Taking Business to the
Lawson Products has growth on the brain, and a clear path to get there.
BY ANNA WELLS
In the mind of Lawson Products CEO Michael DeCata, MRO is a nuanced business. Even in an organization that offers more than 300,000 products at every price point and performance level, the
devil is in the details — and it’s about so much more than simply
stocking durable goods.
The Lawson Value Proposition
DeCata classifies Lawson’s sweet spot as a subset of MRO — spe-
cifically the consumables side. “Almost everything we sell tends
to be smaller; the kinds of things you don’t always inventory,”
explains DeCata. “You don’t often count flat washers in a drawer,
you consume them.”
Within the consumable MRO space, Lawson differentiates itself
further: approximately 60 percent of what it sells in this niche is
private label products.
For Lawson, private labeling is an opportunity to offer its customer additional varieties of products, but with an unusual twist:
instead of a lower-end, lower-cost version of an existing quality
product, the Lawson versions are engineered to be highly durable.
“We’re very proud of our private label products; they’ve been
highly engineered, perform better, and customers really want
them,” says DeCata.
But products aside, Lawson views its primary value proposition
to be a service-based one, centered primarily on its “Lawson Managed Inventory.” Lawson considers its version of a traditional VMI
to be so sophisticated that it becomes almost ingrained in its customers’ operations. For example, a typical Lawson sales rep would
arrive to unopened boxes of supplies at a customer’s site. The rep
would then be responsible for the put away, along with an informal inventory count and ordering. “We become an extension of
the customer’s location and a highly trusted partner — almost as if
an employee,” says DeCata. The sales reps are often so savvy that
they know to re-order on a drawer that’s still two-thirds full, and
not re-order the drawer that’s nearly empty because they’re so
familiar with the frequency at which the inventory turns over.
“For many in the MRO space, the value proposition goes something like — ‘if your conveyor belt fails, call us and we’ll get you a
new one tomorrow or in a couple of days.’ What we aspire to is —
you will never call us, because the stuff will always be there,” he
Lawson Products’ McCook, IL facility
features thousands of SKUs across
305,000 square feet.