US Door & Building Components
Looking to the future
By Tom Brecke
Don't accuse John McLane or Chip Cordes of letting grass grow under their feet. McLane, founder of Roll-lite Storage Systems, and Cordes, general manager of Roll-lite, left that company earlier this year to begin a new venture called US Door & Building Components.
Specializing in the manufacturing and design of self-storage systems and components, the Ocoee, Fla.-based company has begun producing a line of light-gauge framing packages in addition to flush hallway systems, exterior doors and components for both single or multistory units. US Door offers a wide range of products, including roll-up doors, hallway systems encompassing corridor piers, filler panels and dummy units, among other components.
And while McLane and Cordes each have nearly 20 years of experience in the self-storage industry, the pair are looking to the future of the industry, utilizing technology and new design as a major boost in bringing their new company into the next century. Like the company's logo says: New Company, New Design, New Era.
Design and Compatibility
Cordes says that along with the addition of more multiple-facility owners today, the first-time owner is far more savvy than he used to be, and more likely to build a larger facility on his first go-around.
"The first-time buyers are not building little 100- or 150-unit, drive-up facilities. They're putting up 100,000 square-foot, climate-controlled complexes. Your first-time owner is requiring much more information than in the past," explains Cordes. "These guys are needing more on demographics, percentages, security measures and the types of products that will work with things like security systems. It's much more sophisticated than it was in the past."
To meet the needs of both the big and small facilities, McLane says US Door is concentrating heavily on new design and using modular systems that are compatible with existing security systems, making installation easier for the many conversions targeted in today's self-storage marketplace. In effect, the company is striving for new designs without complicating installation or production.
"In the past, too many of the hallway and door systems were made up of individual pieces and parts," says McLane. "Everybody used existing pieces that they had or that somebody else manufactured, and they brought them together to make a system. But the market has gotten to the point that it needs a system designed modularly for ease of installation."
From a quality standpoint, US Door's entire manufacturing process is conducted in the ISO 9000 environment, a designation that assures customers that what they get is a quality product.
"The ISO 9000 is a very important point because it requires that what you build be approved by an outside company," says McLane. "They come in and inspect your buildings and make sure you're meeting their standards--which means you have production and failure records available."
To keep pace with the future of the industry, which according to McLane will be the standardization and computerization of equipment and manufacturing facilities, much of the company's machinery is computerized. The high-tech movement is an effort to bring higher-quality products to the market. And McLane believes that those companies that aren't moving in that direction will have a hard time competing in the future.
"A lot of our equipment is all computerized in an effort to eliminate human error in the manufacturing and handling of the material in the manufacturing arena," says McLane. We're able to do that with standardized, modularized design systems on 5- and 10-foot increments. We can standardize fewer and more dimensional parts and give the industry what it needs."
Additionally, US Door plans to use the Internet as a strong point in its future operations and is gearing up its Website as an ordering outlet, especially for business in Europe, a virtually untapped market.
"We're working very hard to take the company into a high-tech situation by using the Internet," explains Cordes. "We see people being able to go to the pages on our Website and see how a building is put together, be able to designate the components they want and be able to order them right off the Internet. From an international standpoint, it will promote the ease of doing business with US Door for the products, hallway systems and individual building components."
Currently, the US Door Website at www.usdoor.com features a virtual walk-through that shows how a self-storage metal building is erected. It also provides information on its product-design standards and views of the hallway systems the company offers. Cordes says the company plans to have Internet-ordering capability in place by late next year.
"What I think is going to happen with the Internet is, people are going to get information about things that they don't know about," says Cordes. "What better way for us to market our product and the industry as a whole, to people all over the world, than with the Internet?"
The question everybody is asking these days is, "When will the current growth in self-storage peak?" While no one has an exact answer, McLane and Cordes were forced to ask themselves that very question before starting US Door.
Says Cordes: "The biggest question we asked ourselves when we decided to start this company was, 'How long is this surge in self- storage going to last?' I think the size of the market is increasing annually faster than we can keep up with it. Sure, the population is increasing, but it's the number of people within the population that are now aware of self-storage. I think the whole mindset of self-storage is increasing the market."
That increased knowledge is also being made clear to the decision makers for many cities and towns that are increasingly seeing self-storage as a bonus, not a plight.
"What is clear, is that the need (for storage) is there and more and more municipalities are moving toward a friendly relationship with self-storage, because they're finding it really serves a need," relates McLane. "In more and more communities today, they have zero-lot-line construction with a smaller housing unit. They're trying to stay away from having items like extra cars parked outside and the neighborhoods are adding more deed restrictions."
All of which plays right into the hand of self-storage, which is more than happy to pick up the slack and store those extra items.
For more information, contact US Door & Building Components at (407) 877-0100; fax (407) 877-8875 or Web: www.usdoor.com.