Miami-based industrial PVF distributor Lehman Pipe and Plumbing Supply has put the pedal to the metal when it comes to self-innovation.
Lehman Pipe recently hosted a grand-opening celebration with more than 500 guests touring its new state-of-the-art headquarters and distribution facility in the shadows of Miami International Airport.
The new facility spans 94,000 square feet and utilizes a 3-acre pipe yard. The single-branch distributor previously worked out of a building in nearby Wynwood for more than 70 years. The new facility is about 3 1/2 miles due west of the former Wynwood location.
“We went from 2 1/4 acres in the old building to 10 acres of property and we’re only utilizing six of the 10 acres at this time,” Lehman Pipe Executive Vice President Josh Aberman told Supply House Times during the recent Embassy buying group meeting in Doral, Florida. “We went a few miles west and surprisingly we’re in a better location that has better access to our facility, more parking and more efficiencies.”
Aberman said the company, which distributes industrial PVF products from Palm Beach to the Florida Keys while also serving Central and South America and the Caribbean, simply outgrew its longstanding facility.
“We had been in that same facility for 71 years,” he pointed out. “It was an older-style supply house. Instead of one building, it was multiple buildings on multiple pieces of property. We were able to run a very effective operation from a very inefficient set of buildings. When we were designing the building and trying to lay out everything, we knew where we had to be in order to cover all the inefficiencies we experienced at the prior location.”
Aberman noted the timeframe from the initial planning and design process to move-in was about three years. Lehman Pipe President Dennis Lehman sold the company’s former building and, as Aberman put it, “sold it for a small fortune and invested significantly more than half of it on us,” he said. “That’s very flattering. Had Dennis decided to retire, we would not have this facility.”
A blank slate
Aberman said Lehman’s new location is a like a dream come true. “If you were going to build a PVF supply house and someone gave you a sheet of paper and told you to write down everything you wanted to have in it and then said go ahead and build it, that’s what we have here,” he said. “We pretty much had a blank slate and Dennis was more than generous enough to invest in us. He invested in myself, he invested in our team, he invested in our employees and he gave us an opportunity to grow.”
The new facility features among other things, ample natural light, uses energy-saving LED lightbulbs throughout the facility, has a spacious and welcoming reception area and an open-concept office structure on the second floor. The second floor also contains a workout center for employee wellness.
And then there are the physical stocking areas. In addition to the 3-acre pipe yard, Lehman now has two drive-through pipe lanes, able to accommodate 18-wheel trucks. Twenty-seven racks each are capable of holding about 60,000 pounds of pipe. Thirty-ft. clears and 35-ft-high ceilings allow Lehman to bring in more inventory under one roof. “It allows us to better serve our markets in ways we weren’t able to before,” Aberman said. “Supply houses aren’t meant to have natural light or use LED bulbs. We have that. Supply houses are supposed to have old chairs with wooden desks.”
Lehman added: “We probably changed the design 875 times because we kept tweaking it and tweaking it. In my humble opinion, it’s one of the most organized facilities in the country.”
Out front, a modern wholesale counter area features a variety of more traditional plumbing-oriented products. “We serve more than 85 customers a day from the counter,” Aberman said. “We are 100% wholesale selling only to the trades.”
Most importantly, Lehman’s new digs allow the distributor to focus on its main mission of best-serving its customers in the most efficient and cost-effective ways possible.
“It used to take us 30 or 35 minutes to serve a customer,” Aberman said. “Our goal now is to have the customers in and out in less than 20 minutes. There other day we had 106 customers in and the average wait time was 17 minutes and that’s service and wait time together.”
“That’s an amazing number,” Lehman added.
The new facility also has Lehman targeting more growth. “We’re able to bring in more products so we can increase our penetration in our existing customer base,” Aberman said. “We’re not charging into new markets, but we feel our growth will be in our existing markets and being able to bring in more products to those markets.”
Already, Lehman is fielding inquiries from out-of-market distributors that are curious about the new facility and all its bells and whistles. “We recently had Greg Christopher from Mueller Industries tour our facility,” Lehman noted. “He fell in love with our building and he sent one of his VPs down. Mueller is building a new corporate headquarters and asked if we minded them copying some of our ideas. Do we mind? Be our guest! It’s the ultimate compliment.”
Both Lehman and Aberman marvel at the new structure and the vast possibilities it brings to the more than seven-decade-old company. “We have something here that quite honestly is extremely unique for a single-branch operation,” Lehman said.
Aberman added: “We had a wish list and Dennis Lehman made it come true.”
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