Distribution Plays Critical Role in Water Industry Supply Chain

Whether you are a contractor, a municipality or water district, or a manufacturer; you have experienced the value that a waterworks distributor adds to the supply chain.

By Deron Johnson

Whether you are a contractor, a municipality or water district, or a manufacturer; you have experienced the value that a waterworks distributor adds to the supply chain. While a manufacturer builds value into the product that they produce, it is the distributor working in concert with the manufacturer that gets the right product to the right place at the right time. In these difficult times, when everyone is trying to do more with less, the value that a distributor brings has never been more important.

Market Knowledge

Your local distributor is, well, local. No other organization has more real-time knowledge about the needs of the designers, builders, and owners of today's water systems. While the general principles of a quality water system do not vary greatly as the geography changes, your specific needs are affected by many factors such as population, weather, geology, and water quality. Your local distributor can assist with product specifications, training, and problem solving. As an extension of all the manufacturers that they represent, the distributor can become a one call (or visit) source for all of your waterworks needs.

Material Acquisition

Most projects today have become more complex with more components. As a result, the demands made on contractors, water districts, and municipalities during the material acquisition process have become more burdensome. A buyer is now faced with acquiring tens or even hundreds of items made by dozens of manufacturers. Distributors are knowledgeable on a wide variety of product lines and represent a wide variety of manufacturers. With these capabilities, a distributor can streamline the purchasing, handling, and logistics of their incoming material. Freeing up the utility's or contractor's personnel to focus on what they do best, installing and running their water system.

We Need What? When?

As our water and sewer infrastructure ages, the likelihood of a break or system failure increases. When that break occurs at 2:00 in the morning or in a major intersection at 2:00 in the afternoon, time becomes you biggest enemy. What size is the line? What is it made of? Where are the people and equipment needed to fix the problem? While a manufacturer may have exactly what you need in their facility, it may take a day or two to get the material. It is your local distributor that steps in with their expertise, inventory, and ability to respond quickly to an emergency.

Many projects today encompass rehabilitation of existing lines or involve work in the vicinity of existing lines. Many times contractors are surprised by what they just hit or just found once they started digging. At times like this, the contractor's best friend is the local distributor that has the necessary parts to get the problem solved immediately.

The Hub In The Wheel

In today's market, it is not just all about getting your products to the marketplace, it is also about providing expertise, service, and solutions. It is about the value that you bring your trading partners and your customers. Distributors provide manufacturers additional resources to sell their product - sales personnel, local knowledge and inventory, training and hands-on support and in many cases, access to markets that would not be directly available to them. Contractors, engineers, and utilities are provided local product support and inventory, technical and field assistance, centralized product acquisition, and immediate emergency response. Most importantly, distributors allow their customers to operate more cost-effectively.

Whatever your role, the next time you are involved with a waterworks project, think about how your job would be affected without the assistance of your local distributor. How many vendors would you have to call? How many deliveries would you have to coordinate? Would product availability affect your ability to complete the job on-time, under budget?

The distributor is the link in the supply chain that ensures that the right material gets to the right place at the right time, in the right quantity.

About the Author: Deron Johnson has served on the WASDA Board of Directors for the past six years, and will assume the role of President in the spring of 2011. Johnson is currently the Vice President of Dana Kepner Co., a Denver-based waterworks supply company.

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