facilities or putting floors in difficult locations is another way Kalman supports the expansion plans of owners.

“One challenging project recently was to put a Kalman floor on a 8,500 square foot cantilevered mezzanine where the entire room was a clean room. They used HEPA filters and could not tolerate any loose particulates,” Don Ytterberg revealed.

“The challenge was to get the concrete to work in contact with corrugated decks that have internal stresses that lead to floor cracking. We were challenged, but working with the architect and the design-build engineer, we were able to install a floor with a minimum of joints. It was a real applications issue. We had to make sure we weren’t causing restraints in the slab that would prevent the slab from moving during the curing process.”

Owners Expect A High Level Of Service For The Life Of The Floor.

“There is a great deal of pride that goes into our floors. If you go look at one you can just see it. A lot of people can put in a pretty looking floor but they just put them in over a bad sub-grade or without enough armored joints. If anything goes wrong, they just say, ‘we’re not responsible. You put these details in your plans and that’s how we built it,’ according to Charlie Davis, Vice President for Production, who has been with the company for more than 50 years.

“Kalman won’t leave you hanging.

“Everybody we work for knows what we offer as far as the warranty and our extra effort to take care of our customers. Our experience has not only taught us how to build a trouble free floor but also to tell the truth,” Davis said.

“Kalman from its beginning in 1916, has always had high expectations for the installers and Carl (Ytterberg) and Don (Ytterberg) have the same attitude today. It’s the way we have always taught our people in the field.

“One of the big things about Kalman is that we stand behind our product 100 percent and more so. I’ve been back to repair floors that are 10- and 20-years-old. Most of them are small issues and most of them are not issues we caused to be honest. Such things as bad housekeeping, vehicle abuse, it doesn’t really matter. We just take care of the problem.

“Our biggest concern is when Carl (Ytterberg) comes to a job we’re pretty sure its going to cost us. And that was true with his dad too. They talk with the owner and then tell us to add something the owner wants. It’s not a matter of throwing money away. They just truly want the finished floor to be perfect.

“As production people in the field, our job is try and make money. But we’ve also been taught you don’t do it by cutting corners. There’s only one way to do it and that’s the right way,” Davis explained.