Industry Blogs

Just a couple days ago I returned from an event that has me so excited about working in the trades and what it means to be “Made in the USA”.  The RIDGID Experience is only in it’s second year of existence but its clear to me that this will be an amazing annual event for Read More

Eric standing in front of RIDGE Tool Just a couple days ago I returned from an event that has me so excited about working in the trades and what it means to be “Made in the USA”.  The RIDGID Experience is only in it’s second year of existence but its clear to me that this will be an amazing annual event for years to come. Here’s how it works: All across their social media channels RIDGID invites anyone who uses their tools, any and all of the RIDGID tools to show off their pride in the work they do with those tools. There’s an official entry process and some hashtagging involved but its super simple and fun. Once entered RIDGID picks the winners of the contest and those winners are treated to a total first-class experience with factory & hands-on training center tours, an inside look at new upcoming products and tools, meals, lodging, airfare, limo, professional photo shoots,  a box suite at the Indians ball game and even a fishing trip on Lake Erie! Oh man, I gotta tell you it was a blast!

Of course factory tours are exciting, getting to see how our favorite tool is made and even meeting the people who make them daily leaves me with a higher level of respect for the brand and excitement for my work. That was definitely the case for me after the #RIDGIDExperience.

Unfortunately we don’t always get to take the camera’s along for every step of the tour but I’ve posted a few cool shots on our Facebook and Instagram along with some comments along the way. I’ve included a video of the final steps in the assembly of the iconic 300 below; its hard to believe that machine was ever so clean and shiny!

I’d like to thank the entire team at RIDGID and those involved who organized and pulled off a truly memorable experience for all of us “winners”. It’s clear the entire company knows and cares about who their customer is. Thank you, Eric Aune.

 

 

E-commerce solutions for the kitchen and bath industry are crucial for contractor suppliers. The right online solution must combine the complexity of business-to-business with the ease of consumer simplicity. It can enhance, develop and support customer relationships. But it involves the relentless pursuit of the exact mix of data, technology, training and support. In the Read More

E-commerce solutions for the kitchen and bath industry are crucial for contractor suppliers. The right online solution must combine the complexity of business-to-business with the ease of consumer simplicity. It can enhance, develop and support customer relationships. But it involves the relentless pursuit of the exact mix of data, technology, training and support.

In the end, it preserves old-school relationships, adds a new-school solution and becomes a tool to spur new business.

A Rich History of Relationships
Contractor supply has historically been a relationship business. Customers go to the supply house and develop face-to-face relationships with staff, who become more than just order-takers.

Tailoring the right online solutions for customers can maintain that personal touch and help everyone get their jobs done faster.

What Customers Want
Distributors are adapting to a changing buyer profile that expects online services – from requesting and checking quotes, to reviewing local inventory and pricing in real time, to placing orders quickly for scheduled delivery.

But e-commerce systems and personnel can do more than help current customers. They can help win new business.

E-commerce is more than just creating a shopping cart. It’s a complete digital transformation.

A Complex Transaction
It’s critical to get input from both customers and from every level of the supplier organization. At MORSCO, we listen closely to customers, as well as our inside and outside sales teams, operations, accounts payable and other internal stakeholders. All these parties must help develop the solution and train customers afterward. It becomes everyday business, not just a one-time project.

Keep it Personal
Even with stakeholder input from all levels, e-commerce can still seem impersonal. But with support from the staff at the local branches – particularly inside sales – and with communication from local contractors, the face-to-face support will remain. Orders and follow ups should go through the local branch – not a call center – so customers know they are still dealing with suppliers at the local level who understand their needs.

The right online solution also frees up time for the outside sales staff. With advanced features, like easy-to-use custom pricing and quoting tools, the outside team can better support new and potential customers. Instead of tracking down invoices and delivery slips, outside sales reps can leverage digital platforms to spark better conversations with customers, bringing sophistication to a centuries-old industry.

Suppliers in the kitchen and bath industry, meanwhile, can continue to serve as personal consultants, troubleshooters and more, all in a face-to-face capacity. That provides better, faster service, while maintaining an unmatched level of local, personal support for customers.

Benefits for Vendors
E-commerce sites can also serve as a vendor’s marketing tool, salesperson and cashier. Benefits include:

  • Mobile solutions like phone and tablet access that help customers search for products and inventory at the local level and place orders anywhere, anytime, including on job sites.
  • The ability to increase customer reach and become the preferred online vendor for customers.
  • Increased sales and loyalty with existing and new customers.

The Right Solutions
So what does it take to offer world class e-commerce? Solutions that:

  • Help people get jobs done more efficiently, freeing talent for higher-value tasks. Viewing and paying invoices can now be done online, much more quickly, and at the customer’s convenience.
  • Allow access anywhere from desktop computers to job sites through mobile phones. Offer technical documents, catalogs, component and accessory information, as well as substitute items and recommendations.
  • Include side-by-side input from customers and support from employees.
  • Invest in training for all sales and branch staff, ensuring the face-to-face support can be seamless and add value.
  • Offer support that involve local branches, which are critical for both your customers and your employees. Be sure users know the types of support offered and that support tickets are addressed quickly and completely.
  • Leverage technology: Power your digital customer experience with top-tier e-commerce, search, marketing automation, analytics, and data platforms. At MORSCO, this gives customers the 24/7 access they need, increases our ability to make complex online transactions that vary by a customer’s needs and creates the customer value that goes beyond the online shopping cart.

E-commerce solutions must remember the importance of the long-standing relationship nature of the business. It’s an exciting time for those who can adapt.

Darren Taylor is a digital transformation marketing executive with a rare combination of market-centric strategy formulation skills, Fortune 500 operational experience, and a track record for driving commercial growth in early stage and large corporate environments. He currently serves as CMO for MORSCO, a leading U.S. distributor of commercial and residential plumbing, waterworks and HVAC, with branches and showrooms across the country. Taylor previously served as Director of e-commerce Strategy & Integration at W.W. Grainger, spearheading the company’s digital strategy and execution. Under his leadership Grainger became one of the top 15 eRetailers in the U.S. Taylor also serves as an Adjunct Professor in Northwestern University’s Masters of Information Technology Program and is a keynote speaker at many industry events such as CMOSummitt, DX Summitt and B2B Online. He also has be featured in INC. magazine and leadership books.

Reverse logistics is becoming an integral part of operations for manufacturers, distributors and service providers to minimize lost revenue when moving products, parts and sub-components back into inventory. Recent Statista research shows that goods returns cost $246.3bn per year in North America and must span customers, service organizations, supply chains, receiving departments and even a Read More

Reverse logistics is becoming an integral part of operations for manufacturers, distributors and service providers to minimize lost revenue when moving products, parts and sub-components back into inventory. Recent Statista research shows that goods returns cost $246.3bn per year in North America and must span customers, service organizations, supply chains, receiving departments and even a repair depot operations or subcontractors. In order to minimize lost revenue, organizations need to assess their approach to reverse logistics.

Here, I outline three common reverse logistics scenarios. If these ring true then it may be time to evaluate whether your reverse logistics strategy is costing you time, money and customer satisfaction.

  1. Do you deploy technicians and support assets in the field?

The field service process alone includes multiple reverse logistics steps. The technician pulls a component out of a repairable piece of equipment at the customer site and replaces it with a part out of his truck inventory. In a situation where the technician does not have a spare part and cannot, an inventory order will need to be placed. The field technician will need complete visibility of whether the part is under warranty or if the customer is entitled to special pricing as a result of a contractual commitment.

Without an integrated end to end service platform, you would be relying on a technician to communicate with separate field service, reverse logistics, warranty management, contracts and installed base systems to get the answers he or she needs.

Obviously, some type of communication between field service and reverse logistics software is necessary if only to prevent losing track of parts or components pulled from customer equipment in the field. But in these situations, there needs to be a seamless way to track whether or not the part is going to be repaired, who owns the item as it enters the reverse logistics process, whether the part, or repair, is billable, and then the part must be tied with a return materials authorization (RMA) through the original field service order.

Regardless of whether an environment is focused entirely on reverse logistics or in the field, companies expect their software platform to handle knowledge transfer. A technician in the field should be able to access tutorials on various repair processes, which in turn makes those with less experience more productive while increasing first time fix rate. Reverse logistics software can now embed in the workflow detailed videos designed to walk a worker on the repair bench in the workflow. The result –  increased productivity and putting knowledge into the hands of technicians where and when they need it.

  1. Do you rely on an intricate supply chain?

In most organizations, the reverse logistics process can be delineated by new product and after use returns. In an after-use environment, the reverse logistics process involves multiple stakeholders, and this means that a software product used to manage this value chain must encompass all, not some, of these stakeholders. Here’s why.

The customer service department generally authorizes the service and repair work through the call center, or increasingly, digital customer portals, chatbots or even social media.

If a replacement part is due for shipment, the customer service representative will check inventory availability, and may have to contact purchasing. If the product replacement requires a build order, the customer service representative may have to involve manufacturing or supply chain departments.  If the defect is to be received for repair, logistics will be engaged to receive the defect and route it for repair. Each of the stakeholders has a role to play, and each has their specific process to follow. This gets even more complicated when there is a field service component to the reverse logistics process.

Throughout this process, there is a set of rules that must be followed. These rules cover everything from the asset or product itself, which parts are sent to which repair facility or depot, whether the part is covered by warranty or contract entitlement, whether a customer has a replacement for the part in inventory or whether you need to ship one and much more. Clear communication, beginning with the task of defining processes and ensuring that the correct business process is followed, maybe with configured workflow, is very difficult without some enterprise reverse logistics and repair software. Check yours out.

  1. Are you outsourcing elements of your field service operations?

Combining reverse logistics with field service is challenging enough when you are relying on your own employees. But more and more organizations now outsource field service work to subcontractors for specific tasks or in times of peak demand. Subcontractors introduce several new logistical steps into a reverse logistics process. Reverse logistics software needs to account for multiple subcontractor types, and reimbursement policies in order to manage the complex situations caused by sub-contracting.

First, in order to delegate tasks to a subcontractor, you need to establish their availability given the time constraints and ensure they have the parts and expertise needed for the job. The contractor must provide a not-to-exceed cost figure, receive a purchase order and perform the work.

But what if the subcontractor removes a part from a customer’s equipment for return? This is where things can get very, very complicated. If they replace part A with part B, what happens to part A? The subcontractor may send an invoice and want to get paid for the part they used out of their inventory. Depending on the arrangement you have with the subcontractor, they may get paid for the new part only when you receive the returned original part. Or, if we have a stronger relationship and have built more trust, the subcontractor may be paid once a material return is authorized or when shipping confirmation is received by the contractors. All of this can change by individual subcontractor, customer,  product line or by geography.

If the work and part are covered by a warranty, the subcontractor will bill the vendor for the part. But if the part and work is out of warranty and the subcontractor in fact owns the relationship with that customer as an independent service provider, as a reverse logistics organization you may only get back parts if there is a core credit involved.

Looking back to go forward
It’s clear that reverse logistics operations span a complex network of players, parts and, in some case, organizations. If you are encountering these common challenges on a regular basis then it’s time to reassess your approach to reverse logistics as a discipline. The next step is to see how enterprise software can alleviate reverse logistics pain-points – the right solution should help handle large supply networks and reduce costs.

Tom DeVroy, Senior Product Evangelist, North America  IFS

Tom DeVroy has over 30 years of experience in high tech service operations including work with hardware, software and consulting firms, as well as premier global service organizations like Ericsson, DHL, Xerox, and Ingenico. He holds a degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

 

It’s been two months since I took delivery of the Dewalt DCE200 press tool and I’ve had the opportunity to put it to work on a handful of jobs now. This is a feature-packed tool unlike many on the market today. With capabilities of handling any and all press systems common in North America and Read More

DewaltPress4It’s been two months since I took delivery of the Dewalt DCE200 press tool and I’ve had the opportunity to put it to work on a handful of jobs now. This is a feature-packed tool unlike many on the market today. With capabilities of handling any and all press systems common in North America and Europe team Black & Yellow pulled out all the stops in engineering their first at what I’m guessing will be a team of press tools to come.

First off I’d like to cover the important specs.

  • Capable of pressing ½”-2” copper & stainless steel V-groove fittings
  • Compatible with competitor jaw sets for Iron Pipe [Mega-Press]
  • Compatible with competitor jaw sets for PEX press [Viega/Nibco]
  • 4-ton pressing force
  • Current online pricing searches average $1999.00

I first learned of this tool back in July/August of 2016 at the annual new tool event hosted by Dewalt. When I first put my hands on it I admit I was a little surprised of the physical size overall but after using it for both boiler and tankless water heater installations now I can honestly say the size of the tool has not proved to be an issue at all. Weighing in at 7.16lbs without a jaw it is lighter than other comparable tools common on the job today. Ergonomics may be a slightly different story and I do carry a bias toward in-line design press tools. This tool is front-end heavy, loaded with anything over 1″ jaws and it will not stand on it’s own. That may be partially due to the small footprint of the 20V battery or the handle angle and placement. Either way its a strain on the wrist and requires two hands to steady the tool most of the time.

Features

This pistol-grip press tool is packed with some new innovation to the market that should prove useful to many contractors working on commercial & residential projects alike. Notably, Dewalt’s proprietary software system Crimp Connect. This free software download allows the owner/user to connect the press tool via the onboard mini USB port providing ability to print detailed reports of the date, time, force, and successfully completed cycles of the presses completed by the tool as well as the tools calibration and service history.

DewaltPress2Located on the top rear of the tool you’ll find a somewhat familiar interactive panel where the tool’s power is controlled along with LED light indicators showing the successful completion of a single press, battery indicator, low & high temperature warnings. There’s even a “service required” indicator light telling the user that the tool has reached the cycle limitations.

While the power panel is not unique to press tools of this caliber, the Crimp connect feature is. An added feature I found interesting is the double trigger.

DewaltPress3The bottom trigger controls the start and completion of the press cycle. Dewalt went with a “manual” cycle operation here. You’ll need to depress the trigger completely for the duration to complete the press cycle. Cycle time is anywhere between 4-6 seconds depending on the diameter and type of material being pressed. The unique second trigger, the top trigger can be used to release the press cycle at any point. This is useful when a cycle has started but the operator decides [far various reasons] to stop the press. When pressed fully, the top trigger will release the pressure in the hydraulic cylinder and allow the ram to retract quickly. This would allow for repositioning of the tool or fitting when needed, potentially saving a fitting from incorrect attachment to the piping.

A shoulder strap and ring attachment point are included with the tool. Dewalt states in the manual that it should be used for transporting the tool on the jobsite. Some feedback I have received from other plumbers is the strap may be useful when working on a ladder, a situation that often lends to the possibility of dropping a tool like this….I’ve done that and it wasn’t pretty.

The tool is made in France but the jaw set is delivered to Dewalt from Germany. Dewalt is offering a 3 year limited warranty, 1 year service and 90 day money back guarantee. You’ll most likely have to order this tool from specialty tool suppliers offering the whole Dewalt lineup. You can also look to plumbing and mechanical supply houses for stock as well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_b-m69_obcM I have to be honest. I don’t normally stand around in 4”-5” of water on the job. I do however walk through unplowed driveways, parking lots and through the rain while moving tools and equipment in and out of the truck so having dry feet is paramount to capping off a good day at Read More


I have to be honest. I don’t normally stand around in 4”-5” of water on the job. I do however walk through unplowed driveways, parking lots and through the rain while moving tools and equipment in and out of the truck so having dry feet is paramount to capping off a good day at work.

I’ve been wearing the KEEN Utility Pittsburgh boots for work [and play] for a couple months now and I’m impressed not only with the KEEN.DRY system but the comfort and support has surpassed my expectations. For those not familiar, the KEEN.DRY system is a proprietary waterproof membrane that lets vapor out without letting water in. I’d put it up against the major brand of waterproofing we’re all familiar with.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 11.35.07 AMThe support and protection built-in include full-length TPU stability plate providing forefoot flexibility and underfoot stability; when mated with the metatomical footbed design where an engineered arch support cradles your foot for all day comfort.

I’ve been a longtime wearer of natural leather upper boots so moving into a composite build boot of natural leather and cloth took a little getting used to. Boots like the Pittsburgh are slightly bulkier than the typical all-leather boot but that has more to do with the engineering in design for flexibility and durability. Rubber, cloth, nubuck leather all play a role in the upper build of the boot.

The soles are non-slip oil resistant rubber and provide aggressive traction on this model. I’m more accustomed to a less “off-road” tread but I haven’t found anything negative to say about the tread pattern; if I have any comments on the tread I’d say climbing my step ladder is where I most notice the aggressive pattern. Once in a while my foot will catch on the edge of a ladder rung where it may not have with a smoother, more typical work boot tread pattern.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 11.35.37 AMOverall I’m impressed with the KEEN Utility Pittsburgh boots. Material quality is very high, build quality as well. Comfort concerns went straight out the window after day one of wear and have not changed in the short time I’ve been putting them to work. I’ve got my eye on a few other models that may be a little closer to what I’m used to for style and features but, these being the most popular model in the US [in Canada they’re known as the Hamiltons] I’m not surprised based on the overall quality and design.

Click this link to visit KEEN’s site and see more about the Pittsburgh boots.