AD Bearings & Power Transmission Division Spotlights the Strength of Independents at the 2022 North American Meeting

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April 6, 2022

By Natalie Ford, Marketing Manager, Affiliated Distributors (AD)

The AD Bearings & Power Transmission division gathered for its annual North American Meeting on March 8-11, giving AD members and supplier partners a chance to celebrate a year of extraordinary growth and look ahead to new opportunities.

Division Vice President Darin Davenport shared that the group broke financial records in every month of 2021. Member purchases from AD suppliers increased by 30% overall, while member distributions increased by 65%. In fact, the division is now eight times larger than it was at its founding in 2016, as measured in buying power.

Davenport attributed the division’s success to the strength and resilience of independent distributors.

“When the world shut down, our members never stopped working,” Davenport said. “Our independent distributors stepped up with the service, expertise and personal attention that customers needed more than ever.”

The division’s success tracks with exceptional growth across all of AD. In his keynote address, AD Chairman and CEO Bill Weisberg said an 18–20% increase in members’ same-store sales indicates that independent distributors are growing faster than the overall market. Weisberg also shared that total AD member sales had grown 39% to a record $58.5 billion—a figure he said was once unimaginable.

Weisberg noted that the growing trend towards consolidation marks an inflection point in the industry, with independents uniquely positioned to capture more market share.

“What’s happening in the industry creates a tremendous opportunity for the AD community to leverage the business strategies that make them so effective,” Weisberg said. “Investing in people, customer service, knowledge and solutions is what makes independents so attractive to suppliers who are looking for true business partners.”

AD Marketplace and AD Member Supply continue to grow

The meeting included an update from Jack Templin, president of the Electrical & Industrial Safety Business Unit, on AD Marketplace, an exclusive eCommerce platform for AD members to buy from over 70 suppliers using a single login and streamlined ordering process. Templin said the program has grown five times from its launch in 2017, with a 28% increase in sales in 2021 alone.

AD Member Supply serves as a fulfillment center and trusted partner for AD members and participating suppliers, providing logistical cost savings and operational efficiencies. Templin highlighted strategic changes that improved the program’s profitability, increasing core sales last year by 36% in the BPT division and 45% across all of AD. Recently, the program paid rebates to AD members for the first time since its launch in January 2021.

Additional program enhancements driving impact

During the meeting, AD leaders shared updates on programs that are adding additional value to the BPT community.

supplyFORCE joins together independent distributors to provide full-service solutions for national customers, opening up national accounts to regional AD members. During the member business meeting, supplyFORCE’s Executive Vice President of Channel Management, Jim Curran, shared a number of program enhancements. Curran noted that the supplyFORCE team and the steering committee are focused on doubling business for BPT members within 24 months.

Jay Stahl of CBT Company, a member of the supplyFORCE board and the steering committee confirmed that the steering committee is working closely with members to develop the right strategy to gain more traction in national markets.

“There’s a need for hands-on support at the national level, which is what independents are focused on,” Stahl said. “ While some distributors are going in a more Amazon-esque direction, we’re bringing personalized service where customers need the most help.”

In line with AD’s commitment to equip independent distributors with superior technical expertise, Davenport announced that the BPT division will bring back in-person training via the AD Education Center in 2022. Classes had been postponed during the pandemic.

With expert instructors and hands-on training, the Education Center is a comprehensive educational platform serving AD members and supplier partners as well as non-members from the industrial distribution industry. Three in-person courses are scheduled within the Power Transmission Principles curriculum for this year, with a Bearing Principles and Bulk Material Handling course forthcoming.

Board changes bring new faces

During the member business update, Davenport took a moment to recognize two board members exiting their seats: Jim Scardina of Bearing Headquarters and Brad Fitzgerald of Binkelman. On behalf of all of AD, Davenport thanked the two members for their years of dedicated service and leadership contributions.

One seat was previously filled by Rob LaRue of Baldwin Supply Company, who had been voted in during the division’s fall meeting. At this meeting, members voted unanimously to approve the nomination of Chris DuComb of W.C. DuComb Co., one of the industry’s younger company leaders.

When asked why he wanted to serve on the board of directors, DuComb said he is invested in AD’s mission to help independents and wants to contribute to the overall direction of the division. He also pointed to specific benefits for his company:

“The most productive I can be for the sake of our company is talking to decision makers that work for our partners,” said DuComb. “Serving on the governing bodies gives me a greater understanding of how our industry functions below the surface and allows me to develop personal relationships that deliver value for our family business and our team.”

Building market leaders through collaboration

As a longtime and active member, Mark Balcom of Pooley Inc. offered insights on why AD meetings are crucial for independent distributors.

“Independents grow best with the support of the relationships we build within a strong, trusted community,” Balcom said. “I’ve developed a lot of relationships with both manufacturing partners and other distributors at meetings, and I can call on these people for help when I need it.”

He also noted, “Every time I come to a meeting in person, I walk away with 2-3 things I’m going to use in my business.”

Ben Nations of B&D Industrial, chair of the divisional board and a featured speaker, told members that in the wake of the pandemic, the future of independent distributors is bright.

“We not only survived and adapted to the challenges of Covid, we also leveraged unique opportunities,” Nations said. “Being there for customers at a hands-on, local level gave us a place to shine.”

In a nod to the meeting theme, True North, Nations praised members for staying true to their values, constantly sharing knowledge and pushing each other to get better. “That’s our true north,” he said. “It’s what gives us the road map to move forward.”

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