Issue Summer 13
When a company hires a third party to manage its MRO supply chain, it wants the peace of mind that the new partner will serve its best interests and provide the parts and components exactly when it needs them. It’s no wonder, then, that Pennsylvania-based SDI Inc. has become one of the leading third-party MRO management firms. According to Executive Vice President of Field Operations Chris Moore, SDI’s status as a pure-play integrated supply company means it is “supplier-agnostic” and “client-loyal.”
“We’re a service provider,” Moore says, adding that many of SDI’s competitors are distributors that might act like an integrated supply company, but funnel components from preferred suppliers or their own products into clients’ operations despite the clients’ needs. Because SDI has no affiliation with any particular distributor or manufacturer, it is under no obligation to sell any particular brand.
“The company’s market base is a little bit unique in that we’re not limited to any one market or industry,” Moore says. SDI’s client base ranges from airlines to food and beverage to education, and Moore says the company has the ability to bring synergies from each market to improve service.
“What we do is applicable across all industry segments,” he says. “Parts are parts, to tell the truth.”
Above and Beyond
From its humble beginnings as a single-branch distributor in 1971, SDI has developed into one of the few fully integrated MRO providers. Even though SDI already distinguishes itself from the majority of its competitors in this way, it goes above and beyond even what the few other integrated MRO companies offer.
For example, Moore says, SDI operates a central operations model that routes all transactions through its headquarters. This way, SDI is able to leverage all of its resources to serve all customers. Under the decentralized model most of SDI’s competitors use, Moore says, individual sites don’t always share knowledge and technology, creating an inconsistent experience for customers.
That doesn’t mean, however, that SDI doesn’t work on a one-to-one level with its customers. “We have a huge buying center here, and in that buying center they’re divided up into pods,” Moore explains, adding that these pods work closely with individual customers so that they gain a complete understanding of how their operations work. Additionally, representatives from SDI are embedded in customers’ storerooms to get a first-hand view of how clients operate and what their needs are.
The second key advantage that SDI has is its engineering services program. With more than 20 skilled engineers positioned throughout North America, SDI can help clients stabilize their supply chain issues very quickly. If clients find that a particular component from an OEM fails frequently, SDI’s engineers make suggestions to the OEM to improve the component. “We direct them, we drive projects to them and we hold them accountable,” Moore says.
Surprisingly, he says one of SDI’s biggest challenges arises from making what it does look easy. Because the company’s representatives are working through SDI’s centralized model and spend time educating clients, some clients start to think that managing their MRO supply chain is easier than it really is, and increasingly companies are internalizing their MRO operations once again.
“Because we make it so easy, we make clients believe that it is so easy,” Moore says. However, without the specialized technology, people and other resources SDI brings to bear for clients, many of these companies find themselves back in the same situations that led them to bring in a third-party MRO firm in the first place.
SDI has an outstanding record of client retention. Moore can say this because the company goes to great lengths to ensure that lines of communication remain open at all times. Along with the company’s policy of being open and transparent with clients, Moore says SDI’s robust reporting system keeps clients in the loop about their supply chains. “Those clients [we] have the best relationships with wouldn’t dream of leaving,” Moore says.
Looking ahead, Moore says technology will have a big impact on SDI and the third-party MRO industry. The company offers an RFID solution for clients now that the technology has become much more affordable. He adds that SDI expects industrial vending machines – where clients can buy the component they need as easily as they could a can of soda – to become a major area of growth.
“We’re focused on technology, as the whole world is focused on technology,” Moore says.