The company feels this is another added advantage in working with a warehouse distributor. They're able to assume the risks associated with geographical product or line preferences. Schneider estimates there to be about a 10 percent deviation in product lines from location to location. This ensures that each National Oak warehouse can meet differing demands that often stem from nothing more than local preferences. "The same products don't sell in some areas, but we're still able to take advantage of our purchasing power in providing these somewhat unique requests by making the entire inventory available to all locations," explains Schneider.
When it comes to order fulfillment, nearly 70 percent of the company's sales are done over the phone by a customer service team that Schneider feel is "second to none". However, in looking to the future, new computer systems are being enhanced to help improve a jobber's ability to place orders electronically. The goal here is to cut additional overhead costs and provide the customer with increased value.
Finally, if one needed further proof of National Oak Distributors' position as a leader in the industry, you could always look at their clientele, the biggest of which is Finishmaster, the industry's leading national jobber. "From Finishmaster to the many independent and individual jobbers that we service, our programs deliver the desired results for our customers. That's how we keep expanding our business," states Schneider.
Like any leader, National Oak Distributors looks to the future with a desire to grow and do more. Primarily this means adding to a national footprint that they feel is only 75 percent complete.
These are steps that should require being in the right spot, knowing how to manage their growth, and continuing to do the things that have made them successful.
Focused On The Cure
National Oak works to incorporate the Kaizan management approach in all that they do. Kaizan, which was made famous by Toyota, focuses on identifying how mistakes can be made and then developing practices to help avoid them. The idea is to work towards constant improvement and process refinement.
Why would this be important? Well, upon reviewing their order fulfillment process, National Oak realized there are 53 unique opportunities for a mistake to be made from the time an order is received until the time product is physically delivered to the customer.
Some simple ways that National Oak has implemented the principles of Kaizan include:
Location, Location, Location
Two large mergers and a combination of new openings have combined to form the current 15-location composition of National Oak Distributors. Here are some facts about National Oak's multiple site operation.
- In 2000, Oak Distributors, which had multiple locations on the West Coast and in the Midwest, joined with National PBE, which had multiple warehouses in Florida and the southeastern U.S. This is how National Oak Distributors came into existence.
- Sales, marketing and purchasing is headquartered in Ontario, CA. Being located in California offers several advantages, one of which is being closer to environmental issues that can impact product lines like paint guns and curing equipment.
- Many of the locations have a paint booth and classroom that can be used for training either the jobber, or their customers.
- Each location has its own customer service team. These individuals are trained to know PBE-specific issues, as well as different product options, features and benefits.
- The average size of each warehouse is about 25,000 square feet. Current locations exist in:
- Kapolei, HI
- Memphis, TN
- St. Petersburg, FL
- Miami, FL
- West Palm Beach, FL
- Orlando, FL
- Charlotte, NC
- Chattanooga, TN
- Burr Ridge, IL
- Des Moines, IA
- Auburn, WA
- Portland, OR
- Hayward, CA
- Ontario, CA
- Phoenix, AZ