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Friday | 01 December, 2006 | 4:21 am

Just one order

By Lauren Duensing

December 2006 - Without a strong foundation a building will fall, a relationship will crumble and a company will go out of business. Denman & Davis, Clifton, N.J., uses its history as the groundwork for future success, going back to its roots as a general-line steel service center.

"Denman & Davis has evolved to be known for our plate expertise, which includes our plate processing and the large, diverse range of plate grades that we stock and process," says Dave Deinzer, president and CEO. "For a period of time we were totally focused on plate. We built a great reputation and a great inventory of those products, but we lost our focus on supplying all products and to all of our customer segments."

Customers are the backbone
Listening to customers has helped Denman & Davis get back to those roots. Deinzer says that one of the key aspects of the company's success is its focus on making sure all the "stakeholders are treated properly, and that includes customers, employees and shareholders," he notes. In addition, Deinzer says that the company has always had a focus on total procurement costs. "We want to be the low-cost supplier. That does not mean we're the low-priced supplier. That means that we deliver the product the customer wants. We deliver it on time with the right dimensions and the quality that's expected."

The company launched an OEM partnership program this summer that enables OEMs to take advantage of the company's value-added services earlier in the ordering process, saving them time and money.

"In order to remain world-class, more OEMs are focusing on their core competencies," says Deinzer, "and they are subcontracting a lot of the things that aren't core. For instance, in the power generation market, we supply a lot of turbine-blade materials, and they want that cut and processed so they can take it right to the machining centers."

Returning to general-line
The company also launched a second initiative this summer entitled General Line, Plate Maximization and Accountability, GPA for short, that is aimed at improving its service.

"We're getting back to making sure we're remembered and known for structural tubing, rolled structural shapes, angles, flats and bars, in both carbon and stainless. Sometimes you get so focused and you are doing so well in one thing that you forget your roots," Deinzer notes.

The general line component consists of beefing up inventory of materials, including stainless; carbon and alloy steel products in tubing, bars, sheet and plate; and placing a greater focus on light structural. Plate maximization will increase efficiencies in the company's handling of materials.

Now, the company will combine multiple orders and burn them from a single plate in one session, and each plate is handled only once. Under the accountability portion, Denman & Davis will emphasize customer visits, highly focused tracking of existing customers and targeted accounts, and a continual review of each aspect of the general sales activity.

Strive for low cost
For the past 50 years, the company has been built on a principle of not being the lowest-priced company but the total lowest-cost supplier. "When a customer looks at all the costs involved, from his time to the logistics throughout the organization, with Denman & Davis, he just has to write one purchasing order," says Deinzer.

And with the GPA, Denman & Davis becomes a one-stop shop for many of its customers. "For the smaller fabricator and the smaller machine shop, if you can supply most of the product they buy, that gets back to the total lowest cost. If youre a small fabricator and you can place one order with Denman & Davis and get tubing, angle, channel and burned plate, that's one call. We can supply all of those products," says Deinzer.

Giving its customers all they need in one call has formed the cornerstone of the company's policies. "Customers usually drive an organization," says Deinzer. "About 10 years ago, we had our customers say, 'you guys are the best carbon plate processor in the Northeast. Why aren't you doing stainless?'" The customers encouraged the company to add stainless to its product mix and "now over a third of our sales today are of stainless products," he says.

As well as an open ear, Denman & Davis' commitment to customer service eliminates the frustrations associated with the daily grind. Deinzer says that a customer called a few weeks ago asking the company if it could do any better on its price. After the company said that it couldn't do any better and asked the customer why he was asking, he said, 'I really want to give you the order because you take all the headaches away.'

"Well, as it turns out, we got the order because we do take all the headaches away," says Deinzer. "In this particular case, he would have had to buy the raw material, turn around and ship it to a fabricator. From there, he would have to ship it to a blaster and paint line before he could take it back." Denman & Davis can do all of those logistics and give the customer the product he wants. "He gets one invoice and he has no headaches," Deinzer says.

Maintaining partnerships and offering a world-class grade of customer service helps this independent service center win the battle for survival. "The focus for us has changed because the Northeast has lost so much manufacturing that we've looked at what's sustainable there," says Deinzer. "What we saw was a very large infrastructure that must be maintained. So we targeted the utilities in the Northeast and other infrastructure, maintenance and repair, including bridges and highways." Because of this focus, Denman & Davis relies on its network of small machine shops and small fabricators to help the company offer the whole turnkey process for the lowest procurement cost. In this way, the company continually improves the services it offers to the customer base.MM

By Lauren Duensing, from the December 2006 issue of Modern Metals.

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