Buckles-Smith Electric Co.

Buckles-Smith Electric Co. seems to have cornered the market on building successful relationships.

The electrical and automation equipment distributor has been supplying Northern California with products since 1939. Throughout the company’s history, it has firmly cemented the concept that helping the customer in any way possible can pay off substantially in the long run.

“One thing that differentiates us from our competitors is our close connections with our customers,” says Art Cook, president and CEO. “We provide a lot of face-to-face interaction with our customers and continually poll them to determine how we’re doing and what we can do to improve their operations.”

By expanding its expertise, the company currently caters to OEMs, end-users and contractors who serve them. Regardless of the type of customer Buckles-Smith is working for, the goal to satisfy each customer’s needs is the same. “We collaborate with customers to help their companies run as efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible,” Cook says. “Our main customers are end-users who need electrical and automation parts to keep their operations running smoothly; our other customers are machinery builders who need electrical components to build their products.” He adds that the company’s largest growing segment is electrical contractors who are conducting maintenance or installing capital projects at customers’ facilities.

One of the first steps Buckles-Smith takes when working with new customers is to audit their inventory. “The first thing they did was assess our maintenance parts inventory and right-sized it,” says Mark Campisi, senior purchasing manager for Tyco Thermal Controls in Menlo Park, Calif., “They did an initial study of our inventory and determined what low- and high-volume parts were needed and how often they were used.” 

Through its analysis, Buckles-Smith reduced the non-critical/overstocked inventory and purchased the existing surplus overstock from Tyco.

“Right away we saw an immediate savings in inventory spending which reduced our exposure,” Campisi notes. “Overall, I’d say they have saved us more than 25 percent of inventory costs.”

Using a kanban system, Buckles-Smith manages a supply of 175 parts for Tyco. The kanban system implements a series of six bins – one for the factory floor, four in the factory store and one in the suppliers’ store. This system allows parts to be continually available whenever a bin’s supply is depleted.

“We’ve never run out of parts in the five-plus years we’ve been with them,” Campisi notes. “A representative from Buckles-Smith is at our factory two times per week to replenish bins.”

Tyco’s product part procurement had worked so well the company inquired if Buckles-Smith would be interested in supplying parts for Tyco’s production systems. Tyco now has worked with Buckles-Smith for more than five years.

“One thing I can definitely say about them is if we ever have a problem or need a replacement part, someone is there right away,” Campisi notes.

More Than a Supplier

Buckles-Smith’s services go well beyond a simple distribution operation. In addition to inventory audits, the company can perform safety, energy efficiency, power quality and lighting performance optimization audits. The company also offers training seminars at its own locations and at clients’ sites. Some topics include power quality and ground basics, variable speed drives, and National Electrical Code updates.

A dedicated engineering staff assists companies in selecting components to optimize a design or even assist in the design itself to help minimize costs. Additionally, designing subassemblies to help save time and costs is another service Buckles-Smith offers.

“We work as an adjunct to a client’s engineering and/or maintenance staffs,” Cook asserts. “Many companies are moving toward outsourcing both engineering and maintenance to independent contractors – we see that as another opportunity to collaborate with our integrators and contractors to provide value to our end-user customers.”

Best Parts Around

The company boasts a broad inventory, “comprised of the best brands in the industry,” Cook claims. “We continually meet with suppliers to find out what new product innovations they have to offer.” 

The company hosts biannual market planning summits with all of its top suppliers. “At these meetings, our suppliers present new products that may offer time, cost or energy savings to customers’ products or operations,” Cook says.

Cook says many of his customers are looking at energy-saving products as well as products that use renewable energy. “We’re seeing that solar and wind turbine products are being adopted more frequently,” he notes. 

Additionally, the company hosts onsite trade shows for its larger customers. “We’ll invite suppliers to set up a mini-trade show at our site or the client’s site to present new products that are available,” Cook notes.

Probably the area where Buckles-Smith truly excels is in inventory management. Implementing just-in-time and kanban replenishment systems, the company uses the latest electronic management systems as well as onsite managed inventory and remote inventory programs.  Roger Stanger, vice president of operations, oversees the integration of inventory management systems at customer facilities.

“We can manage a client’s entire storeroom of parts and have the ability to reduce the inventory they need on hand,” Stanger says. “By automatically replenishing supplies, we reduce purchase orders, put-away time and, in some cases, reduce the amount of labor involved.”

Consistently ranked in the top-200 electrical distributors by revenue by Electrical Wholesaling magazine, Buckles-Smith has maintained its edge by adapting as the markets have evolved.

“At one time, Buckles-Smith equipped the area’s food packing plants with electrical parts for their manufacturing operations,” Cook notes.

“As the area evolved into the Silicon Valley – the hub of high-tech enterprise – we adapted our inventory to service the high-tech OEMs,” he adds.

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