On the face of it, doors may look like an open and shut case but the variety of doors and their quality in the market, the variability of suppliers’ after-sales service and the high costs of making the wrong door/supplier choice make door selection a far from simple matter.

chazThe first decision when considering new builds or replacements is which route to use for door acquisition – direct approach to manufacturer, reliance on architects to specify, or use of materials handling consultants.

Almost invariably the best route is to deal with the experts – the door manufacturers, but it is important to compare their wares in working sites to get an idea of product reliability and after-sales service. All leading door suppliers will be happy to arrange site visits. If that all seems a bit too much because of time constraints then it’s important to pin down suppliers on their after-sales service levels, who preferably should have the skills set to service different door makes, especially if one has different makes already on site.

If moving into a speculatively-built warehouse to lease with doors already fitted, prospective tenants should realize that the doors and their peripheral devices like dock levellers may soon become inappropriate as business models change, like the move towards multi-channel deliveries. In such cases, one should find out if the lease conditions forbid any structural or door changes.

Once a door specification has been decided on it’s important to realize how their cost effectiveness can be seriously affected by safety issues and a robust maintenance regime. Regarding safety, for example, the common reasons why rapid-action doors require repairing are fairly generic to most doors on the market – impact by forklifts, damage caused by wind loadings and neglect. Truck door impact is an issue demanding better safety regimes on site, and fortunately door producers have been proactive in developing crash-out facilities to enable quick repairs and also warning sensors. Other door protection issues could include protective posts.

On a busy site, these fast-action doors move like a fiddler’s elbow many times every day and so places more emphasis on good maintenance. But one should also remember that door quality can vary widely. Union Industries, for example, have found that many customers have come to them to buy their rapid doors because they needed to replace existing doors that lasted only a relatively short time. But no matter how good the door quality may be, if the service/maintenance regime is poor then one cannot expect the best from the door. This is particularly important because many companies have cut back on capital investment for doors and so rely on users to make existing doors last longer. The troubling reality, however, is that there is still much neglect of door maintenance.

One of the prime door concerns is energy loss, influenced by “green” legislation and long-term rises in energy costs. It makes sense, therefore, to use the door suppliers’ free energy audits that should give a door payback period. However, owing to the different door types on the market, which includes the invisible kind like air curtains, one should combine the energy saving issues with repair/maintenance issues to obtain a more comprehensive cost picture. Air curtains are not subject to the same wear and tear as roller shutter doors, nor so prone to accidents and so their running costs will be less. Whenever a door is opened temperatures can drop between 4 deg C and 10 deg C but with an air curtain the difference is usually only 1 deg C. Where it was once thought that an open door policy was unavoidable, an over-door air curtain can reduce energy costs by as much as 80%. One drawback, however, is that they are not a barrier against pest ingress, an important consideration for certain environments like food and pharmaceuticals.