The More Things Change

See how SK Hand Tools' new ownership group plans on continuing to add new products and improve internal processes.

In 2003, an employee would walk an average of 3/4-mile to fill an order. Now, thanks to a new carousel picking system, such tasks can be completed with a few steps. SK feels these process-refining approaches help drive efficiency, keep costs down and improve customer service.

Each of these aspects is part of the Kaizen approach to operational efficiency. By breaking down each part of the entire procedure, measures can be taken to isolate and avoid wasteful steps, or identify and correct areas where mistakes are most prevalent. This results in streamlined processes with greater worker input and responsibility.

"Our first focus is on product, its quality, durability, usefulness, etc. Then we look at ways to improve production. We call it Process Optimization for continuous manufacturing improvement," states Moulin. In addition to a new carousel system, the company has implemented an automated picking system with barcodes. This allows for greater accuracy in filling and tracking orders.

Backing It Up

You can provide the best products available and produce them in the most efficient manner possible, but if nobody knows about them or wants to sell them, then what? Fortunately, the new ownership at SK seems to have a well-defined understanding of promotion and distributor support.

"We can't grow without them," explains Rusnak. "We're a manufacturer, not a distributor. Our goal is to help them utilize the power of our brand so they'll want to sell and market our tools. We also understand the value of the distribution channel, and we'll always remain fiercely loyal to it. That's why so many of our new programs are focused on supporting the distributor," he adds. Some examples of these programs include:

  • Grab The Green.

Grab The Green is like a frequent flyer program for mobile tool dealers. SK estimates there to be about 750 mobile tool trucks that predominantly fly their colors, much like a franchised mobile distributor. SK awards these distributors points, based on sales, which they can cash in for anything from tools to trips. "Grab The Green is really a special support function for independent mobile tool dealers," explains Rusnak. "We're rewarding them for their loyalty, while also working to grow the number of SK trucks on the road."

  • Racing.

SK Hand Tools is a new sponsor for the 23-race ARCA/ReMax Racing Series, including the SK 200 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 10. They also serve as the Official Hand Tool of the series and sponsor the Crew Chief of the Race and Crew Chief of the Year award. In addition to the situational benefits, coverage on the Speed Channel is helping to build brand power and increase awareness.

  • Demonstration Truck.

SK uses a special Demonstration truck to help support their distributors. The truck has made over 1,000 stops within the last year, and always in conjunction with a distributor. Rusnak stresses that the truck is for showcasing and demonstrating new products, as well as gaining end-user feedback. Nothing is sold off the demo truck.

  • VoTech.

The company has also established a vocational program with tool sets focused on specific student needs. Specially designed tool kits and pricing cover collision, mechanical, diesel, industrial, HVAC and electrical repair, as well as the machine trades. Rusnak points out, again, that these sales are always coordinated with their distributor partners.

The revamped website shows end-users where they can find their nearest SK dealer.

  • 2005 Supplemental Catalog.

The new publication showcases over 550 new products.

According to the company, SK has seen double-digit growth over the last two years. "When looking at that figure, we think a lot of it stems from our 3 Core Values; Honesty, which means being straightforward with people in everything we do; Tenacity, so we'll fight to be successful in a competitive marketplace; Team spirit, because we can't succeed alone.

"In the end, we've benefited from an approach that focuses on being loyal to our customers and helping them grow."

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