This enhances the customer’s relationship with the distributor. “In today’s global economy, this is a key ingredient for survival.”
Other distribution-specific case studies can be found at www.mdm.com/stories/distcasestudies.html.
This tooling distributor implemented fee-based safety audits after a request five years ago from one of its biggest customers. The service has strengthened C.J. Smith’s relationship with its customers and in some cases opened the door for sales to meet safety requirements uncovered during the audits.
C.J. Smith Machinery, Fenton, MO, was founded in 1983 by current president Charles J. Smith. The distributor of metal-cutting and metal-forming tools has nine employees and covers Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Southern Illinois and Iowa.
C.J. Smith’s customer base is diverse and includes suppliers of parts to the automotive, appliance and agriculture industries.
The idea for OSHA Plant Assessment and Training sprang from one customer’s needs.
The corporate office of that customer required a safety audit of its stamping department. C.J. Smith had sold several safety items to this customer, including light curtains and new press controls, and so the safety director asked Vice President David C. Smith if he knew anyone who could perform the audit.
Smith, who had gone through several trainings in the area, offered to do the job. The customer accepted.
Smith audits each piece of stamping equipment and outlines critical safety needs and best practices. He then does a thorough report on each work center and reviews the findings with supervisors. At the end of the audit, Smith delivers a study complete with pictures and references to ANSI regulations.
The five-year-old program is fee-based. Smith submits a bid to companies based on the amount of equipment to be assessed as well as how much time it will take to produce a comprehensive report.
The service has taken off for C.J. Smith. Several large corporations require this type of audit. In fact, Smith has gained business through sister companies of his largest customers, who have requested Smith travel to their facilities throughout the U.S.
The service has strengthened C.J. Smith’s relationship with its customers and has given it a deeper understanding of their needs.
C.J. Smith has also increased product sales. After Smith points out deficiencies in compliance with ANSI standards, companies often request a quote from the distributor to meet these requirements. In most cases, orders for safety equipment soon follow.
What you find is that you are able to gain a different level of confidence with the customer because you are able to demonstrate a knowledge that helps to bring better safety and productivity to the stamping area,” Smith says.
Smith is also able to spot additional needs a company might have because he is on the floor auditing his customers’ operations.
It sometimes takes a little time to convince customers of the value of the service. “The biggest challenge is getting the supervisors and operators to accept the fact that safety in the pressroom is a huge challenge,” he says. Many tell him: “We have done it this way for years and have never had an issue.”
Find Your Niche
“In this very competitive marketplace, find an area you are strong in and research whether it is marketable,” Smith advises.
“Companies today are very lean and only have the staff that can meet the everyday needs of the facility. When something requires an area of expertise, they look to outside help for solutions.”
A safety audit cannot be done by just anyone. Smith has years of experience. Still, to protect himself and the company, a lawyer drafted a contract outlining his responsibilities and ensuring the company is not held liable for any issues related to the safety audit.
Smith thinks distributors who are tuned to their customers’ needs can create similar services. Customers will pay for sound solutions,