Fastener News Desk Speaks with Joe Stephens | CEO
Where is Motor City Industrial located? Hazel Park, MI
Can you tell us about the products and services your company offers? At MCI we offer a variety of products and services to our customers throughout the Midwest and Southeast. We have a comprehensive suite of supply chain technologies, from an online portal to weight based scales, industrial vending machines and lockers to ensure that our customers get what they need when they need it. We also provide our customers with smart inventory management systems, a wide range of premium products and the tools and technologies they need to measure and monitor product consumption.
How long have you been in the fastener industry? Over 25 years.
How did your career begin in the fastener industry? I began my career as an entry level recruit at Fastenal. I received various promotions to progressively higher leadership roles and operated business units in the South, Northeast and Midwest.
What roles have you had throughout your career? Prior to my current role at Motor City Industrial, I was an operating partner at a private equity firm. Prior to that, I was the Regional Vice President for both the Mid-Western and Northeast Regions at Fastenal.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? That is difficult to answer because no one person has been the single greatest contributor. I have held many roles and can honestly say that everyone around me shaped my career. Sometimes it was someone showing me where I have weakness and sometimes it was congratulating me. Either way, I have had the privilege to work for and with people that I consider truly great leaders and they have been willing to invest in me. Furthermore, I have had employees that quite frankly were far more talented than myself. All of them have had an influence on me collectively.
What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry? The challenges that existed in our industry when I started remain today. Quality has largely been leveled for everyone. The Fastener Quality Act ensured that we were all selling quality products, and that has helped end users focus on other areas. Warehousing has become more automated as well and increased speed and accuracy on the distributor side. What concerns me is the lack of change on the customer delivery channels. We can all make a case for why our systems will increase productivity, but when the system is implemented, the customer is still receiving parts with a consolidated bill and no real visibility of where their product is being consumed. We can all tell the customer what they bought, but not where it went.
What is new and exciting at your company? To the point made above, we are focused on the customer experience. We are deploying systems focused on end user data. Our CribBoss point-of-use technology is using weight-based scales and the production line to gather usage data at the user level. This is allowing us to map the supply chain for our customers from planning to production.
What are some of the biggest concerns and challenges distributors should be aware in today’s digital business world? As distributors, we have to accept that the industry is changing (for the better). Customers aren’t willing to let unrealized cost savings promises to go unfulfilled. Furthermore, our industry is consolidating. There are three choices we all have to make: Do I buy my competitor? Do I sell to my competitor? Do I wait for the industry to consolidate around me? I realize that may sound urgent but it is simply true. Our industry has been fragmented for a very long time and has begun to consolidate. The best thing we can all do is start buying or start selling but doing nothing is no longer an option.
Do you have interest in mentoring young fastener professionals based on your knowledge and experience in the fastener industry? We have already begun to some degree. One of my first initiatives when stepping into this role was to begin a business school recruiting program. We have had great success with it. Students are looking for opportunities to “disrupt” industries. When you show them our industry and ask them to find a better way, they produce results far beyond what we could imagine. We only need to give them the canvas. They will create a better fastener industry if we just let them.
What would your advice be to young people thinking about a career in the fastener industry? No other industry will offer you more upward mobility. Because the industry is highly technical specification dependent, it has a high degree of need for fastener trained employees. As a person becomes proficient in this industry their degree of value grows quickly because they are hard to replicate. There are lots of candidates for retail innovation but few for fastener innovation. If you are looking for a place to make an impact and a name for yourself this industry has more opportunities.
Is your company looking into new technologies such as Additive Manufacturing and 3D printing? No. We are completely focused on supply chain automation.