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The second annual MDM Distribution E-Commerce Survey conducted with Real Results Marketing revealed several key trends:

  • E-commerce revenue as a percent of overall revenue is rising relative to last year’s survey.
  • The primary objectives among distributors for e-commerce are acquiring new customers, growing wallet share with existing customers and improving website usability.
  • Respondents express mixed satisfaction with much of the functionality on their own e-commerce websites.
  • Nearly 30 percent of companies that responded have a mobile device-optimized e-commerce solution. An additional 20 percent are implementing such a solution in the next 12 months.
  • Grainger is still overwhelmingly considered to have the best website by its competitors.

E-commerce revenue as a portion of total revenue has grown significantly in the past year through the growth of existing e-commerce sites, as well as …


This article is part of the MDM series: The Shifting Competitive Landscape.

E-commerce in distribution is no longer just “nice to have”: It’s “need to have.” And the proliferation of e-commerce as an essential part of doing business – from the simplest forms to complex systems – has changed how some distributors view the market. This article examines the impact of e-commerce on the wholesale distribution channel.

There’s general consensus in the business-to-business space that e-commerce is now a “need-to-have” platform as opposed to just “nice-to-have.” Acceptance and adoption of e-commerce in distribution has grown over the past three years, but today’s e-commerce – and the role e-commerce plays in distribution – is different.

Today’s e-commerce platform goes beyond placing orders online,

One theme that has rung true from many of our outside contributors to MDM is the importance of getting out of your comfort zone and thinking differently about how to improve profitability.

We recently started running a blog on from Stuart Mechlin, a member of MDM’s Editorial Advisory Board and formerly the senior vice president for Affiliated Distributors’ Industrial Supply Division. He posits that...

Praxair Distribution, Inc., Danbury, CT, a subsidiary of Praxair, Inc., has agreed to buy Mittler Supply Inc., distributor of industrial, medical, specialty gases and related welding equipment and supplies, operating in Indiana, Michigan and Illinois. Mittler had sales of $73 million in 2006 and has 210 employees.

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Founded in 1946, Mittler operates a cylinder-gas fill plant, specialty-gas laboratory and a centralized warehouse for distribution of welding equipment and supplies at its headquarters located in South Bend, IN. The firm also operates several satellite cylinder-gas fill plants and 18 retail sales and distribution locations in the three states.

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“The addition of Mittler Supply to our existing network in the Great Lakes ...

Illinois Tool Works Inc. has sold its mechanical roofing fastener business for $26 million to OMG Inc., a subsidiary of Handy & Harman.

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The business develops and manufactures fastening systems for the commercial roofing industry.

OMG is a manufacturer of mechanical fasteners, accessories and components and building products for the commercial and residential construction industry.

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More Breaking ...

ElkCorp, Dallas, TX, manufacturer of roofing and building products, has received another offer to purchase all of ElkCorp's outstanding shares for $42 a share by an affiliate of Building Materials Corporation of America.

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The special committee and board of directors, consistent with its recently announced merger agreement with The Carlyle Group, will review the offer and make a recommendation to ElkCorp's shareholders.

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On January 16, 2007, ElkCorp announced that it has entered into an amended merger agreement with Carlyle, under which Carlyle commenced an offer to acquire all of ElkCorp's outstanding shares for $40.50 per share. The revised Carlyle tender offer represents a $2.50 increase over the $38.00 price per share provided in the ...

Jackson, MS-based Stuart C. Irby Co., a subsidiary of Sonepar USA, has acquired Burmeister Electric Company, Minneapolis, MN, and High Voltage Testing Laboratories, Fargo, ND.

Burmeister was established in 1919 to serve utility companies in the Upper Midwest.

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Burmeister is a full-line stocking distributor and manufacturers' agent offering products to the electric utilities for transmission and distribution requirements.=

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HVTL is a fully certified testing laboratory offering high voltage testing services and sales of PPE (personal protective equipment) safety products, used by electric utility lineman and field service personnel in the contractor and industrial markets.

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Burmeister will continue to ...

SKF has acquired the Preventive Maintenance Company Inc., Elk Grove Village, IL. PMCI has 70 employees with annual sales of about $10 million.

PMCI is in Predictive Maintenance services for industrial customers in the pulp and paper, metals, food, automotive and other industries. The PMCI acquisition strengthens SKF in reliability services, condition monitoring products and maintenance strategies.

The integration of PMCI into the SKF Group has just started.

Related Links:
SKF Group Sales Grow 8.3% in First Half
SKF to Buy Austrian Industrial Seals Co.


Apollo Management, which also recently invested in Rexnord, has made an investment in Bradco Supply Corp., a roofing supply distributor based in Avenel, NJ. Bradco has more than 150 branches in the U.S.

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We are happy for the relationship with Apollo, said founder Barry Segal. In a short period of time we have become comfortable with the chemistry and we see this as a great opportunity to significantly grow the company."

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Apollo is a private equity, debt and capital markets investor with offices in New York, London and Los Angeles.

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More Breaking ...

Ferguson has acquired Cal-Steam Supply Inc., a distributor of plumbing products with 10 locations in the San Francisco Bay area. Cal-Steam had sales of $148.6 million in the year ended Dec. 31, 2005.

Ferguson's parent company, Wolseley, says the acquisition will benefit from its new Stockton, CA, distribution center to be completed later this year.

Ferguson has also acquired Guntersville Fabrication and Sprinkler Co. Inc. and Guntersville Pipe and Supply. Guntersville distributors and fabricates fire protection systems with three locations in the Southeast. It serves Ohio, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana.

Guntersville had sales of $31.5 million in the year ended Oct. 31, 2006.

Related Links:
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Beacon Electric Supply in Southern California implemented a fleet management system to increase the number of deliveries drivers could make in a day. The system has also helped Beacon improve customer service levels and keep salespeople apprised of issues at the delivery site.

At Beacon Electric Supply Inc., San Diego, CA, the burden of making deliveries on time used to lay on the drivers. They would get a pile of orders and it would be up to the drivers to best determine the routes, says CFO Dan Vivier. They supposedly knew their areas better than anyone else."

While that was true, fingers were inevitably pointed at the driver whenever something went wrong with a delivery.

So Beacon implemented a fleet management software package from RouteView a ...

Hagemeyer has acquired BREVA, an electrical wholesaler-distributor of MRO products in Belgium. About 70% of BREVA's sales go to industrial customers.

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The acquisition provides Hagemeyer an entrance to the Belgian market and will allow Hagemeyer to serve the Belgian subsidiaries of its large global industrial customers.

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BREVA is headquartered in Zonhoven, Belgium.

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Hagemeyer has had revenues of &nbsp ; 4.6 billion in the first nine months of 2006. More than 90% of Hagemeyer's total revenue is generated by its core Professional Products and Services, which focuses on the value-added business-to-business distribution of electrical parts and supplies, safety and other Maintenance, Repair and Operations products in ...

HD Supply Waterworks, a subsidiary of The Home Depot, has agreed to acquire Sioux Pipe, Inc., a water and sewer distributor with two locations in South Dakota.

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With the addition of Sioux Pipe, HD Supply Waterworks creates a presence in South Dakota.

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HD Supply Waterworks supplies products in building, repairing and maintaining water and wastewater systems. It is part of HD Supply, Home Depot's wholesale division.

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Related Links:
Home Depot CEO Nardelli Resigns
HD Supply Sales Increase 159% in Third Quarter
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Border States, Fargo, ND, has agreed to buy Minnesota Electric Supply Company, a full line provider of electrical products with eight locations in Minnesota and more than 3,000 customers.

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According to Electrical Wholesaling's top 200, Border States had 2005 revenues of $601 million, and Minnesota Electric had sales of $78.3 million.

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Border States provides products and services to the construction, industrial, utility and data communications markets. The combined organization will have more than 1,200 employees and 51 branch operations in 11 states and Mexico.

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More Breaking News

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Sonepar USA, Philadelphia, PA, has acquired Dallas, TX-based Crawford Electric Supply Company, Ltd. Crawford Electric had sales of $175 million in 2005, according to Electrical Wholesaling's 2006 top 200 issue.

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The acquisition extends Sonepar USA's reach into the fast-growing Texas market.

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Crawford has locations in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. The company offers electrical and lighting products to commercial and residential contractors.

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The purchase is Sonepar USA's seventh acquisition in less than two years. Consistent with all Sonepar USA acquisitions, CESCO will retain its brand identity and autonomy.

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Sonepar USA is a member of the Sonepar group - a global ...

Air Products, Lehigh Valley, PA, has agreed to acquire the industrial gas business of Central Europe-based BOC Gazy Sp z o.o. from Linde Gas for 370 million euros (US$481 million).&nbsp ;

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For regulatory purposes, BOC Gazy was required to be sold by Linde as a result of its purchase of The BOC Group plc in September 2006.

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The BOC Gazy business had fiscal year 2006 sales of 126 million euros ($164&nbsp ; million).&nbsp ; The business has 750&nbsp ; employees, five industrial gas plants and six cylinder transfills serving customers across a diverse range of industries, including chemicals, steel and base metals, among others.

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"We're taking advantage of a unique opportunity to become the number one industrial ...
Ellison Technologies, Inc., Cleveland, OH, provider of engineered systems and industrial equipment to metal-working and metal-cutting manufacturers, has acquired Jackson Machinery Company, a privately held distributor based outside of Cleveland.The acquisition provides Ellison a stronger position in northern Ohio, a strong manufacturing base. The area includes major industrial markets such as Cleveland, Akron-Canton, Mansfield, Youngstown and Toledo. Industries represented include aerospace, automotive, agricultural, medical, and energy. Processes used include high-speed and multi-axis machining, robotic automation, continuous flow, and setup reduction. Until being acquired, Jackson Machinery was an exclusive dealer of Mori Seiki products and sub-dealer to Mori Mid-America Sales, ...

Airgas, Inc., Radnor, PA, has acquired CFC Refimax, LLC, a full-service refrigerant supplier and reclamation company based in Atlanta, GA.&nbsp ; The business, which has about 50 employees, had about $21 million in annual sales in 2006.

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Refimax has been integrated into Airgas Specialty Products, national distributor of ammonia products and services, various process chemicals, and refrigerants. Airgas Specialty Products is part of the Gas Operations Division, which also includes Airgas Carbonic and Dry Ice, and Airgas Nitrous Oxide.&nbsp ;

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Refimax has operations in Atlanta and Houston, and five third-party distribution warehouse locations in York, PA; Reno, NV; Indianapolis, IN; New Orleans, LA; and Dallas, TX. ...

Kennametal Inc., Latrobe, PA, has agreed to acquire Federal Signal Corporation's cutting tool business comprised of Manchester Tool Company, ClappDiCO Corporation and On Time Machine, Inc. for $67 million.

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With annual sales of about $40 million, Federal Signal Corporation's cutting tool business produces, markets and services super hard polycrystalline diamond and cubic boron nitride cutting tools, tool holding systems and certain specialized turning tools which are complementary to Kennametal's product range.

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Kennametal says the acquisition is consistent with its growth strategy and with the company's previously stated intentions for the use of cash.

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We ...

Praxair Distribution, Danbury, CT, a division of Praxair Canada Inc., has acquired the Canadian propane tank-exchange business of Blue Rhino, a Ferrellgas Partners L.P. company.

Under the agreement, Praxair acquired more than 900 propane tank-exchange display cages at retail locations across Canada. In addition, it will take over the contract to supply more than 300 retail gasoline stations belonging to Shell Canada Products with 20-pound propane tanks for their exchange program. In conjunction with this transaction, Praxair also signed a distributor agreement with Superior Tank Incorporated. Superior Tank will serve Praxair's propane tank-exchange customers in the Atlantic Provinces.

Previously, Praxair provided propane ...
The manufacturing industry in Latin America continued expanding during the first three quarters of 2008, underpinned by strong growth in Brazil and Argentina, but a new report says macroeconomic conditions in the region have deteriorated, and growth expectations for 2009 have dropped sharply. Manufacturing production growth will decelerate appreciably in 2009, according to the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI Latin America Outlook: 2008-2009, a bi-annual analysis that examines the latest trends and provides a near-term forecast for 16 major industries.

The report focuses on Latin America's three largest economies-Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico-as these countries are responsible for more than 80% of the ...
The U.S. manufacturing sector contracted in December for the fifth consecutive month, say the nation's supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM Report on Business.

According to ISM, manufacturing activity declined at a rapid rate in December. The decline covers all industries, as none of the industries in the sector reported growth. New orders have contracted for 13 consecutive months, and are at the lowest level on record going back to January 1948.

Order backlogs have fallen to the lowest level since ISM began tracking the Backlog of Orders Index in January 1993. Manufacturers are reducing inventories and shutting down capacity to offset the slower rate of activity.

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The desire to go green often is offset by concerns about the upfront cost of the necessary changes. Knoxville Wholesale Furniture, Knoxville, TN, spent $125,000 on three machines to process Styrofoam, plastic and cardboard for recycling, according to a recent article at
But the payback expected is more than worth that investment, according to owner Tim Harris. The company is already seeing tangible results from that purchase and other actions taken to green the wholesaler's primary location: Instead of six loads of trash a day, the company empties one Dumpster of trash into the local landfill each week -slashing waste management costs. With the cost savings realized, Harris expects the investment to pay for itself in one year.
For more details ...
The economy has officially shifted into lower gear after a turbulent ride in the second half of 2008. This article is an overview of trends and events in the past year in the wholesale distribution sector.
At the end of 2007, MDM published an article titled, Preparing for Uncertainty in 2008."At the time, the economy was starting to show signs of weakening. Certain sectors -automotive and housing — had already taken a dive. And deal-making had started to ease.
But we could not have guessed the enormity of change that would take place this year -particularly in the second half. Financial markets collapsed and previously stalwart institutions went under.
Residential construction plummeted further. In November, unemployment rose to 6.7%; half a million jobs ...
The collapse of the financial markets, the drops in new residential construction, and the pronouncement that the U.S. is in a recession have all contributed to a general feeling of pessimism about the state of the economy.
The results of the Institute for Supply Management December 2008 Semiannual Economic Forecast show just how widespread that pessimism is.
Business investment, a major driver in the U.S. economy, is expected to decline as both sectors expect a combined 7.6 percent decline in capital spending. Sixty-five percent of survey respondents expect revenues to be the same or smaller in 2009 than in 2008. The panel of purchasing and supply executives expects a 1.1 percent net decrease in overall revenues for 2009, compared to a 2.2 percent decrease ...
Optimism is a rare thing in today's economy. Companies around the world are shuttering plants or cutting production to combat the recession that began in the U.S. and has since spread to other countries and continents. But according to the results of McKinsey Quarterly's Economic Conditions Snapshot, December 2008, there are a few bright spots out there.
About 27% of companies responding to the survey are considering positive strategic moves, like introducing new products or expanding markets, in the coming months. About 13% are planning to do so without implementing any defensive measures, such as cutting capital spending.
And smaller and private companies appear to be doing better than their large and public counterparts. Executives of 62% of the small or ...
Source: U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development
Privately-owned housing starts in November were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 625,000. This is 18.9% below the revised October estimate of 771,000 and is 47% below the revised November 2007 rate of 1,179,000. Single-family housing starts in November were at a rate of 441,000; this is 16.9% below the October figure of 531,000. The November rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 166,000.
Building Permits
Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in November were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 616,000. This is 15.6% below the revised October rate of 730,000 and is 48.1% below the revised November 2007 estimate of ...
According to a report released today by RSM McGladrey, executives of U.S. wholesale-distributors have altered their growth and operational strategies to offset sector weaknesses and the rising costs of doing business, mainly associated with labor and energy.
RSM McGladrey's Distribution Industry Report was extracted from the results of the firm's 2008 Manufacturing and Wholesale Distribution National Survey conducted earlier this year. More than 960 industry executives, including 303 Distribution executives from 284 companies responded to the survey.
According to the survey, business conditions for many distribution companies have declined. Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed described their companies as thriving and growing,"a decline of 21% from RSM ...
Mercer Consulting reported results of its recent Snapshot Survey, where more than 1,000 organizations in the first two weeks of November told about the challenges they face as a result of the current economic turmoil.
Despite all the bad news, according to Mercer, most appear to be "refraining from taking drastic actions."Here are a few benchmarks: 

  • Nearly three-quarters of respondents say they are somewhat or very likely to reduce their 2009 pay increase budgets, but far fewer are somewhat or very likely to freeze salaries across the organization. Nearly two-thirds are not planning to reduce work forces by "significant levels." 

  • ...
Canada may follow the U.S. into a recession, according to an economist interviewed for a recent article in MDM, Forecast: Canada Faces a Rough First Half."Demand for Canada's products in the U.S. continues to fall despite a weakening of the Canadian dollar. About a third of Canada's GDP is based on exports to the U.S.
What's more, commodity prices and demand for raw materials have softened, putting a damper on the historically strong resources sector. And though Canada's banking system has not seen the same turmoil as in the U.S., more businesses are reporting tighter credit conditions in the final quarter of the year.
Read the full story on Canada's economy.

Motion Industries ...
We asked in the MDM Reader Survey recently what special topics you wanted to see covered by MDM in the next year. Here are some of those answers, with in some cases, links to recent premium content articles on the topic: 
BNET ( says one way that companies can boost employee morale in a time of budget cuts and layoff fears, is to sacrifice executive pay to send a message down the ladder that "we're all in it together."
The article cites $37.5B foodservice distributor Sysco Corp.'s experience. Apparently the distributor's top 15 executives announced last summer they would voluntarily take a 5% pay cut. The rest of the executives got a pay freeze for the next year. Everyone else got a 3% pay increase -that is 50,000 employees.
A Sysco spokesman is quoted in the article as saying:
"We wanted to show our people that it was a tough economic time, but that the corporate office was going to take the first hit."
And ...
Source: Statistics Canada
The Canada/U.S. exchange rate, as well as a notable decrease in the price of petroleum and coal products, both affected October's manufacturing results. The change in the exchange rate had a strengthening effect for manufacturers who determine their prices in U.S. dollars. On the other hand, the price of petroleum and coal products dropped 13.5% in October, reducing the value of sales in that industry.

In constant dollars, manufacturing sales decreased 1.8% compared with September, bringing constant dollar sales to their lowest level since December 2001.

In October, 8 of 21 manufacturing industries, accounting for about 40% of total sales, posted decreases.

By Sector

Petroleum and coal ...
Industrial production decreased 0.6 percent in November with declines widespread across industries. The drop in output in September was revised down, and the rebound in October was revised up, in large part because both the decrease due to the September hurricanes and the subsequent partial recovery in October were larger than previously reported.

Manufacturing production dropped 1.4 percent in November despite the resumption of activity in the commercial aircraft industry after the resolution of a strike early in the month. The output of mines advanced 2.5 percent, primarily as a result of a further post-hurricane recovery in crude oil and natural gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico. Taken together, the rebounds after the strike and the hurricanes added almost 1 percentage ...
The Producer Price Index for Finished Goods fell 2.2 percent in November, seasonally adjusted, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported. This decline followed decreases of 2.8 percent in October and 0.4 percent in September. At the earlier stages of processing, prices received by manufacturers of intermediate goods dropped 4.3 percent in November after falling 3.9 percent in the prior month, and the crude goods index declined 12.5 percent subsequent to an 18.6-percent decrease in October.
Among prices for finished goods, the index for energy goods fell 11.2 percent in November following a 12.8-percent drop in the preceding month. Prices for consumer foods were unchanged after declining 0.2 percent in October. By contrast, partially counteracting ...
Statistics Canada reported that Canadian industries reduced their use of production capacity for a fifth straight quarter in the third quarter, with a majority of sectors, especially the automobile and construction sectors, contributing to the downturn.
Industries operated at 77.4% of their capacity, down from 77.7% in the second quarter. This was the rate's lowest level since data were first kept in 1987. The rate in the third quarter of 2008 was 9.7 percentage points below its peak of 87.1% reached in the fourth quarter of 2000.
In the transportation equipment manufacturing industry, almost two-thirds of which consists of automobile and parts manufacturers, capacity ...
Late Thursday, news broke that the U.S. Senate could not come to an agreement on a bailout loan package for the U.S. automakers. Now, hope for the Big Three lies almost entirely with the White House, where the president is considering using money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program to keep Chrysler and GM from filing bankruptcy in a matter of weeks. Collapse of the auto industry could cost 2.5 million jobs in related industries, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's
Automotive News reported that about $15 billion remains from the initial funding of TARP, exactly the amount the automakers say they need to stave of bankruptcy through the first quarter of 2009. (Read the full article from ...
A number of manufacturers have announced layoffs in the past couple of weeks, citing weakness in the global automotive, industrial and construction markets.
The Stanley Works announced that it would be cutting 2,000 positions, or 10% of the current employee base. It will also be closing three manufacturing facilities and eliminating certain layers of management."
In a news release, the company explained:
"During previous recessions dating back to the early 1970s, at times when the company had much higher percentage exposure to CDIY markets and customers than today, the company's physical unit volume shipments have never declined by 7% or greater for two consecutive quarters. As previously reported, the company's third quarter 2008 unit volume ...
National distributor sales of HVACR products for October were down 0.8% from a year ago, according to the Monthly Targeted and Regional Economic News for Distribution Strategies Report, produced by Heating, Airconditioning and Refirigeration Distributors International.
Among the eight HARDI regional reports, four in colder climates reported positive sales while four reported sales declines for the month. Over the previous twelve months, U.S. and Canadian wholesale sales were collectively up +0.2%.
Canada experienced the best performance for October with sales up 9.4%, while the Western region reported the poorest performance, down 11.1%. Only the Midwest region reported a decline in inventory level; all others indicated inventories were up. ...
Like so many other companies in the current economy, 3M is finding itself in a position of making difficult decisions in order to survive. Over the past week, the company has announced that it would be laying off 2,300 workers before the end of the fourth quarter. Pay increases have already been deferred for many, and temporary workers and overtime have been eliminated. CEO George Buckley told analysts in a recent 2009 earnings outlook presentation that more cuts will be made if necessary.
But, according to Buckley, survival isn't enough. The changes being made at the company are all being made with the perspective that they will strengthen the company for when the economy returns to more sane"conditions. "This is the time for prudence, but it's not the time for ...

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