Partnering on the Supply Side

Partnering on the Supply Side

Supply distributors need to provide more than just logistics services.

Downtime is money, but exactly how much? When it comes to production cycles, a single hour of downtime for papermaking, steelmaking and certain chemical processing equipment can be valued at more than $25,000, which can add up to millions annually across an enterprise, according to Bill Moore, senior vice president of channel management for SKF USA Inc., a manufacturer of ball bearings and maintenance and lubrication products.

Based on his experiences with authorized distributors, Moore believes that distributors offer the potential of helping manufacturers significantly lower their overall cost of operations. For example, he notes, "distributors of rotating components can facilitate cost-reducing services that range from condition monitoring of equipment to the more advanced root cause failure analysis."

Condition monitoring, he explains, identifies impending component failure. "This allows plant managers to change out faulty components before they reach emergency status and mandate unscheduled stoppages in machinery for repair."

Root cause failure analysis, as Moore notes, "pinpoints the source of recurring machine failure, such as improper lubrication or a soft footing beneath a machine leg that can cause rotating components to fail prematurely. Once isolated, the trouble points can be corrected, bringing repetitive problems to a halt." Both of these maintenance practices can yield huge savings.

Bill Moore, senior vice president of channel management, SKF USA Inc.

Distributor authorization and related certifications do not come easily, Moore points out, as achieving them can require months of training in a manufacturer's product technology, consulting and troubleshooting procedures, and maintaining a rigorous quality process.

"Only 15% of rotating component distributors carry SKF authorization," he says, adding that the 2,000-plus member Electrical Apparatus and Service Association can boast of just 22 SKF-certified shops.

In addition to full-service authorized distributors, supply-source alternatives include telemarketers, Internet-based resellers, brick and mortar catalog houses, and specialty and multiline distributors. Due diligence on the buyer's part is essential, and Moore cites five points that help identify a distributor as a valued business partner, and not just a logistics supplier:

  1. "The distributor's representatives interact with your plant engineers, operations management, quality control and maintenance departments to discuss and help resolve equipment problems. They can readily make available expert technical services."
  2. "The distributor puts to rest fears associated with counterfeit, out-of-date or previously returned product by guaranteeing the supply of bona fide, brand name quality products. The brands' owners are known for their technical capabilities and product innovation."
  3. "The distributor has strategically placed stocking facilities and representatives in proximity to all of your plant locations."
  4. "Deliveries are on-time. Product usage is monitored. Spares for critical applications are available for emergency shipments."
  5. "Your plant managers know the names of your distributor's representatives."

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