Jeff Winkel, a distribution industry veteran with more than 40 years of experience, is determined to not sit still and watch e-commerce companies like AmazonSupply and Alibaba take
So Winkel, the owner of the Steel Toe Group, an engineered
products distributor of pumps, seals, and electric motors, along
with his partner Karel Minneboo, has started a separate online
company called OnHandSupply.com (OHS) that will add technical
expertise to commodity products. The arrival of the company is
certain to raise some eyebrows in the industrial distribution business because OHS will be selling direct to end users.
“We like to think of ourselves as a national vending machine for
ANSI pumps,” Winkel says. “We’re providing a route to market
that didn’t exist before.”
The online company will be selling ANSI pump replacement
parts and related products as well as mechanical seals, packing,
couplings, and coupling guards. It will be expanding its product
offerings in 2015.
OHS describes itself as having a vertically-integrated factory,
meaning that all processes, including engineering, machining,
testing, and service/ repair, pattern shop, foundry are done in-house. The products are delivered from five regional warehouses
(not owned by OHS) to customers within 1-2 business days ground,
or even faster if an emergency situation occurs.
“What we have done is create a continuing manufacturing
system that is long on inventory so that a customer doesn’t have
to be,” he says.
OHS was founded on a program that Winkel calls CURVES: In-
dustrial products (commodities) that require value-added services.
He offers the following example: an impeller is considered a
commodity product, but it might need to be trimmed and have
balanced-services that OHS can provide. “Can you see Amazon-
Supply doing anything like this?” he asks.
Responding to Customer ‘Dislikes’
Winkel points to several different ways that OHS differentiates itself in the marketplace. As one example, he notes that prospective
customers can see prices, quantities, and locations online 24/7, 365
days a year without PINs or passwords. “Real people will be available to take your telephone calls. We call this blend of technology
and people a ‘people net’ business,” he says.
In addition, instead of tags or labels on each part, every part has
its size and material etched and/or cast in it. Every part is shipped
in a double-wall corrugated cardboard box foamed in-place. The
outer box has labels on all four sides so that a customer can put
it on the shelf and easily identify the part. Labels have bar codes
and QR codes in anticipation of customers going to automated
receiving. The QR codes will eventually contain the metallurgical
breakdown of the part inside. The company also offers a two-year
full credit return policy.
“We did all these things because of customer feedback,” Winkel
notes. For most of the past three years, he visited plants around
the country asking executives to identify what they liked or disliked about the ordering process and how it can be improved.
“The list of dislikes was much longer than the likes,” Winkel
Customers said they didn’t like the fact that distributors
couldn’t give them a price right away, and exchanges of telephone
calls had to be made, slowing down the process. Nor could they be
told exactly when deliveries would be made.
That won’t be the case at OHS, says Winkel. OHS customers will
soon have the ability – through the use of a webcam – to actually see their products being produced and customers will have a
specific delivery date.
“We’re not trying to compete with e-commerce companies like
Amazon on what they do best,” he says. “We’re focusing on all
the things we can do.”
Winkel says he understands if some distributors are upset that
he is selling to the end user. “Our intention was never to set up a
distribution network,” he says, noting that distributors can order
from the new company whether it’s only once a year or on a reg-
A New Route to Market
“We’re not trying to compete with e-commerce
companies like Amazon on what they do best,”
he says. “We’re focusing on all the things we can