4 Ways to Lean on Your Distributor When Labor is Tight
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4 Ways to Lean on Your Distributor When Labor is Tight


The skilled labor shortage is real, and it's not getting much better these days. 

In a January 2019 report, the Associated General Contractors of America noted that 78 percent of construction firms reported having a hard time filling both salaried and craft positions.

It seems the only option for contractors is to ‘do more with less.’ 

One way to do more with less is by focusing on ways to streamline work processes within your organization and the jobsite. In other words, find ways to reduce and eliminate inefficiencies.

There are several ways electrical contractors can lean on their distributor to help improve efficiencies and reduce duplicated efforts.

Talk to your distributor early and often

There’s nothing worse than having a project held up because you have the wrong product at the wrong location at the wrong time. 

One way to avoid this is by bringing your distributor earlier into your projects. The distributor can help you break down the project step-by-step, identify potential supply chain inefficiencies beforehand and eliminate issues before they become a reality. 

As another benefit, the advance notice will help the distributor work with manufacturers to plan better for what you will need, how much, where and when you will need it delivered. 

Get a second set of eyes

Your electricians are paid to install; not spend their time on non-productive activities like material handling. Stopping work to accept deliveries, opening boxes and inspecting product can be a productivity killer on the job. 

According to MCA, the typical electrical contractor spends about 40% of their time involved in non-productive tasks, such as finding, inspecting and moving product. 

So how can your distributor help? Instead of shipping boxes from the manufacturer, lean on your distributor to open boxes and confirm the contents before delivering. 

If the distributor finds a problem, such as incorrect, damaged or the wrong quantity of parts, the distributor can handle the return and have the corrected parts delivered to your jobsite in time to meet your project schedule demands – without the problem ever appearing on your jobsite.

Opt for point of install packaging

While your distributor is opening boxes for review, now is the perfect time to kit the materials by room, floor or electrician. Delivering kitted materials in moveable bins and carts not only eliminates cardboard and reduces safety risks like slips and falls but most importantly improves electrician installation efficiency. 

Many contractors are looking for ways to keep material within 30 feet or 30 seconds of an electrician ready for install. 

Graybar, for example, has a variety of solutions like fixture carts, wire and cable carts and the SmartReelTM to reduce handling time and optimize efficiency. 

For wire installations, Graybar’s SmartReel is a portable system that makes it simple and safe for one person to move a 5,000 lb. reel when and where you need it. With the SmartReel, installations typically require only half the manpower required by traditional techniques.

Review your supply chain logistics

Find someone qualified to help you review your supply chain practices, tour the jobsite, identify opportunities for efficiency improvements and help you implement these efficiencies.

In the same way, have them walk your office, tour your facilities and look for ways to increase supply chain efficiencies and reduce wasted time and money within your organization.

A contractor approached Graybar to see how we could work together to reduce their number of returns. After performing a Supply Chain Waste Walk, the Graybar representatives and contractor studied the entire office process related to the supply chain, distribution and logistics. 

In the end, the team helped the specific contractor for the project:

  • Reduce returns from an average of 17 a month down to six per month, 
  • Streamline the overall process of how it planned, purchased, processed invoices, and even invoiced its own customers. 
  • Reduce the time spent on ordering from five hours a week to 30 minutes a week.
  • Reduce the number of deliveries to the jobsite.

The contractor was so satisfied with the time and process savings that they trusted Graybar with four more similar projects to continue realizing the benefits of these savings. 

Want to learn more about improving your productivity? Join Graybar for a webinar where we share eight steps contractors are using to improve their company. We review what’s working, where you should focus first, tools and research you can use to get started today. 

Register for the 8 Practical Steps to Productivity Improvements Webinar