Aren’t all parts distributors the same? What difference does it make if I buy my valves from a lumber yard or a plumbing parts house? Isn’t it the same valve?
I’ve heard this several times over the years. All these buyers seem to care about is the upfront price and convenience. And upfront price and convenience may be all that matters if you’re a sub-contractor building someone else’s apartment building. But it’s not all that matters when it’s your manufacturing facility, or your water treatment plant, or your apartment building or when it’s you that has to turn on the water for the first time.
Many piping components are engineered for specific applications. And although some of these components are “off the shelf” we are excluding them from this conversation. We want to focus on commodity piping products because these are sold by many different types of distributors. You will find piping components at big box warehouses, the “we carry everything” giant catalog sellers, plumbing fixture sellers, storeroom stockers and my personal favorite, Pipe, Valve & Fitting (PVF) distributors. Clearly not all parts distributors are the same.
Big box warehouses are popular shopping destinations for homeowners and smaller contractors. If you want to drive there, park, find, pick, count, box and load your supplies, then this is the place for you. Your options will be limited to what they have been able to negotiate with their supplier for the lowest price. If you want an industrial product, you won’t find it here. And unfortunately you may not be able to get your technical questions answered.
A few weeks ago I needed a bearing for one of our machines so I went down to a giant catalog sellers store and showed the counter person what I needed to replace. He hardly looked at the bearing, he just asked if I had the part number. When I admitted I didn’t, he handed me a 4” thick catalog and politely told me when I found the part number to ring the bell. I can’t say I blame the guy, there is no way anyone can be an expert on everything in that catalog. Imagine if you had 20 items to buy…you could be there all day.
It seems to me that the big box stores and the catalog houses have lowered prices by making you do a lot of the work. And maybe that’s okay when you’re counting every penny you spend on your house, but does it make sense when you need parts for your business?
Storeroom stockers are great for filling your bins. They come by on their scheduled route, keep you stocked and all you have to do is send them a check. Its great as long as you don’t need any pipe to go with those pipe fittings, because then you will need to call another supplier. And because you’ve bought your fittings and valves from someone else, you’ve lost your buying power leverage with the pipe supplier. So not only do you pay a higher price to the storeroom stocker, you may end up paying a higher price to the pipe supplier.
Plumbing fixture distributors know a lot about sinks, toilets and faucets. It’s a tough business. When houses and apartments are being built, they are very busy. But when housing is slow, they are very slow. House building is cyclical.
I’ve been in the PVF industry for 30 years, it seems every time there is a down turn in the housing market a local plumbing fixture distributor decides to jump into the industrial and commercial piping industry. They tell their sales people to sell industrial products, bring in a little commercial inventory and bam, they are a PVF distributor. That is until the housing market starts up again and all their focus goes back to plumbing.
Commercial plumbing products are not the same as industrial PVF products. A Ford pickup truck may be able to haul dirt, but it’s not going to perform like a Caterpillar truck. If you’re working with an industrial or heavy commercial piping system you need a solid PVF distributor. You need a distributor that understands your application. You need a distributor with 35 years of experience working with every type of industry from breakfast cereal to roof tar, from steam distribution to waste water control and from biotech to aerospace.
All sellers are not the same, all piping products are not the same and it does make a difference where you buy your supplies. When it comes to PVF, you need Hayward Pipe & Supply Co. The right products delivered to the right location at the right time, the first time, every time.