They came, they saw and they bought.
When Akron, Ohio-based Famous Supply (a division of Famous Enterprises) realized they needed more space in their Columbus market, they jumped at the chance when an existing building became available. But the expansion from a previous 36,000-square-foot building was more than just a leap to larger quarters. It took Famous’ A-team, led by Bryan Huntley, vice president of supply chain, to ensure that the project went off smoothly, allowing it to celebrate its first full year of operation in May of 2014.
“It was a team effort,” says Huntley, who called up his team in Sebring, Ohio, where Famous maintains a 350,000-square-foot distribution center, for their expertise to make the transition as trouble-free as possible. “We were able to take advantage of what we learned from our largest distribution center and apply it to our newer one in Columbus,” he says.
Growth, unsurprisingly, was the impetus for a new location. “We had a facility on Cleveland Avenue in Columbus for decades,” says Huntley. “It served us well, but we simply outgrew it, and it became more difficult to move inventory and reach our customers.”
Famous began looking westward in Columbus, an area that was experiencing a burst of business activity. They found a warehouse on Roberts Road that had been home to a supplier of industrial cleaning supplies and thought the 100,000-square-foot operation would be a perfect fit. Huntley pointed out that the new location is one exit from HARDI’s office. [Ed. Note: Its proximity to HARDI had no bearing on our selection.] Because the previous occupant was a supply-based firm, Famous was able to retain about 70 percent of the existing material handling equipment and configure it for its own use. It was a tremendous savings for the company, according to Huntley.
But as most distributors know, expanding or buying a distribution center is not just a matter of size or even technological innovations. It’s still the details that seal the deal. The new distribution center hired 40 new employees bringing their employee count to 60.
Famous Enterprises has 26 branches, excluding its corporate offices. It is ranked 22nd on Distribution Center’s Top 50 Distributors 2015, with 65 percent of its business in heating and air-conditioning and 5 percent in hydronics.
Huntley also says that the new location would serve as a regional distribution center. “We weren’t just servicing branch customers, we were also going to replenish the inventory for other locations out of this facility, and that’s when we started crunching the numbers,” he says.
No matter how carefully you plan or assess the projected impact of a new distribution center, there’s always the specter that if you missed something, it could come back to sting you later, he notes. “How much inventory do we estimate will be there?” Huntley asks. “We kind of have an understanding of how much inventory fits in a building of that size. How many years is it good for? And then, giving it your best-laid plans, you have to step back and reassess it a year later to see if you did it correctly.”
Apparently, Famous did because, in retrospect, it became a fortuitous move.
“When we got in there, we acquired a couple of larger customers in the area while the project was going on,” he says. “We had to find more room for inventory, and we planned to be about two-thirds full when it opened under our growth [strategy], and we were full when it opened. It was a growth problem, but we call those good problems. That’s extra business, so that’s a good problem to have. We filled up the distribution center a couple of years faster than we thought, so now we have to create alternatives. Now we’re asking questions that involve how do we become even more efficient.”
While Huntley says Famous Supply is grateful for the award, he wanted to stress that “this was a team effort of our distribution, supply chain, operations and IT staff. Without the effort of the many people in the group photo, it would have never happened.”
This year Famous Enterprises is celebrating its 82nd year in business, establishing it as a company with a legacy and a history of steady expansion. What’s next?
“I can tell you what’s going on right now,” says Huntley. “We’ve got lots of product moving, the trucks are rolling and we have great people. That’s something we can count on, and it’s something we understand. What worries me is what’s on the horizon. Does something change that forces us to change? We’re always thinking about what’s the next investment, trying to stay ahead of the business and determine where it’s going. That’s our biggest challenge.”