The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

2015 Trends Snapshot: Fasteners Distribution

This article is part of MDM's 2015 Distribution Trends Special Issue. It provides a quick look at key trends affecting the fasteners distribution sector.

The annual feature was researched and written by MDM editors based on interviews with dozens of wholesaler-distributors, as well as industry experts and manufacturers. MDM also conducted a survey of its readers to uncover the trends outlined in this issue.

The full special issue is available to download in PDF format to MDM Premium subscribers. Subscribe below for full access. Or log-in if you are already a subscriber.

Trends outlined in the 2015 report include:

  • Good & Bad News for U.S. Economy
  • Distributors Get Back to the Basics
  • ‘Doubling Down’ on Distributor Relationships
  • Distributors Embrace, Expand Online Customer Base
  • Distributors Seeking ‘Lean’ Supply Chain
  • Distributors Adapt to More Sophisticated Supply Chain
  • Distributors Combine Traditional, New Means for Recruiting
  • Distributors Change Tune on Generational Shift
  • Trend Snapshots for 13 Sectors

The report also includes the following case studies and interviews:

  • 2015 MDM Market Movers
    • AJ Adhesives Takes Service to New Level
    • Plumbers Supply’s “Win-Win-Win-Win”
  • MDM Market Leader Profiles
    • Culture Drives Success for ERIKS North America
    • TTI’s Strategic Approach to Global Growth

This is a part of the 2015 Distribution Trends Special Issue. The annual feature was researched and written by MDM editors based on interviews with dozens of distributors, as well as industry experts and manufacturers. MDM also conducted a survey of its readers to uncover the trends outlined in this issue.


2015 Distribution Trends Special Issue


The sector is performing well, according to Fastener Distribution Industry's latest report. April's index of 55.4, seasonally adjusted at 52.1, was an improvement from the previous two months, though down from November's 57.4 and 60.1, respectively. Sales, employment and supplier deliveries also are growing, and month-to-month and year-to-year pricing are higher, although respondent and customer inventories are too low, according to FDI. Business is "steady flat," with no big increases or decreases, says Mike McGuire, editor of American Fastener Journal. But, the outlook remains positive, because, McGuire says, "it's a steady industry and we are going to always need it. It's never going to go away."

Change is happening quickly in fasteners, especially with logistics. M&A will continue to transform the sector, but the biggest drivers for change will be in technology and the speed of the sales cycle. "With technology the way it's advancing, we won't recognize the fastener business five years from what it's like today," McGuire says. "There's so much with barcoding and vending inventory management systems being available, now you can locate the product on the factory floor or if it's at the receiving dock or the UPS truck and it will be delivered in an hour. The logistics of the industry is going to change drastically."

The recent West Coast port slowdown provided a spike in orders for domestic fastener manufacturers, but that has since flattened, McGuire says. And the port situation forced many fasteners distributors to rethink their supply chains, especially as they saw materials get delayed in transit from Asia. "It’s caused people to kind of re-evaluate what is the optimal way to get products from Asia here," saysJim Derry, president, Field Fastener, Machesney Park, IL. "I think it’s caused people to step back and say, What is the best supply chain?  What’s the best logistics channel?"

Talent acquisition continues to be a struggle for the sector. The fasteners industry lags overall U.S. business when it comes to successfully recruiting young employees, says Tim O'Keefe, CEO, G.L. Huyett, Minneapolis, KS. "The work environments, the training environments, the nurturing and also, just in terms of things people in the millennial generation are looking at for their personal development, I think the fasteners industry kind of lacks best practices to some extent," he says. "I think as time goes on in the distribution business, people will become more of a competitive weapon."

Lowered materials pricing is a boon. The softening of a variety of material prices, especially steel prices domestically and in Asia, is a huge plus for the sector, says Derry. "As the cost of steel and ore and scrap tend to trickle down, that tends to be good for all of us," he says. "Because we’re seeing the same with plastic and nylon and even some of the stainless, the non-ferrous alloys, we’re seeing not huge reductions but general, kind of a trickle down of costs, and that’s certainly a good thing."

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