Strengthening the wholesale supply chain will be the focus of a special panel discussion, “Building The Chain: Creating A Culture Of Trust In The Supply Chain,” 8:30-10 a.m., Sept. 9, at Network '05, Orlando, Fla.

“We've beaten each other to death in this industry to get the lowest price without recognizing that the lowest price isn't always the best value,” says Kirk Alter, director of the PHCC Educational Foundation's management courses, who will moderate the discussion. Alter is also associate professor in Purdue University's Department of Building Construction Management and president of Fast Management Inc.

The drive for the lowest price, Alter says, has led the industry in plenty of “I win, you lose” behavior. Contractors may have to spend more in inventory since they're afraid their wholesalers won't have what they need just when they need it. Wholesalers don't think contractors manage their purchases properly - and are surprised when material has to be back-ordered. Meanwhile, manufacturers consider both wholesalers and contractors as technologically unsophisticated. And above all, all three have to deal with the cries for the lowest price in town.

“I don't think we've really identified the problems as an industry,” Alter adds. “There isn't anything new about these supply chain logistical problems and other industries that require wholesale distribution have come to terms with similar problems over the years. I'm hoping we can identify some key issues as a result of this meeting and walk away with some ideas.”

To help identify these key issues will be a panel representing contractors - both service and repair as well as new construction - wholesalers, manufacturers and manufacturers reps:

  • Milton Frank, president, Milton Frank Plumbing Co. Inc., Spring, Texas
  • Bill Jones, president, Raven Mechanical, Houston, Texas
  • Jeff Clyne, president/plumbing and HVAC, Hughes Supply Inc., Orlando, Fla.
  • Donald Maloney, president, Coburn Supply Co., Beaumont, Texas
  • Greg Schlotman, vice president/wholesale sales, Moen Inc., North Olmsted, Ohio
  • Robert Vick, vice president/commercial and industrial group, NIBCO Inc., Elkhart, Ind.
  • Jay Schechter, president, Focus Sales, a manufacturers rep agency in Middlesex, N.J.
Topics to be presented by the panel during the meeting include: common problems and pitfalls in the supply chain from each participant's perspective, and the resulting costs and inefficiencies; solutions, ideas and practices to address these problems and pitfalls; answers to this question: “If you were going to write the 'Ten Commandments' of supply chain management, what would they be?”

The event is one of Network '05's combined programs and is open to both ASA and PHCC members.