As competition in the electrical distribution industry intensifies, it’s essential for distributors to have the right product in the right place at the right time. Customers have access to an increasing number of vendors, services and solutions, which means distributors have to execute traditional logistics efforts with excellence while embracing new methods to continue to satisfy customers’ ever-evolving needs.
IMARK members are well-recognized for providing the highest levels of customer service in the electrical distribution industry. IMARK Now Electrical interviewed the logistics managers of three IMARK member companies to determine what makes theirs market-leading logistics organizations in an era when customers are demanding faster deliveries as a result of technological advancements and rapid product fulfillment by companies like Amazon.
F.D. Lawrence Electric Co., Cincinnati, Ohio
Kevin Tuepker has been the warehouse manager at F.D. Lawrence Electric Co. for the past three years. The company has three branch locations, one in Cincinnati, another in Dayton, Ohio and a third in Burlington, Kentucky. Tuepker manages the warehouse personnel and inventory, as well as the company’s vehicle fleet. Customer satisfaction is his top priority, and to him that means delivering accurate orders on time. “We are responsible for deliveries all over the tri-state area,” he said. “Our team steps up and makes it happen every single day. When a customer is in a bind and we’re able to help them out, it is very rewarding to us.”
To ensure quality deliveries, F.D. Lawrence employs the use of tablets for real-time tracking and reliable delivery times. “They enable us to track our drivers and know right where they’re at,” Tuepker said. “This enables us to accurately tell the customer when to expect delivery. Also, real-time signatures help the sales team.”
While digital transformation helps improve efficiency, Tuepker said dedicated employees are the most essential attribute of a marketleading logistics organization. “The people who work here are always willing to help others and go above and beyond for the customer and their fellow co-workers,” he said. When asked if suppliers could do anything to help make F.D. Lawrence even more efficient, Tuepker said, “Using the correct trucking company that will help the process when items are damaged, shorted or incorrect.”
Mars Electric, Mayfield Village, Ohio
Alex Spinos has been the director of warehousing and logistics at Mars Electric for three-and-a-half years. He manages the warehouse operations, along with the private fleet, outside carriers and inventory management programs. Mars Electric operates 12 branches, with 99% of its orders shipped from a central distribution center (CDC). Spinos is fully responsible for deploying the company’s 13 trucks into the marketplace daily. “The most rewarding workdays are those when we have zero errors and 100% customer satisfaction,” Spinos said.
As business continues to grow at Mars Electric, job complexity increases. Spinos said the company relies on three important factors to ensure logistics continue to run smoothly—safety, people and the ability to react. “Safety is most important,” he said.
“Mars prides itself on its people, especially our drivers who are our ambassadors to our customers. The ability to react to customer needs as they arise, especially unplanned ones, by providing same-day deliveries if the situation merits that level of attention is also very important.” Mars Electric prides itself on the on-time delivery of accurate orders. “I’d say that Mars is what Amazon modeled its business after—order today, deliver tomorrow,” Spinos said.
To ensure Mars Electric maintains a competitive advantage in the marketplace, the company employs technology from Innovo to notify customers of deliveries, monitor drivers and delivery progress and capture signatures from customers. The company also has an edge in the marketplace with its dedicated drivers. “Our drivers at Mars are really special and make a huge difference for us in the marketplace while safely delivering our product,” Spinos said. “A lot of customers choose Mars because of the service our drivers provide. Our drivers will go out of their way to proactively communicate with their customers on jobsites, listen to their needs, help when needed and make it easy to do business with Mars, especially on returns and vendormanaged inventory jobsites. Mars Electric drivers also excel at advising the logistics planners of jobsite needs (liftgates, narrow pallets, weight restrictions, etc.) to make sure we can expediently deliver our product.”
As the company grows and serves more customers in more geographic locations, employees continue to focus on how to make the organization even more efficient. “On the supplier side, we do see opportunities where consolidation of inbound freight PO shipments could make our receiving department and their shipping departments both more efficient,” Spinos said.
W.Va. Electric Supply Co., Huntington, West Virginia
Mike Baisden has been the operation manager at W.Va. Electric Supply Co. for the past four years. In the position, he supervises warehouse/logistics, purchasing, accounts payable, product management, the vehicle fleet and IT. “We currently have eight branches including one that is attached to our CDC. We supply our branches nightly from our CDC and we ship products to our customers from all of our locations. I manage our entire vehicle fleet (personally-assigned vehicle, delivery vans and DOT trucks). Warehouse managers and branch managers coordinate their delivery activities.”
Employees wear a lot of hats, so time management and prioritization are essential yet challenging aspects of their jobs. “It is very rewarding when we find and implement more efficient ways of reaching our work goals,” Baisden said.
In today’s fast-paced market, using technology to organize material movements is necessary, according to Baisden. “Good communication is equally important because you must be in tune with your customers’ needs to properly set up a logistical plan,” he added.
When it comes to customers’ expectations, Baisden said they expect on-time delivery by a polite employee, an accurate order and notification of any missing items as early as possible. “We definitely live in an instantgratification society. Our customers want everything yesterday, just like everyone else’s. Amazon has definitely added pressure in that respect.”
W.Va. Electric Supply Co. uses the Eclipse ERP system and RF scanners for material movements. “This has increased our efficiency and has sped up the order fulfillment process,” Baisden said. “It has also made deliveries easier to organize.”
The company employs polite, presentable, personable and attentive drivers. “They are oftentimes the face seen the most by our customers, so it is important that they realize that they hold an important job and should always put their best effort forth while interacting with our customers,” Baisden said.
There is always room for improvement in operational efficiencies at any company. “Getting better at large shipment notifications would help our efficiencies,” Baisden said. “Most issues in this area are caused by the actual freight carrier, but there have been quite a few times when we would have benefited from a notification.” In this day and age, logistics is finally gaining the importance it deserves.
This is primarily due to the rise in e-commerce, which is experiencing year-on-year growth. Logistics service providers attribute success to various key factors at their companies. And although the logistics industry is adapting to the new digital age, it is apparent from the participants in this article that superior customer service and dedicated employees are still at the heart of maintaining the competitive edge in the marketplace.