Supply House Times recently interviewed Ohio-based Mansfield Plumbing President Jim Morando. In his ninth year at the helm of the toilet and plumbing fixture manufacturer, Morando discusses such topics as the company’s philosophy on the supply chain and its commitment to manufacturing American-made products.
What is Mansfield Plumbing doing to best maximize its inventory availability in the supply chain?
JM:Inventory supply is one of the key focuses at Mansfield. We believe buying American-made products has immense benefits for distributors. If we almost always have a product when a customer needs it then they do not have to tie up their dollars in safety stock, operate large warehouses, forklift fleets, etc., to shuffle stockpiled inventory around.
Over the past six years our company has achieved a 97-98% fill rate by following a very detailed process which projects our product demand out several years in advance. It has enabled our shift from a company heavily invested in inventory to one that has the ability to turn around orders very quickly. Ten years ago we had $10 million more in stock than we do today with fill rates of only around 60%. We were trying to guess what our customers wanted and have it ready, as opposed to making what they needed. Fine-tuning our operations and planning around a monthly demand reforecasting process allows us to efficiently schedule our factories, freeing up capital tied to inventory. This, coupled with our proximity to market, translates into shorter lead times and consistent availability, which is central to our value proposition to our customers.
The superior “turn and earn” we offer our channel partners is a direct result of the efficiency of our supply chain. Our efficiencies at Mansfield allow us to practice selective distribution because we do not need to open up to everyone to put enough products in the market to compensate for long lead times.
How has being a U.S.-based manufacturer helped Mansfield move forward as a company?
JM:Our theory is when we control the whole process we win. This means we need to invest in all the parts and pieces of the products we produce. While we don’t necessarily want to be in the tank-trim business, we never want to be in the position of being unable to ship a toilet because we don’t have a $4 piece of tank trim. So, to fulfill our customer commitment we make each piece to control the process.
In terms of realizing true benefits from efficiency, we financed our 2013-2014 sanitaryware expansion costing $10 million with a reduction in working capital. This shows the benefits of an efficient supply chain touches all aspects of our business. This expansion increased our capacity by 50% and was the largest one in the United States in more than 25 years. Our commitment to this growth has enabled Mansfield to continue growing with our aligned partners.
Another key factor in our success is in order to make life better for our customers we commit to shipping full-truckload orders of USA-made products in just seven business days. That means our customers don’t need to carry as much inventory, and plumbers and builders can move forward quickly with their projects.
As a bonus, our Made in the USA products mean we’re providing more jobs to American workers. Plus, we’re helping lower the carbon footprint vs. those sanitaryware products made and shipped from China and other locations.
What does “Made For Real Life” mean to Mansfield?
JM:It identifies what we do best. We’re easy to work with, our products are made in America and we have fast fulfillment/delivery. In essence, our products and services are made for real-life situations and we offer them in a simple, straightforward way to the marketplace.
How is Mansfield moving forward with water-conservation initiatives?
JM:Mansfield has a broad assortment of 1.0- and 1.28-gpf toilets that support water-conservation efforts. We just added the Brentwood HET with 1.28 gpf this year and we’re continuing to look at the development of new products that fulfill the needs of our customers who request water-efficient products.
Do you see an increase in green/water/energy conservation efforts in the industry?
JM:We view water-conservation efforts as more than just a trend. Environmental initiatives are the way of the future for our industry. Enhanced flushing performance with less water consumption is definitely a continued high-focus area in our industry and for our company. The days of inefficient and wasteful water usage are gone. The preference in today’s marketplace is for toilets with 1.28 gpf or lower. I believe key changes will take place in the coming years with all manufacturers working to accommodate this movement.
What market sectors are you seeing the biggest growth in?
JM:Both residential and commercial housing growth is steadily increasing after some bad years. With that growth we’re seeing the need in the marketplace to get sanitaryware and bathware quickly for projects. That’s the area where we shine. By shipping full truckload orders of American-made products in seven business days we can get our customers products immediately so plumber and builder customers can move forward quickly with their projects.
What bathroom trends are you seeing in the industry?
JM:When 2015 started I said continued focus on water conservation, increased consumer conveniences and faster delivery of product would be top trends this year. I still believe that’s the case and these will continue to be top areas of focus in 2016.
Another issue gaining more traction this year is plumbers and builders want faster access to sanitaryware and bathware products. Waiting weeks to get a toilet or tub after ordering is unrealistic and aggravating. There’s a need for faster service in our industry. That doesn’t mean sacrificing quality. It means manufacturers must respond to marketplace needs by providing quality products in a timely manner that help installers save time and money plus reduce expensive call-backs.
What new product/technology developments are on the horizon for Mansfield?
JM:In September we launched the MicroDerm tub that silently infuses bathwater with millions of micro-bubbles to help a bather relax, unwind and feel rejuvenated. This is a completely unique bathing experience that allows tiny oxygen-rich bubbles to burst quietly on the skin to help clean and hydrate while exfoliating the skin’s outermost layer.
We’re also working on several new products for 2016 around the initiatives of water conservation, cleanliness, performance and style. Innovations and constant product development definitely are on our agenda for the coming years.
What does the wholesale distribution channel mean to Mansfield?
JM:Mansfield has been in business since 1929. During all those years we’ve developed and maintained excellent relationships within the wholesale distribution channel. Because our products are made in the United States, we’re able to offer shorter lead times and higher fill rates, which the wholesale channel appreciates. We’re shipping product within our own country, not from halfway around the world. Every day we work diligently to make sure our wholesale customers have the products, resources and support they need to profitably grow their businesses.
This article was originally titled “Made for real life” in the October 2015 print edition of Supply House Times.