Have you ever taken pictures of your moves? What if you had pictures that could tell you in an instant why you were having damage claims? If you knew the cause of the claims, you’d have a good chance of preventing them.

Back in our early days at Peachtree Movers, damage claims got so out of control that I once (jokingly) told a friend that our official slogan should be, “We’ll break your furniture for you very carefully.” But it was no joke; claim expenses were exceeding move revenues. At times I thought that we were in business solely to support the furniture repair companies in Atlanta. Even our limited liability of $.60 per pound per article didn’t prevent us from losing money. Something had to be done and preaching to our movers about being more careful accomplished nothing. The only feedback that I got from my supervisors was finger pointing such as, “You keep sending new guys out on the job and that’s why there’s damage.” Or they’d like to blame the customer by saying, “You know a lot of times we get blamed for damage that we didn’t cause but was already there.” Or they’d blame their fellow workers by saying, “Some of our movers (whose names always remained anonymous) need to slow down and not work so fast because that’s how the furniture gets torn up.”

Elevator protectoin

With no solution in sight, I tried another approach. I took my camera out to several office moves and shot pictures of every separate moving activity. I got pictures of dolling and undolling furniture, loading machine carts, pushing furniture, loading and unloading the elevator, pushing furniture through the building’s main glass entrance doors, up and down the ramp and padding and loading the furniture onto the truck. I then met individually with all of my employees, showed them the pictures and asked them to tell me where they thought most of the damage was occurring. Even the “new guys” had no trouble identifying the problem—The consensus of opinion was that most damage occurred going on and off the elevator, through narrow entrance doors, and on the ramp. Large executive desks often rubbed against reception room and building glass doors and top-heavy file cabinets fell against elevator frames and walls while passing over elevator thresholds. Apparently, the incline of our “standard” 12-foot long moving ramps was too steep. Most damage occurred at the angle where the ramps met the pavement by sheering off edges of desks and knocking furniture off dollies. The steep incline made it difficult and dangerous to push heavy items such as loaded machine carts and fireproof file cabinets up the ramp. My movers tackled this problem by getting a running head start on the pavement. However, when they missed the center of the runway and crashed into the ramp, the furniture and carts went airborne.

With these “pictures” of the problems, I developed a unique patented device called Mat-A-Doors® and they do just that. Two reinforced foam vinyl-covered panels attach to the outer frame of a passenger elevator that is also used to haul freight. Since the Mat-A-Doors™ cover the elevator jambs and wall panels in front of the elevator with elevator pads, curtains and mats, the risk of damage from movers is greatly reduced to the furniture and the building surfaces. Mat-A-Doors™ are made of a durable vinyl material; fold up for compact storage and set-up in seconds. They can also be used to protect reception room and glass lobby entrance doors as well as the furniture passing through them.

I assumed that the solution for the ramp problem would be simple—Buy a longer truck ramp. Unfortunately, the “standard” longer truck ramps had a significantly lower load capacity and were too large to fit under my trucks. Without a longer ramp, the only solution was to have my movers switch from the ramp to the lift gate whenever there was a bulky or unwieldy piece of furniture. This didn’t work, though, because they refused to switch back and forth—ramp—lift gate—ramp; and using just the lift gate proved to be too slow.

With no solution, ramp claims kept rising until one day I casually mentioned the problem to one of my rep from one of my moving company suppliers. To my pleasant surprise, he told me that he would discuss my “need” with the owners of his company to see if they could find a solution. Our conversation occurred in the spring of 1983 and by the summer of that year, all of my trucks were outfitted with a new and unique ramp. The customized ramp was 16 feet long, had a 4,000-pound load capacity and consisted of two 8-foot long sections that weighed only 100 pounds each. The ramp was locked into place in the middle by an adjustable support. The gradual incline ramp proved so successful in preventing damage as well as reducing the risk of workers compensation injuries, that it became our standard ramp for all of our new truck purchases.

Door, elevator and wall protection during office moves

When setting up the ramp, we eliminated the bump at the bottom by inserting a 1/16th inch thick steel plate that overlapped the pavement. The smooth taper prevented the casters from hanging up on the lip of the ramp and allowed the furniture to stay on the 4-wheel dolly on the trip up the ramp. Without a bump at the bottom to slam into, the casters lasted a lot longer, too.

So when conventional methods fail to identify the cause of your claim problems, try giving my approach a try—It just might work. Take pictures of your moves and solicit advice from your staff. Ask your moving equipment supplier to help, too.   Since he visits lots of movers, he might know of a solution that’s working for another mover who has a similar problem.

Ed Katz, founder and former owner of Peachtree Movers in Atlanta, heads the International Office Moving Institute. For more information, visit www.officemoves.comedkatz@officemoves.com, , 404.358.2172.