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Executive Perspectives, Carlton-Bates

April 9, 2021
Source Today chats with Travis Erpenbach, director, Commercial Operations & Supplier Relations.

Current industry trends—what’s happening?

The economy is recovering! Normal economic indicators and forecasts that we monitor all point to expansion in the industry. CBC believes this growth will continue for the next year or so. As we emerge from the pandemic, demand for our customers’ products increases. It’s exciting to see businesses open up again and begin the process of recovery.

Of course, things are a bit out of balance right now, but demand is certainly up—orders are up, as well as backlog. However, supply chain and component manufacturers are struggling to ramp up to new levels of demand. Costs are rising and lead times are being pushed out as raw materials become scarce. Shipping challenges are also causing further strain on the entire supply-chain.

How’s business?

We just wrapped-up our Q1 numbers and we are very pleased with the results at CBC. The economy continues to heat up and our customers are also recovering quite nicely. We could not be more proud of our team as they have stayed positive and focused on our customer’s needs throughout the pandemic. So, today we are seeing the results of that hard work.

CBC is quoting more projects than ever and our customer count is on the rise, along with revenue, backlog and field activity. CBC is definitely enjoying and seeing a recovery, but it’s not without a few challenges.

What are the key challenges, and how are distributors addressing them?

CBC’s biggest challenges today are centered around supply chain instability. As the economy heats up and our customers recover, it’s putting a huge stress on the supply chain. Demand is up and supply is down. Lead times are increasing, prices are increasing, inventories are shrinking and, overall, the supply chain is volatile. Freight costs are rapidly rising and it’s increasingly difficult to book an economic shipping option.

CBC is closely connected with our suppliers and adjusting to these challenges. Also, our asset managers and supplier relations team stay in close contact with field sales to make sure we stay on top of our customers’ changing needs and forecasts. The CBC marketing team excels in keeping our customers informed of raw material costs, availability, freight challenges and rising costs. Successful distributors stay very close to changing conditions and keep their customers informed. The CBC team has done a fantastic job adjusting to these recent challenges and planning for continued growth that is to come.

What new opportunities, markets, customer segments, etc. do you see emerging?

CBD has definitely seen a shift in our top customer segments. Going back two and three years, we were experiencing great success supporting our customers in the oil & gas market. Our large customer segment helped to propel us to record sales. Fast-forward to today and the market has mixed, resulting in our top customers being more diversified than ever. CBC is seeing a comeback in several markets all at the same time, including semi-conductor, medical, automotive, facilities and transportation. A growing funnel of opportunities across our OEM customers will lead to more wins in 2021.

What’s the outlook for the next few months?

The next few months should continue to show strong sales results and increasing backlogs. We can hope the supply chain challenges ease up a bit as we work to balance supply and demand. The team at Carlton-Bates will be working hard on a number of game-changing activities that will set us up for even more success. These are exciting times and it’s interesting to see how our industry has adapted to new challenges.

Our expertise and mastery of Webex, Teams, Zoom, etc. has increased exponentially. As soon as we master how to get rid of that “annoying echo,” it will be time to get back out there and visit customers face-to-face. While some aspects of doing business have changed permanently over the past year, we are definitely ready to get back out there and shake some hands. See you at EDS!

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