Industrial Distribution speaks with Ben J. Mondics, President and COO, Applied Industrial Technologies as part of ID's Executive Q&A Series.
Ben J. Mondics, Applied Industrial Technologies
ID: What is the most misunderstood aspect of your industry?
BM: Today, we aren’t just selling parts; we’re offering some of the best technical advice in the industry. In fact, we understand our customers’ problems and needs sometimes more clearly than the customers know themselves.
We’re using our knowledge and expertise in plant operations to provide engineering and maintenance departments with valuable information about product recommendations, repair or replacement strategies, inventory management, and troubleshooting failures. That kind of knowledge translates into value by providing our unique perspective on how to solve customers’ process problems. We take pride in exceptional service and competitive pricing that is commensurate with the value we provide.
ID: When did you begin your career in this industry and in what capacity?
BM: My start in this industry dates back to 1982 when I worked in the area of sales and marketing at Westinghouse Electric Corporation, followed by a similar position at Nuttall Gear Corporation. From there, I went to work for SKF USA Inc. as a sales engineer/account specialist.
That experience gave me relevant insight into the manufacturing process as well as selling through the distribution channel. I was fortunate to be able to bring that point of view and appreciation of the value of distribution to Applied in 1994. Here, I’ve gained both field and corporate experience working in various management capacities — from running one of local service centers to making product marketing decisions. I had the opportunity to further expand my sales management skills through the position of Vice President of our Northwest Area and, later, our Midwest Area. I was elected Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer in February 2007, and in January 2008, I became President. As I see it, each opportunity has built on the next and has worked together to create the perfect fit for me.
ID: What would you consider to be the biggest changes you’ve seen the industry face throughout your career thus far?
BM: I can name several:
• Customer consolidation in key industries
• Migration of purchasing power in combination with the developments of IT systems and information
• Consolidation within the distribution industry
• How we sell to customers/channels
Distribution has continued to evolve and keep pace with various forms of change. In the face all of it all, distribution continues to provide a valuable service to the industrial economy.
ID: Why might you recommend the industry as a career choice for the younger generation?
BM: Managing a local Applied service center provides the opportunity to fully operate a small business, from running a P&L to managing and leading people and building relationships with customers and suppliers. It’s a great opportunity for someone who’s interested in a well-rounded business experience and the possibility for advancement. And, because of our large national footprint, we have numerous opportunities to suit the interests of our associates – whether they want to stay local, relocate, or travel. In addition to that, we provide a significant amount of training to assist our associates in meeting their career goals. Because we pride ourselves on providing a valuable service to the industrial economy, we look to bring the right people on board – and keep them on board – by providing them the tools they need to succeed.
ID: What is the best idea you’ve seen your team implement in the last year?
BM: In October 2010, we announced our decision to replace Applied’s existing legacy IT systems with a common technology platform that is aligned with the business objectives and strategy of our company. This new company-wide ERP system will enhance our business information and transaction systems for future growth and will help drive efficiencies across our operations by addressing our specific business and industry needs.