Written for Total Fabricator, Dec 20/Jan 21 edition
The corona crisis has presented supply challenges across the industry. In this article for Total Fabricator, John Crittenden, Managing Director of hardware distributor Carl F Groupco explains that the company is spinning a lot of plates to minimise impact… and collaboration with fabricators is essential to a number of elements of the process.
“These are unprecedented times for the industry and it is no secret that hardware supply has faced significant issues since the bounce back began during the summer. But we are managing the situation in a number of ways – we are working with fabricators to address panic buying and encouraging people to only order what they need, rather than stock pile. This is an important part that fabricators can play – we are asking customers to avoid buying excess stock to give everyone a fair chance to access what they need.
Communication is key: it is hugely beneficial for fabricators to tell us if and when production is going to be increased or stopped so we can stagger shipments to help manage our stock. And, if you have a problem, do tell us – if we know, we can do everything in our power to sort it. These are busy, difficult times but we are here and making time to talk... we would much prefer to discuss your needs ahead of problems arising later down the line.
We are constantly in touch with our fabricator customers, checking orders and working with manufacturers to keep flow through the system. There is no easy fix, a lot of handles are being shipped from China which means, if they are being transported by boat, that could take around a month to arrive then, on arrival in water ports, there can be delays in customs processing - everything is taking longer due to social distancing. For speed of delivery, a number of our suppliers have invested in air freight which is quicker but more expensive and not sustainable in the long term.
Every order is analysed to maintain customer deliveries and behind the scenes we are constantly working with our suppliers to fulfil orders. Our experience and technical knowledge means that, in agreement with the fabricator placing the order, we can modify and rework products to fulfil requirements, when necessary. We are adept at providing work arounds to satisfy fabricators’ needs and we keep talking to all involved to find solutions.
But I don’t want to paint an overly gloomy picture, we have excellent relationships with our suppliers and we are all moving heaven and earth, working around the clock to maintain deliveries… and succeeding.
Due to social distancing, we have introduced new methods of communication with fabricators and this is another area of collaboration where our customers have adapted to using video calls to replace face to face meetings. I’d like to stress that, where necessary, we still meet fabricators where local restrictions allow - with safety our paramount concern for both our staff and our customers. We have built our business on the strength of our personal service and some face to face contact is essential. Our Regional Sales Managers are available for pre-arranged visits; we are keen for you to know that we are still accessible.
Transparency is Essential
Transparency and honesty is key to working together to manage the delivery challenges the industry is experiencing during the corona crisis. As part of this we would like to reassure fabricators that we don’t ‘massage the metrics’, we measure by despatching a complete order – we know that sending all components except a handle is no use to the fabricator waiting to assemble a door.
We don’t promise anything that we can’t deliver. Honesty and openness is essential from both sides. Now more than ever it is essential that we honour our policy of never over promising or under delivering.
Continued collaboration is vital to managing the challenges of supply during the pandemic and, because we have built Carl F Groupco on our commitment to service, you can rest assured that we will do everything in our power to support your hardware delivery needs.”