Grainger Gets Serious About Services

Chairman, President, and CEO James T. Ryan explains the offerings in four areas, including safety services, as "a natural progression for us."

James T. Ryan

The 2009 downturn didn’t stop W.W.Grainger, Inc. from hosting two “Total MROSolutions” events in Orlando for thousandsof customers in January 2010, and the companyliked what they were saying. “Wethink it’s a great time for Grainger topick up share for a lot of the reasonsthat David mentioned,” GraingerChairman, President and CEO JamesT. Ryan said after the second event’sJan. 21 keynote speaker, David Manthey,focused his remarks on consolidationamong distributors and signs ofa slow recovery.

Grainger has achieved high single-,low double-digit compounded annualgrowth for about 25 years, Ryan said ashe outlined a suite of service offerings that he called“very important for our business.”

Customers are trimming the number of supplierswith whom they’ll work. “They’re not only asking forour product offering, but they’re also starting to askfor services,” said Ryan, explaining the offerings arein four areas:

  • Inventory management services, building on abase of more than 8,000 vendor managed inventoryand key fill customers
  • Sustainability consulting
  • Safety services. “That’s a natural for us: We’re thelargest safety supplier in North America, we’vegot great products in that area,” he said. “It’s anatural for us, and customers are starting to askus for safety services.”
  • Emergency preparedness. “We’ve already gotprograms there, but we’re going to get more aggressiveabout bringing those programs to othertypes of customers,” he said.

“It’s a natural progression for us to extend it tothese kinds of services as a result of supplier consolidation,”Ryan said.

Delivering the Total Solution

Jeff Weaver, Grainger’s safety strategy manager, saidhis unit is “focused on delivering the complete solution,the complete solution for our customers thatwill help them keep a safe and healthy workplace.We’ve been talking for the past few years about theproduct side of the solution, but we want to go further:The serviceability of the product,the ability to identify where we canhelp be the total solution for our customers.”

More complex services are goingto cost more, Weaver explained. “Aswe’re talking with customers, they’reasking us for a wide variety of things.Just a smattering of things that they’rebeginning to talk with us about: eyewash,they’re talking about [testingand servicing] eyewash. Fire extinguishers,when they’re to be used, youwant them to be certified and actually work. Thingslike calibration. You have your gas detection systems;you have to make sure they’re detecting at the rightlevels. All of those kinds of services, our customersare talking with us about.”

Patricia Julius, Grainger’s business issues managerfor business continuity and emergency response,said tens of thousands of products in the voluminousGrainger catalog are relevant to preparedness and response.Safety is a very big part of this, she added.

“We have a unique relationship with federal,state, and local agencies to facilitate their ability torespond and recover. The recovery phase, that reallyis the core of the products we sell. What we asGrainger do is, we help provide a sense of securityand stability for our customers,” Julius said.

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