Q&A: Sherwin Williams Rob Lynch - other PR Img
Rob Lynch, Senior Vice President with Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes spoke with ABRN about the company’s unique distribution method and its benefits to the customer.
 
May 28, 2014
 
 
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ABRN: Tell us about Sherwin-Williams different approach to distribution than other paint manufacturers?

 
RL: We like the unique nature we bring as a solution provider to our customers because of the controlled distribution platform. Many years ago, leadership in the company chose to go this controlled distribution platform route, investing in company-owned branches, which now have grown to a little more than 190 branches in North America. We really control the ideation, commercialization and manufacturing of our product, right down to distribution service for our customers through all company-owned facilities. So we have 190 locations manned by company employees, with technical, consultative, sales and marketing services behind that across the country and into Canada.
 
We’re very bullish on this and true to our strategy. It’s a model that we’ve enjoyed throughout our company. We feel there is a compelling difference from our competitors. Relative to our competitors, we hold them all in high regard — we feel this is the only way we can continue to get better and serve our customers. Having said that, we choose to go to market much differently than they do in terms of this platform. And the powerful nature of it is every person that touches our customers’ business works for Sherwin-Williams. As a result, we are all part of same culture, we all adopt the same value system from a part-time delivery driver to a branch manager to a technical professional or executive. Everyone is on the same mission and has the ability to replicate an experience for customers, whether you are a shop owner in Portland, Me., or in San Francisco, Calif.”
 
The controlled distribution strategy provides a compelling difference and is very unique because we directly supply and service our collision repair customers. This is delivered by company trained employees, and we manage the entire supply chain from ideation of product to development to commercialization to delivery to support and service. A Sherwin-Williams professional, no matter where you are in the process, is touching the product. You are interacting with only Sherwin-Williams employees. There are great advantages to be able to replicate a consistent experience to all our customers.


ABRN: How is this distribution method different for the collision repairer?

 
RL: Expertise is one really powerful difference. I also would talk in terms of the speed and the turnkey approach. You’re really looking at a one-stop shop you can provide our customers, where we have service employees and technical employees. All put together, we have unmatched customer service and a just-in-time delivery method, which also helps the customer relative to managing their inventory and cash flow. These company-owned branches all are able to act quickly to serve our customers by community so that not only their paint, but all their associated product needs can be met from one location and delivered with unquestioned service.


ABRN: Does direct distribution also provide benefits to MSOs?

 
RL: As proud as we are about the compelling difference we feel this model gives us, we think the MSO opportunity and the difference that we can mean to them is powerful. In the industry today, as the MSOs continue to grow relative to consolidation, we are all trying to achieve a consistent, repeatable and reliable experience. With a controlled distribution model, we are able to replicate that service experience from state to state and market to market. We are able to match our Sherwin-Williams SOPs with the MSOs’ SOPs and deliver repeatable experience every single time.


ABRN: How does this form of one-stop shopping encourage lean processes for Sherwin-Williams customers?

 
RL: We are supplying service and expertise and having this network of branches to support our customers allows us to have a close touch with them and have them operate with the most productive inventory and management processes that they can. We are able to work with them through consultative services to help them eliminate waste throughout their facility and processes, and in the end this drives greater profits to their bottom line. In Through our expertise in consultative services, we are able to work with their teams and establish the appropriate SOPs to drive leaner processes through their entire organization.


ABRN: How does controlled distribution help a customer with inventory management, replenishment and delivery?

 
We are all about getting our customers the product when they need it, as opposed to them having to sit on inventory for longer than they really need. We have an infrastructure that allows complete PBE replenishment and delivery processes that interface with our customers in a just-in-time environment. With our branch network, we are allowing our customers to standardize their delivery process so they have a consistent and trainable approach for all of their people. We can also offer a centralized billing option that can really helps the growth of some of the larger MSOs.


ABRN: In a nutshell, what this direct distribution system means to the collision repairer?

 
RL: The model represents a one-company approach. If we look out across the competitive sect, we are the only ones that do this. We are the only ones who go to market with company-owned stores all manned by company employees. Anyone touching our customers’ business is a Sherwin-Williams employee. We project a one voice, a one mission and we think that is a powerful nature. When our customers pick up the phone, they are going to get a Sherwin-Williams employee on the other end that is going to meet their needs, resolve their issue or help them with their opportunity. And we can do that all with a very controlled approach, which are accepted and shared policies, procedures and values so we are all beating to the same drum. You get the same treatment, and the outstanding products and service behind it no matter where you are in the country.
 
What is most important to us is our company, our brands. We are very proud of the innovations that we continue to bring to the industry. We are very proud of this controlled distribution model. We feel we bring some best-in-class capabilities. But in the end, it really is about our people and the passion they have for serving our customers and growing our business. We are going to be 148 years old, and we are still built on the same core pillars of quality, exemplary service and passionate people and that is the way we are going to continue to go market.