Analyzing Anixter: Execs Talk Rebranding, Being a Complete Security Solution Provider

Anixter has spent the past decade strengthening its security products distribution position, first by acquiring CLARK Security Products and more recently Tri-Ed. Freshly unified under the Anixter name, company execs tell how greater reach, resources and expertise work to their customers’ advantage.

Analyzing Anixter: Execs Talk Rebranding, Being a Complete Security Solution Provider

Anixter's corporate headquarters in Glenview, Ill.

The standard definition of a wholesale distributor sounds simple enough: A person or company that supplies stores or businesses with goods. In the context of the ever-evolving security space, however, the role of today’s distributor is anything but simple.

The security demands end users now face are unprecedented. The gamut runs wide and encompasses a multitude of challenges. From protecting critical infrastructure to thwarting terror attacks to safeguarding data and scaling the cybersecurity learning curve, the breadth and scope of security management challenges have never been so daunting.

To stay competitive and profitable, today’s security dealers and integrators must be able to help end users meet those challenges. Many turn to a trusted distribution partner for the support they need to do that. To truly be a valuable partner, distributors today are charged with much more than supplying products.

They must deliver full-line solutions and intelligence that create reliable, resilient systems while helping to lower the cost, risk and complexity of their customers’ supply chains.

For this year’s annual Distribution Issue, Security Sales & Integration checked in with one of the industry’s most prominent suppliers, Anixter. Here key executives detail how January’s rebrand of Tri-Ed and CLARK combined all branches within the Anixter platform to bring customers the products, services and capabilities of the world’s largest security distributor.

As a $7 billion global distributor of solutions for the network and security, electrical and electronic, and utility power markets, Anixter’s representatives also discuss technologies and support solutions.

Rebranding Has Its Benefits

From large integrator customers working on multisite complex projects to small-medium installers and residential dealers, the recent rebranding of Tri-Ed and CLARK to the Anixter name aims to allow the company to more efficiently serve any size customer, virtually anywhere in the world. It also enables customers to access Anixter’s portfolio of 600,000 products.

“Within the security piece, Tri-Ed, CLARK and Anixter together as one represent the most complete security solution for any kind of facility our customers may be dealing with, whether it be residential, commercial or industrial,” says Anixter Senior Vice President, Global Security Solutions, James Rothstein. “We’re committed to making it easier for the customer to access more technology from one partner.”

That technology includes video surveillance, intrusion, access control, fire/life safety, professional audio/video, wireless, connected lighting, telecommunications, network infrastructure and building management systems.

Housing over $1 billion in inventory, Anixter now has more than 300 warehouses/branch locations spanning nearly 9 million square feet of space across locations in excess of 300 cities in approximately 50 countries.

“We have successfully integrated the Tri-Ed and CLARK branch business into our Anixter systems and organizational structure to provide a singular customer experience,” says Anixter Executive Vice President of Network & Security Solutions Bill Geary.

The rebrand has enabled Anixter to deliver a business model that allows customers to do business where, when and how they choose. For example, smaller-sized dealers or locksmiths often prefer to leverage the branch environment for products, pricing, training, and day-to-day transactional services.

Larger security integrator customers, on the other hand, that are working on larger projects with different delivery requirements, can look to Anixter to help them grow their business by introducing new technologies, system capabilities and facilitating their certifications in various manufacturer solutions.

Global accounts that have multisite, multinational customers can turn to Anixter for consultative solutions to improve processes, procedures and focus on core competencies.

“To be a good partner, the distributor needs to understand the pain points their channel partners face on a regular basis, and work closely with them to remove that pain,” says Geary. “The challenges security distributors face today are similar to those of many B-to-B businesses. They center around providing a value proposition and a world-class customer experience. These values range from technical support, and broad range of product sets all the way down to the ease of acquisition of their products. The key is to help customers do business the way they want to. It’s important to be able to deliver the product to a jobsite, prepack-aged, labeled and configured to reduce unproductive labor, or have it ready to go at a local branch for convenient pickup on the way to the jobsite.”

(l-r) Kitting area in an Anixter warehouse, showing how products are conveniently packaged into kits to ship and reduce deployment time onsite.; Anixter offers complete datacenter solutions, including testing equipment and datacenter security.

Taking Tech to Task

According to Rothstein, not surprisingly technology plays a critical role in every layer of Anixter’s business. “From the way we train our salespeople to the efforts of our Solutions Group — which is tasked with staying ahead of technology and trends and communicating them to our manufacturers before they’re even in vogue — to our Technology Support Group that works with our dealers and integrators to help them design and employ the right technologies for the right application, serving as a true technology partner is what drives our efforts,” he says.

To that end, Anixter’s Solutions Group has launched an Infrastructure as a Platform (IaaP) program tailored specifically to datacenters, commercial buildings, health-care facilities, education environments and smart cities.

Within each of these environments, IaaP focuses on five key technology areas, starting with risk management and a layered physical security approach. Additional focus areas include network performance, automation and unique cost drivers of an environment.

“IaaP’s purpose is to solve the infrastructure challenges of unique customer environments and vertical markets,” says Anixter Senior Vice President – Global Solutions Marketing Randy Mortensen. “It’s critical to understand the individual needs of the stakeholders and work with specialized contractors and integrators to qualify and validate technologies that can solve specific challenges. The goal is to provide agility for budgets, scalability for demand and flexibility for technology choices.”

Anixter publishes whitepapers on these topics and hosts IaaP technology workshops throughout the world. The workshops bring together industry experts, contractors, integrators, end users and manufacturers for robust conversations around technology trends and best practices.

Ultimately, Mortensen says, the IaaP methodology helps customers navigate through the challenges as they build, connect, power and protect their businesses.

Expanding Customer Horizons

The fact that many security integrators are looking at expanding their business model into adjacent technologies has not gone unnoticed by Anixter. As Mortensen points out, the IoT movement is creating the need for integrators to understand the world of networked devices, as all the building subsystems are moving to IP-based systems.

“Over the years, we’ve seen computers, telephony and security move this way and now we’re seeing A/V, lighting and building controls also moving in this direction,” he says. “Many security integrators have the technical resources to get there, but need strong distribution partners to help them along the way by providing additional training, tech support and access to a wide range of new vendors and product technologies. We see A/V as a closely aligned market area that has already had crossover from the security space. Products like flat-panel displays, monitors and speakers are already being installed in security applications and many of the same or similar products are used in A/V.”

Additionally, Anixter’s customers can provide more value to their residential business by making sure they leverage all the emerging IoT technologies.

“We’re committed to making it easier for the customer to access more technology from one partner.”— James Rothstein, Sr. VP, Global Security Solutions, Anixter

“Despite the concern about DIY and how it’s going to impact our dealers and integrators servicing residential customers, there’s an interesting trend that’s emerging — the Do It for Me [DIFM] market,” asserts Rothstein. “Technologies are being advertised to the consumer, but many don’t necessarily want to install them themselves. This makes IoT a viable category they shouldn’t overlook. We’ve recently added Sonos smart speakers to our line card; many homeowners who want a home theater still want a professional to do the installation.”

Other hotbed categories for growth that Rothstein points to are analytics, which is still emerging and becoming increasingly more important in video, he notes, and artificial intelligence (AI).

The trend toward hardware that can be upgraded via software rather than replaced entirely is another factor impacting not only the security distribution business but dealers and integrators, as well.

Anixter collaborates with several manufacturer brands to ensure customers are notified when updating is needed so they can, in turn, keep their end users apprised of the latest updates.

But, as Rothstein points out, the technology is moving so quickly that there will still always be better hardware hitting the market that will appeal to customers. That’s why Anixter keeps a steady pulse on newly introduced hardware to make sure it’s stocked and available.

Keep reading to learn about Anixter’s award-winning training programs and more…

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