Robert James Sales picRobert-James Sales Inc. maintains the country’s largest stainless steel pipe, valve and fittings inventory. 
By Alan Dorich

After more than 45 years, Robert-James Sales Inc. is known for its focus on service. “We get orders based on our reputation and our commitment to delivering the product,” President Jim Bokor says.

Buffalo, N.Y.-based Robert-James Sales offers its clients corrosion-resistant piping products, including pipes, valves, flanges and fittings. Bokor’s father and uncle, Jim Bokor Sr. and Bob Glidden, started the company in 1972.

Today, Robert-James Sales serves a clientele that largely consists of mechanical contractors, fabricators and OEMs. The younger Bokor says the company has the ability to serve those clients better than its competitors thanks to its inventory.

“We do have the largest stainless steel pipe valve and fitting inventory in the country,” he says, noting that this has earned Robert-James Sales much repeat business.

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.”

ColoursColours is raising the bar for automotive paint distributors by investing in training, service and expanded facilities.
By Eric Slack

Founded in 1972, Colours has been serving the automotive paint industry in the Mid-Atlantic region for more than 40 years. Purchased in 1986 by current owner, President and CEO Tim Evans with a single location in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., Colours now has 30 locations including 2 distribution centers, providing a wide array of services to the automotive and industrial paint industry.

“We pride ourselves on our customer service,” CFO Ali Mahalak says. “Our business development managers are trained to review customers’ numbers, tracking and implementing changes that may help the customer become more efficient and in turn more profitable. Additionally, Colours has a tech team that includes five PPG certified refinish technical representatives and two certified PPG commercial technical representatives. Our tech team helps customers, location staff and vendors on current products, new products entering the market and troubleshooting.”


MH Equipment picMH Equipment believes in supporting its customers as well as its employees and community members.
By Jim Harris

MH Equipment offers its customers much more than just material-handling equipment. The Chillicothe, Ill.-based dealer helps large warehouse and distribution center owners be more efficient and ultimately reduce their operating costs.

“Our fleet management model is unique in the industry and is what we do best,” CEO John Wieland says. “This model has separated us from many, if not all, of our competitors and endeared us to corporations such as Anheuser-Busch and General Motors, who’ve chosen us to manage their facilities.”

Established in 1952 in Peoria, Ill., as a small Hyster forklift dealership, MH Equipment today is one of the largest and fastest-growing material-handling service providers in the United States. The company is an authorized dealer of Hyster as well as, in select areas, Yale forklift equipment. MH Equipment has 28 service branches throughout Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Eastway 12 copyEastway Supplies distributes plumbing supplies, pipes, valves and fittings and offers a builders division that installs closets and retail entrance glass.

By Russ Gager

Maintaining unique niches inside the business of distributing plumbing supplies has kept Eastway Supplies prospering for 45 years while it serves central Ohio. President Gary Glanzman attributes the company’s success to its dedication to the Columbus, Ohio, market. “We’ve got plenty of competitors that went regional or national and got sold out, but by staying local and expanding locally, I feel like that was our best bet, and that was what we did.”

One of Eastway Supplies’ niches is high-volume apartments. “You’ve got to know the marketplace and we have to know our position or our role in the marketplace,” Glanzman says. “What we are really strong with are the high-volume residences like apartments, and we do a good job with commercial pipe, valves and fittings, and plumbing fixtures for commercial buildings, schools and hospitals. We really work on knowing our place in the markeplace.”

Bell Pipe picBell Pipe & Supply’s experienced employees and smart technology investments have made it a leading distributor in southern California.

By Tim O’Connor

Strong competition in the industrial piping supply market has left little room for direct growth the past several years, so Bell Pipe & Supply is taking a different path to differentiate itself to customers. The company is investing in its own technology capabilities to become more efficient and reducing the cost of inventory through supplier relationships so its buying can remain competitive. “Growth is important, but it’s not all-driving for us,” President and CEO Franklin Bell says. “It’s more the quality and customer service we give to the customer.”

norco picNorco follows an operating philosophy that upholds high-quality customer service and highly-motivated employees.

By Tim O’Connor

Larger companies often inquire about buying Norco Inc. But the family owned welding, safety, janitorial, medical equipment and gas supplier believes it can better operate as an independent business with a focus on its customers and employees.

Owner Jim Kissler has long thought about how he could better establish the company’s value and set it up to grow as a very long term independent organization. In 2015, he took that step by shifting one-third of Norco ownership to the employees.  “The reaction from employees has been  extremely positive. It’s a very big bonus program with a fantastic long term component,” Executive Vice President Robert Mohr Gerry says.

Kimball MidwestKimball Midwest’s ownership is concerned about serving customers and cultivating employees over short-term profits.

By Tim O’Connor

Customer demands are always evolving, and suppliers must constantly work to keep up. That’s especially true for businesses that provide the everyday tools and equipment companies need to keep their business running. “[Customers are] pressured to do more and it’s imperative we partner with them to help them be more efficient in what they do,” says Chas McCurdy, vice president of Kimball Midwest, a supplier of maintenance, repair and operations products.

The trend in distribution today is toward just in time delivery. Kimball Midwest prides itself on having a large inventory with an emphasis on, “if you want it, we have it.” “We definitely are setting the pace and leading the industry in service rate and fulfillment rate,” McCurdy says.

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