T&A Industrial Distributors

TA Industrial pic copyT&A Industrial Distributors launches a new value-added service that it expects will continue to draw new customers and lead the way to more additions to the business model.

By Janice Hoppe

T&A Industrial Distributors finds a way to eliminate excessive inventory in its warehouse as well as its customers’ by offering a service that cuts the right length of narrow belts to any width. “It’s an abrasive slitter,” President Greg Zarling says. “We have been very strategic on how we are rolling out the service. We didn’t introduce it to everyone because we wanted to control the production.”

The abrasive slitter allows T&A Industrial to buy wide belts at any length from its suppliers and slit them down to the appropriate width. “Common belts are 12 to 18 inches long and you can buy different widths anywhere from three to 60 inches wide,” Zarling explains. “It’s very common in fabrication, pharma and food processing to use narrow belts. The belt comes at the proper length and we just cut it to the width now.”

T&A Industrial’s customers benefit from this machine because it allows them to carry less inventory. Before the company owned the abrasive slitter machine, it had to carry 12-inch-long belts that are a quarter-, half- and one-inch wide, for example, which resulted in four different SKUs. “I only need one width,” Zarling says. “I’m buying the length and cutting down the width. That is a huge service because it eliminates excessive inventory for us and for our customers. It eliminates minimum order quantities and lead times.”

Minimum orders are no longer an issue for small and mid-size companies that use the belts in their manufacturing machines and who may never use 5,000 belts of one width. The lead times are faster because T&A Industrial already has the customer’s length; it just needs to slit the belt to the width they desire. “We are really focusing on our service and helping that small to mid-size industrial customer be able to buy narrow belts very competitively without being hamstrung with large minimum orders and excessive lead times,” Zarling explains.

Tapping into Service

As a new service for T&A Industrial, the company has only been slitting belts for about eight months and first offered the service to its existing customers to ensure it could handle production. T&A Industrial has gained six new customers over the past eight months because of its new capabilities. “We are reaching out to new customers who weren’t buying from us and have pulled in new customers,” Zarling says. “We’re pretty impressed and we are not at capacity yet.”

T&A Industrial is a full-line industrial supplier based in Brookfield, Wis., offering maintenance, repair and operation products (MRO), personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as metalworking and other products to manufacturing, power generation, institutional and government customers. In addition to its headquarters in Brookfield, T&A Industrial operates warehouse locations in Green Bay, Wis., and Syracuse, N.Y. TA box

Although some distributors offer belt conversion in T&A Industrial’s service area, the company says its market approach is what sets it apart. “Not every distributor does this: buys a slitter, gets its staff trained up and then have the capacity to do this,” Zarling notes. “Most buy narrow belts from the manufacturer. We are a full-line distributor offering this service.”

T&A Industrial has taken a look at what the online retail giant Amazon and other national companies offer and decided to set itself apart through service. “You can either say that you’re going to compete with the big-box and national companies or try to play a different game altogether,” Zarling adds. “We’ve decided not to identify Amazon as a competitor, and instead see our real goal as resource management.”

Many of T&A Industrial’s customers look to the company to provide more than just products. “I believe our strong point is really our ability to provide a particular service level that our customers would find difficult, if not impossible, to provide for themselves,” Zarling says. “We believe in taking a holistic approach and helping customers manage their resources. We are trying to build a program that gives customers reasons to want to reach out to us.”

One-of-a-Kind Offerings

In addition to slitting average belts, T&A Industrial is performing short-run projects that include unique abrasives such as talcum powder and Scotch-Brite belts. “We will continue slitting more belts and different types of materials, such as tape,” Zarling says. “We can buy a log of tape that’s three feet wide and slit that tape into different widths, as well. We will continue pushing into the abrasives market with narrow belt technology and looking at converting tape.”

To be a one-stop shop for its customers, T&A Industrial is focusing even more on its power tool repair program. “It’s a natural progression from slitting because there is very specific air tools made by 3M that run narrow belts,” Zarling explains. “With the tool repair program, not only are we selling and servicing the tools, but we can now provide the narrow belts that go on the equipment. It’s one service that piggybacks off another.”

Because T&A Industrial services small to mid-size companies, it focuses on providing services the companies can’t afford to operate in-house. The company’s ultimate goal moving forward is to get into belt splicing, which will cut the length of the belt to whatever size its customers need. “We will continue to grow services that focus on the small to mid-size shops,” Zarling notes. “What services do they need distributors to help them with?”

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