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Most distributors are in a healthier spot than a year ago. The numbers and forecasts, including the one on the front page of this issue, are more upbeat.
We're hearing executives talk about opportunities developing, not about dodging multiple threats that kept many companies slogging quarter by quarter to defend their turf. That's a welcome change. So what's on your plate for the New Year?
A recent MDM readership survey surfaced key planning issues for 2005. Respondents told us the primary focus is to get everyone in the company aligned, to work smarter, often for a smaller pool of opportunities. The consensus is to run leaner with less inventory, penetrating the existing customer base with a deeper set of products and services.
More so than in the past, companies look to leverage relationships with fewer key suppliers and buying/marketing groups. They are tapping into master distribution resources to buy smarter and expand their product portfolios.
That lines up with what we're hearing from customers, who are focused on their P's and Q's in 2005: Productivity, Process improvement, Quality and Quickness. Customers don't want inventory, just quick access to what they want now. Production facilities want faster throughput and more flexibility for changeover or customization. That's putting a larger premium on quality parts and innovative products, more standardization, and services behind the products that help streamline and gain more bottom-line productivity.
Some distributors feel squeezed by that scenario; others see a chance to add value and win business. And that's precisely the cycle of how independent distribution continues to elevate its value to customers and why it is more relevant and important than ever.