Abel Industries Inc.

Celebrating its 45th anniversary in northern Virginia, Abel Industries Inc. is enjoying the economic stability of the region in its sales of janitorial cleaning chemicals, equipment and supplies. “We do warehousing, merchandising and training, and we sell to a variety of customers in Washington, D.C.,” President and founder Peter Homan says.  

Homan calls northern Virginia a “growing market.” He says that six of the 10 counties in the region have the highest standard of living and gross income in the United States. Abel Industries distributes to three major metropolitan areas – the Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Richmond, Va., metropolitan areas – within approximately 100 miles of its headquarters in Dumfries, Va., 30 miles south of Washington, D.C.

Abel Industries also has the capability to ship anywhere within the continental United States. To compete effectively, Homan says that Abel Industries offers on-time deliveries and superior customer service. “We make sure when we make a delivery, it meets or exceeds their expectations,” Homan says. “We go the extra mile to satisfy our customers, and that’s why we’re still here after 45 years.” Next-day deliveries can be made by the company’s delivery fleet to most counties in northern Virginia, southern Maryland and to Washington, D.C.

In addition to distributing the major brands of chemicals and cleaning supplies, Abel Industries also offers its own private-label products. “You need to have something with your own name on it,” Homan insists. “We do a lot of floor demonstrations and training. If you want to be successful, you have to demonstrate the product and inform your customers on the proper use and application.” That level of customer service is hard to come by nowadays, he maintains.

Equipment and Repair

Abel Industries distributes floor care equipment including scrubbers, vacuum cleaners, shampooers, sweepers, burnishers and spotters. To be successful in equipment sales, salespeople and managers must know this equipment inside and out. “A salesman breaking into this business, if he’s assiduous enough, he can make a nice living,” Homan notes. But it takes a few years of training and experience before he or she will have the knowledge base to be a top producer. 

“I have a couple of key people that work with equipment – an equipment manager, and then I actually have two sales managers that sell and work with the individual salespeople – they break down the different equipment lines and concentrate on each equipment line’s areas of profitability,” Homan asserts. Otherwise, the number of specialties is too large to master. The company also provides in-house repair for equipment it sells.

Abel Industries has a fleet of 12 vehicles that it uses for deliveries. They range from small and medium-size vans up to 26-foot trucks that can transport up to 35,000 pounds. Drivers are equipped with cell phones for communication capabilities. The company only buys trucks new and usually manages to get approximately 10 years of service out of each one.

Warehouses and Software

The company’s two warehouses measure approximately 15,000 and 14,000 square feet. The entire headquarters is located on 6.5 acres of property that includes a large yard for staging of containers, tractors and trailers. Homan says he is planning a 15,000-square-foot addition to the warehouses.

Abel Industries distributes more than 2,000 SKUs of merchandise and uses a bar code picking system in the warehouses. It utilizes DDI System’s Inform enterprise resource planning software in its operation, and recently upgraded its server room for additional capacity. Routing software arranges deliveries in the most efficient order for drivers. 

Customers can view their sales history when ordering products on the Abel Industries website. Budgets can also be set so that customers’ employees cannot order more than the budget allows. Despite these advances, some customers still order by phone or fax, and Abel Industries serves them with its customer service staff or its paperless, digital fax system.

One of the most popular trends in building maintenance supplies is green products and being LEED-compliant. “We’re very cognizant of the green phenomenon and our customers’ requirements to be LEED-compliant,” Homan points out. “We have the expertise and the software available to train and track LEED certification points to assist our customers in becoming LEED-certified. We do two or three green cleaning classes here a month.”

The training center can accommodate up to 45 people, Homan estimates. Abel Industries also has a 3,000-square-foot showroom to demonstrate products for the walk-in business that the company now receives. Additionally, the company is expanding into offering restoration products, but Homan watches carefully that it is not spreading itself too thin. 

“You have to be a good steward of managing your resources,” he recommends. “I’ve seen many a company go out of business because they’ve tried to grow too quickly.”

Homan does not anticipate that happening to family owned and managed Abel Industries, primarily because of its operational strength. 

“Our expertise is in making deliveries, warehousing, buying products at the right price and good training,” Homan declares. “We’ll stick with our program. We’ve been successful with it, and so I’ll stay with it. We’re not trying to build a monument here – we’re trying to provide our workers with good salaries and benefits and have a happy workforce.” 

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