Use Your Distributor to Help Add Value

An owner approaches you not only for the electrical wiring of a new building, but also the highest-tech structured cabling system available for security, networking and e-access, including Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Not only that—this owner has some pretty good PCs on hand that he wants to integrate into the system.

While you’re thrilled with the trust the client places in you to make it happen, “How?” is the real question.

A distributor like Anixter could be one answer. “We feel like it’s our responsibility to actually go and work with the contractor and end-user to help identify what their needs are,” said Mike Duncan, senior vice president Sales/Structured Cabling for Anixter.

In our hypothetical case, for example, Anixter personnel would help you define what is required by the client and take several extra steps to assure your value to the owner. “We do a lot of up-front design and consultation with the contractor so that the right products are placed into the right applications. Then we actually provide ‘whole order’ delivery, kitting together materials—cabling products, racks, cable assemblies. We’ll even take customer-owned materials such as PCs or networking devices, and put them together so they can be deployed to the job site in whole units. When the contractor arrives to perform the installations, it goes quickly and efficiently.”

This approach to delivery works especially well with multiple-location clients such as retail outlets and banks, said Duncan. In one instance, Anixter’s Integrated Supply (AIS) worked with a retail giant that was upgrading communications systems at 2,400 locations. AIS color-coded, kitted, and shipped 1,200 lines a day, allowing the company’s contractor to complete the upgrades in only four months. In another case, AIS assembled kits for a telecommunications manufacturer in ways that allowed the client to merge outside vendors’ materials to their own electronic products for field installations, improving the client’s on-time delivery by 38 percent.

“We’re one of the few companies that can accomplish multiple-location installations not only on a nationwide basis,” said Duncan, “but also worldwide. We can kit together the assemblies at one location and ship from there, or can do the kitting at multiple sites across the nation or in Europe.”

Along with the ease of installation of kitted products, the contractor can benefit from fast billing turnaround. While Anixter doesn’t bill until the products are used, the contractor gets to accomplish the installation very quickly so that he can bill the owner and turn around that payment with speed, keeping supply lines flowing.

“In addition,” points out Duncan, “when you feed the job ‘just in time,’ there’s far less risk of loss. The contractor gets the kits of materials on the day he’s ready to install them, lowering the time the materials sit on the job site, and the risk that they won’t be there when the installation is ready to start.”

Anixter also likes to work with contractors who are interested in delving into the security, CCTV, and low-voltage arenas as a new installation field. “Since September 11, companies are much more interested in CCTV and security systems than before,” he said. “We’ll actually help train contractors who want to get into that aspect of the business.”

Personnel working for Anixter feel an obligation to create and develop new markets, working hand in hand with contractors. “Some contractors find this approach somewhat controversial,” said Duncan. “Some don’t really want us to call on the end users. Our intent, however, is not to sell to the end-user, but to sell the technology deployment and upgrades that are appropriate to the client’s needs, and work with contractors to get it installed and deployed correctly and efficiently.”

Again, Anixter’s global reach could be an asset for a contractor. What if your multiple-location owner wants to set up shop in Asia? Anixter has people there to both work with and improve your supply chain, and also recommend subcontractors and associates who can help stretch your value to your clientele.

“We believe that our job is to improve the entire process for a contractor—from design to sale; from implementation to billing—on any given job,” said Duncan. “We look beyond the typical distribution assets surrounding delivery of materials to a job. We want to provide whatever the contractor might need along the way, both before and after winning the bid.” EC

CHICHESTER is a freelance writer based in Meadows of Dan, Va. She can be reached at

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