This is a part of the 2017 Distribution Trends Special Issue. The annual feature was researched and written by MDM based on interviews with dozens of distributors, industry experts and manufacturers. MDM also conducted a survey of its readers to uncover the trends outlined in this issue.
2017 Distribution Trends Special Issue
MDM identified a handful of other distribution trends to watch for the rest of 2017 and into next year. Look for stories on these and other topics relevant to the industry in future issues of MDM Premium and at mdm.com.
New ways to approach training: Talent retention will grow more competitive in coming years as distributors work to keep the employees they struggled to land out of college or from a competitor or another industry. One way to achieve this is by finding new ways to train employees, according to Dan Tinker, president and CEO, SRS Distribution, McKinney, TX.
“We don’t cookie-cutter it,” he says. “Everyone in our training program has a mentor, who gives them specific guidance, advice and lessons that are customized to that person. There’s a lot of one-to-one mentoring that goes on to transfer that knowledge. It keeps them engaged and gives them a concrete career path.”
Shifting the focus away from delivery: A distributor’s value-add is providing customers what they want when they need it, but many companies are striving for an even loftier goal – providing customers what they want before they need it and taking the urgency of delivery off the board, according to Steve Slater, COO, Stellar Industrial Supply, Tacoma, WA.
“More than 60 percent of our customers have some type of semi-automated or automated replenishment,” he says. “The item is there when they need it. In those cases where we don’t have that, what we are trying to do is to work with our vendors and get guaranteed expedited delivery. In all of our capabilities, what we want to do is completely avoid that specialized delivery dilemma. (When you’ve done that) you’ve taken out the doubt. You’ve taken out the risk. You’ve taken out the expense.”
BUT, look for increased usage of delivery apps: As delivery demands increase in light of the Amazon effect, some distributors are looking to Uber Freight, Cargomatic and other apps that match shippers with customers to ensure an order arrives on time. Not only can distributors take advantage of these services for delivering their own goods, but they can use company vehicles for extra revenue, according to Mark Bray, supply chain director, ACR Supply, Durham, NC.
“It could be a value-added service on either end for a company that’s got its own truck fleet,” he says. “If I’ve got a truck 150 miles down the road, it’s about to drive back empty and there’s a pallet or two that needs be picked up somewhere and delivered along that lane, I can use the app to make a few extra bucks and not ride around with an empty truck.”