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Contractor to Distributors: Psst…a Little Help, Please?

By Bridget McCrea

When Houston-based KenMor Electric adds 8,000 square feet of space to its 10,000-square-foot prefabrication warehouse later this year, the electrical contractor is going to need more help than ever. Manpower isn’t easy to come by in the metropolitan’s bustling business world these days, says Joe Martin, executive vice president, and any help that electrical distributors can provide will be greatly appreciated.

“We need continual help in the prefab area. In fact, it’s a segment where distributors could really step up and provide a high level of value-added services to us,” says Martin, who has thus far been disappointed by the response from area electrical distributors. “I’m not sure how well we’ve gotten this point across to them, but so far we haven’t seen much momentum there.”

In an era where web-only retail giants like AmazonSupply are trying to take a bite out of the industrial distributor’s profits, value-added services are becoming necessary selling points for independent firms that aren’t able to beat the online behemoth’s price points. At KenMor Electric, Martin says a good starting point would be a tour of the contractor’s prefab facility to see where a distributor could be adding value.

“Maybe there’s something out there that we don’t know about that could improve our operations and/or productivity,” Martin explains, noting that KenMor is currently using prefab on as many jobs as it can. “Any ideas, materials, or tools that our distributors can bring to the table would be welcome.” These efforts could also help the contractor offset the shortage of skilled labor that it’s grappling with, according to Martin. A new Unistrut® cutter, for example, has helped to automate the firm’s cutting processes while also ensuring nice, clean cuts that “look like they came from a factory.”

“That’s the kind of tool that improves prefab operations, and I’m sure there are others out there that we don’t even know about,” says Martin, who acknowledges the fact that bid day – when the materials lists for switch gears, fixtures, and other products are sent out to distributors – remains an important part of KenMor’s relationship with its suppliers. “Bid day is still the most important thing for us, but with our big push into prefab it would be great to get some input in that area as well.”

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