5 Shares Its High-
ID: Can you give me the rundown
on how MSC has begun building digital solutions around common customer
CB: At MSC, we’re more than what
people think of when they think of a
distributor. We’re solutions providers.
We are focused on helping customers
become smarter about their businesses
by better understanding and better pre-
dicting their needs. And we’ve evolved
customers’ changing demands. At the end of the day, we want to
help our customers do business better and smarter, while cutting
their costs and taking time out of the product development lifecycle.
One way we do that is by leveraging our customizable
ControlPoint inventory management solutions, which includes
our vending, Customer Managed Inventory (CMI) and Vendor
Managed Inventory (VMI) capabilities. We support these tools with
our deep industry expertise and apply our technology-driven solutions to our customers’ problems to help them manufacture more
efficiently and effectively.
At MSC, as with many distributors, IT is a key part of our operations. However, our IT department is not just focused on keeping
the computers running, it’s also focused on helping the business
go to new places and pave new roads. In fact, our IT function has
helped shape our ControlPoint inventory management solutions and
inform the processes which dictate the products we buy and stock
in our warehouses. Our IT team has also had a hand in enhancing
our supply chain management solutions, which are very important
to our customers and are a major differentiator for MSC. And in the
digital realm, IT has played a big role in developing our highly successful billion dollar dot-com business, which has helped this 75+
year old brick and mortar distribution business expand online.
ID: I’m curious to hear how e-commerce has changed your
business. Are you finding that a lot of your customers are transitioning to the e-commerce portal?
CB: We’re absolutely seeing a major shift in how customers are
making their purchases. Here’s an example I always like to use: if I
put a physical catalog on the table and placed a computer next to it,
with the browser open to a website that sold the same products, and
then I gave you a hundred dollars and said you could put it on one,
where are you going to put it? The answer is obvious, right? Our
customers are leading the way, and we’re right there with them.
In the context of the adaption of digital technologies, we use
terms like “digital natives” and “digital immigrants.” The reality
is that today, the bulk of our workforce is still made up of digital
immigrants who remember life before the internet. But people
entering the workforce now are digital natives. The world is changing quickly, and there is a digital battle going on that is requiring
companies to adapt and transition online in order to remain competitive. At MSC, we’ve anticipated this change and have made it a
point to make our digital assets a core piece of our business.
In fact, we do about a third of our business through our website, and over half of our business is now digital. Our website is
designed to make the purchasing process seamless and intuitive for
customers. We’re also bringing more and more content to our customers on the web to make it easy for them to solve problems. And
we’ve also built a site which takes all the knowledge that we’ve
captured through a branch or a call center or a tech team and brings
it to life on the web – information that’s available on demand for
our customers, whenever and wherever they need it.
ID: Are you finding that more of your customers are becoming
aware of inventory as a cost center or has MSC needed to be very
involved in the educational process when it comes to things like
CB: Given that we serve such a broad array of customers –
which span from small businesses all the way up to large, blue
Industrial distributors continue to face a shifting demand. While customers still expect the same
broad swath of products, many demand new platforms for sourcing and fulfillment – anything from
e-commerce purchasing to vendor managed inventory – to improve the ease and efficiency of their
purchasing. IMPO’s sister magazine, Industrial Distribution, sat down with Charles Bonomo, CIO of
MSC Industrial Supply, to discuss some of the ways in which this MRO supplier has gone from classic
brick-and-mortar to a distributor that’s a high-tech partner for its customer base.