[A Closer Look]
The Latest Innovators
Many industrial distributors aren’t afraid of innovation, as
evidenced by some creative strategies in recent months to stay
ahead of the game:
• In October, Grainger launched an interactive skilled trades
playbook, called “Dynamic Partnerships for a New Economy,”
designed to connect businesses and community colleges in an
effort to boost local workforce development. Grainger has
focused on skill development for years, an effort that likely
yields increased visibility for the industrial market, as well as
brand goodwill for this mega-distributor.
• On July 25th, 27 Affiliated Distributors Affiliate Companies attended the first ever AD Co-Ventures Summit in
Chicago, IL. Hosted by Jim Hoffman, AD Co-Ventures Director,
the event spent a good part of the day having free exchange
of questions, answers, and ideas about what a “Co-Venture”
• Tesla Distribution announced its formation in September.
Operating regional sales and services offices in the U.S. and
Europe, Tesla Distribution is powered by Earnest Machine and
aims to provide an intentionally better service in an entirely
new way — one that marries effective reach and capability
with strong attention-to-detail and service excellence. Tesla
Distribution services include supplier development, specialty
kitting, and application engineering to increase customer
Distributors, for example, can learn from their retail counterparts in regards to point of purchase displays, inventory management, and more. With companies like Walmart, Lowe’s, and
Staples taking the lead on innovation, there is a lot to be learned
by looking outside of your industry.
Besides this, Epner says that distribution leaders don’t take the
necessary time for strategic planning. He referred to a quote from
Michael Gerber, an author and entrepreneurship expert, who once
said that managers often get into trouble because they spend all
their time working in the business and not enough time working
on the business. He recommends that distributors bring in an outside facilitator to talk about new ideas, because too many employees are reluctant to speak out at company meetings.
“Try new things. Be willing to fail. Learn from your mistakes and
then try again,” Epner adds.
Distribution needs new ideas and innovative ways to solve cus-
tomer problems. They need to become an indispensable resource
for those workers on the manufacturing plant floor and at the
It might seem pretty basic, but old-fashioned brainstorming is
a critical way to encourage new ways of thinking as to how you
can better serve the customer. Get everyone in your organization
involved, from those in the warehouse to the executive suite, in
order to generate a wide variety of ideas.
You might be surprised at the results.
Jack Keough is contributing editor of Industrial Distribution. You
can reach Jack at firstname.lastname@example.org.