What does your company do to best assist security dealers/integrators in managing their stock/inventory and timely delivery to end users?
James Rothstein (Tri-Ed): We are continuing to expand our North American footprint. In May, we announced the addition of five more new branches, in Denver, Centennial, Grand Junction and Colorado Springs, Colo., and Little Rock, Ark. These locations will also specialize as Data Solutions Centers and stock a complete breadth of connectivity and low-voltage products. These centers will offer dealers and integrators comprehensive product lines from more than 500 of the industry’s leading manufacturers of CCTV, IP video, intrusion, fire, sound and communications. The locations will also serve as the premier distribution channel for the comCables line of connectivity solutions.
Sorrentino: Each of our customers has an assigned sales rep. We work closely with that customer to understand their needs, while also working with them on forecasting of projects and their monthly run rate business to ensure we have the products they need when they need them. Part of the reason we have a limited line card is so we can have a robust inventory on products we carry. Our Fast Catalog tool provides real-time inventory levels so dealers can check 24/7 to see if the products they need are available and in stock.
Flink: Our 99 fully stocked branches and nine warehouse locations across North America offer high in-stock inventory levels and enable dealers to carry little or no local inventory. In addition, they can take advantage of the many delivery options available. They can choose to pick up their products in the branch during business hours, utilize our pick-up anytime rooms, take advantage of our next-day delivery service or have the items delivered directly to the jobsite.
Sidebar: Wholesale Distribution Company Profiles
What are one or two tips that could help these companies more effectively manage their inventory and could implement ASAP?
Annes: To be more effective with inventory management, integrators should ensure that they are working with a distributor with a track record of expediting time-sensitive projects. Another tip would be to test the customer service and technical support bandwidth of their partners. Effective communication is a great indicator of an efficient inventory control setup.
Lee: As a wholesaler, we are poised to provide security dealers/integrators with products from a wide variety of manufacturers. It is our function to stock product on our shelves, thereby relieving the security dealer/integrator from worrying about how much and what type of product to stock. We are here as a source for breadth and depth of product. Additionally, we have the expertise to recommend solutions for difficult door and frame conditions.
McCullough: I recommend deploying project estimating and opportunity management software specifically designed for security integrators. If you truly understand your project and sales opportunity pipeline, you can better manage your inventory needs and turns.
What are some of the greatest changes and challenges faced by wholesale security distributors the past three years, as well as how the channels have been evolving and/or perhaps blurring? How specifically has your company dealt with them, and what do you see on the horizon?
Sorrentino: The uncertainty of the economy is the biggest challenge, and finding ways to help dealers be more efficient and increase productivity per employee is very important. We are only as strong as our customers and our manufacturer partners, so we have to help them navigate through an uncertain economy, by helping them be more efficient and productive. We help our customers by carrying inventory for them so they don’t have to tie up cash. We offer solution configuration through our Custom Configuration Center, where we can help dealers be more profitable by readying projects for deployment for them. We work closely with our dealers on credit terms — they are getting squeezed on credit terms and we have financing solutions that can help them. In addition, we can help dealers navigate through the many vendor partner program changes to help them ensure they are getting the full benefits of the programs. We also help dealers with product recommendations when they need to know what is more profitable and what will work best for their end users’ needs.
Flink: One challenge the whole industry has been faced with over the past few years is staying current on the rapidly evolving technology and products that are available in the market. Today, dealers need to not only understand the security market, but they need to know IP technology as well. We have made a huge investment in our ADI University to train our sales staff on the latest technologies. Each member on our sales team participates in weekly training courses on a wide variety of product categories. We have received great feedback from this training, and more and more dealers are using our sales force as a resource to the latest technologies, and for help with product selection.
Annes: The wholesale security industry has not been immune to the challenges of increased competition and lower margins. However, we have been working with integrators to introduce them to new ways to market products such as automation and control solutions to not only learn the latest technology but also to cross-sell new technology with compatible projects and tools. The way that products are evolving, tying in automation systems to other product categories will help to keep systems scalable and help be a resource for customers who need to evolve.
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