The Irving-Texas-based WIT & Co. buying group had itself quite a 2016.

Executive Vice President and COO Charlie Moorhead told Supply House Times during an interview at the buying group’s annual Distributor/Vendor Conference held at the Hyatt Regency in Dallas in mid-March that WIT owners had a record-breaking year in terms of group purchasing.

“The success we enjoyed in 2016 was due largely to our strong internal growth,” he said. “We had many of our distributors increase their purchases through the group last year, with 30% of our companies growing their business by double digits. A few WIT distributors made acquisitions in 2016, but the majority grew by adding new branches, taking on new product lines or adding new product categories to supplement traditional product offerings.”

Moorhead noted the group’s heating and cooling arm did particularly well in 2016. “Nearly all our HVAC businesses enjoyed some type of growth in 2016,” he said. “Our plumbing segment also experienced solid growth, but some parts of the country did better than others. We saw significant strength with many of our plumbing specialty vendors. In addition, our finish business – especially faucets – was exceptionally strong. The growth experienced last year was especially satisfying and is a credit to the strength and diversity of distributors that make up WIT.”

Moorhead provided an update on the group’s major technology initiative (WIT-Net Evolution) designed to provide a central hub that allows WIT owners and WIT vendors to connect with each other via electronic data interchange or EDI.

“It’s been a big success so far,” he said. “With this system, a vendor can map through a one-time connection to WIT and be connected to all our distributors. The reverse process allows our distributors to map to do the same thing (one map) and have access to all the vendors they purchase from. We rolled this technology out at our meeting in Chicago last fall and the participation from both our distributors and vendors has been greater than we could have hoped for.”

Moorhead stated that under a traditional EDI model each distributor would map to each vendor individually. WIT-Net Evolution eliminates the need to create and maintain those individual maps, allowing a single connection and single map to support multiple trading partners for both distributors and vendors. 

“In tackling this project, we wanted to come up with a ‘win –win’ process that would automate the procurement process on both sides and provide better and faster information to manage the supply chain while reducing complexity — essentially lowering transaction costs and improving accuracy for both the distributor and the vendor,” he said.  “We’re just now starting to measure the savings, but the initial report from our distributors over the last couple months has been very positive.”

Moorhead talked openly about his succession plan which was formally announced at last fall’s WIT meeting in Chicago, stating progress is being made on the search and hiring process. “Our plans have not changed,” he said. “We are being very specific in our requirements and making sure we select the right person for WIT going forward. Our search committee has reviewed resumes, participated in numerous phone interviews and conducted face-to-face interviews. Once we’ve made our decision, I plan to work with the new executive as long as it takes for them to be comfortable with the job. Our board and I both want the best for WIT and we want the transition to be as seamless as possible.”

As is custom, WIT honored its top-volume owners for 2016. This year’s top 10 includes 1) Goodin Co., 2) Standard Plumbing Supply, 3) Dakota Supply Group, 4) Plumbing Distributors Inc., 5) Wm. F. Meyer, 6) Rampart Supply, 7) General Plumbing Supply, 8) Hydrologic Distribution Co., 9) Northside Plumbing Supply and 10) The Portland Group.

WIT also honored distributors that showed the greatest growth percentage for the year. That list includes T.A. Gentry (Level 1 owners), Dealers Supply (Level 2 owners) and Hydrologic Distribution Co. (Level 3 owners).

White-Rodgers (30 years), Elkhart Products (35 years), Red-White Valve (35 years) and Oatey (40 years) were among many manufacturers honored for longevity in the group.