A project for a The Maintenance Connection

The Maintenance Connection, located in Gorham, Maine, is an industrial distributor of mostly consumable, maintenance and repair items (drill bits, nuts and bolts, hand cleaner, etc.) that has been in business for 13 years. They cover the east coast of the U. S. They employ about 23 sales representatives who call on people who run maintenance shops and the like, usually as part of a larger organization. For instance, they do business with a local university, but not with the purchasing department; instead, they call on the person who runs the steam plant. The customers are usually blue-collar employees, people who have discretionary budgets for shop supplies. Their largest customer is a power plant in Long Island City, NY. They sell to hotels, truck garages, airports, public works departments, large laboratories, etc. There is a fair amount of government business, even some with DOD. They do some kitting.

TMC runs a virtual organization, with key executives living in various parts of the eastern seaboard. Their strategy seems to be to create and sustain lasting relationships with their customers. They do not compete on price; in fact their products are often priced at a premium. Their sales representatives are paid on commission twice monthly, which creates peaks of demand on the 15th and at the end of each month.

There are 150,000 part numbers in their system, but they stock only about 25,000. The vast majority of the parts are very small. Consequently, the warehouse is physically small. Almost all products are purchased directly from the manufacturers rather than from wholesalers. Customer orders are shipped via Fedex, mostly ground.

Volumes are low, averaging about 50 orders a day, with 8-10 lines per order. They may have accuracy and inventory control problems: They quoted an 80-85 percent fill rate and 90% inventory accuracy. There were a lot of orders that were completed and placed aside to await some product not currently available. There do not appear to be any real time constraints on orders because they usually ship to inventory. They do some cycle counting.

In most cases, items are stocked by vendor, in part number sequence. They rely on the order picker to select the correct product. There are only two full-time employees in the warehouse so control is relatively easy. They check all of the orders before shipping, sometimes with the help of the purchasing person or people from the office, who also help during peak periods.

They use WMS software from BCR Systems, based in Tennessee. There are two locations in the system available for each product, although locational quantities are not maintained. I am not sure how much data would be available in their system, or how detailed it would be.

More background is available on these slides.


There might be productivity benefits in reslotting. There could be space improvements by changing their processes and layout to allow stocking more items or a greater depth of inventory. Implementation of batch picking might show benefits, as they mostly pick an order at a time (it is left up to the people in the warehouse and they sometimes pick more than one order at a time).