Executive Q&A: Tom Fodell, Barnes Distribution

Industrial Distribution speaks with Barnes Distribution president Tom Fodell as part of ID's Executive Q&A Series.

Tom Fodell

ID: What is the most misunderstood aspect of your industry?

TF: That maintenance and repair spend is relatively small. Barnes Distribution “lives” in this space and we can tell you manufacturers or facility managers can spend 50 percent of their time managing consumable MRO products, which is usually 10 percent or less of their spend. We see organizations all the time that waste time making emergency buys or just trying to organize their small parts. This can add up to real dollars that negatively impact their bottom line. Until we meet with the customer and explain the benefits of Vendor Managed Inventory, it is difficult to differentiate ourselves from other MRO suppliers. Having said that, once the customer sees and understands how VMI saves both hard and soft dollars, we can establish a very long business partnership.

ID: When did you begin your career in this industry and in what capacity?

TF: I have been with Barnes Group for 31 years and joined Barnes Distribution late in 2010.

ID: What would you consider to be the biggest changes you’ve seen the industry face throughout your career thus far?

TF: Since I am relatively new to the industry, I don’t have the perspective as to large scale changes. We see much of the U.S. manufacturing base moving to Asia and that has changed how we do business and what our customers can expect in regards to value. Technology has also played a big part in supply chain management from order processing to delivery.

ID: Why might you recommend the industry as a career choice for the younger generation?

TF: While a mature industry, I believe it offers exciting and challenging career opportunities. This industry offers exposure to all business aspects. This includes sales, management, marketing, finance, human resources, and sourcing. In our business model, our employees have a direct impact on changing a customer’s business in regards to time and money savings. That can be very rewarding for an employee. In addition, advanced technology provides new avenues for employees to continue career and personal development through on-line training. The diverse customer base also allows our employees a chance to work with all types of businesses and really see how different operations work.

ID: What is the best idea you’ve seen your team implement in the last year?

TF: Bringing our Lean philosophy to our customers via Vendor Managed Inventory practices. Our internal Lean practice is transferred to our sales proposition -  we literally act as an employee that takes waste out of our customer’s maintenance and repair spend. We’ve had a number of Lean events (Kaizen) which have improved our ability to service our field representatives and ultimately our using customers. I think our global sourcing efforts have yielded excellent products which have helped us stay competitive. In addition, our marketing activities allow us to attack market segments with the right products to enhance our growth.