The foundations to successful distributorship

As a locally owned and managed company, APS Industrial continues to grow its service capabilities around the country to complement its diverse portfolio of products. Manufacturers’ Monthly sits down with Stephen Gough, electrical products (EP) business manager about activating an advanced strategy for the low voltage electrical portion of the business.

Four years ago, APS Industrial joined forces with Siemens Australia to become the master distributor for its industrial low voltage electrical and automation products in Australia. APS’ senior management group saw this as an opportunity to shake up the market with a new distribution model to offer the Australian market the broadest portfolio of quality products.

As part of this shake up, APS has made a commitment to stock around the country and support these products with expert and experienced personnel.

With an excess of 30 per cent sales growth year on year, Stephen Gough, EP business manager broke down the fundamentals behind this growth and in doing so showcased the impressive capability of the EP portfolio including push buttons, contactors and overloads, MCBs, RCBOs, ACBs, MCCBs, relays, distribution boards and soft starters.

“First of all, I think the market has fallen in love with Siemens again,” he said. “People are looking for a new choice and a product they know will work. We stock in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, and Hobart and back that up with technical support in each of those states as well. Having the people and the legs on the ground in conjunction with the stock and competitive pricing are two fundamentals which bounce off each other.”

As workplace demands continue to rise for many local manufacturers, Gough is seeing the market focus on innovative products which increased productivity. This is where APS leverages off its portfolio of Siemens products as well as its other manufacturing partners.

“A lot of customers say they’re looking for something that’s cutting edge,” he added. “They’re looking for something that is smart and integrable to add value to their business and operation to really add value to their offering. With Siemens’ portfolio and leading global manufacturers like Weidmüller, Rittal, Belden, and KATKO as partners, APS becomes a one-stop shop for these customers to find a competitive edge.”

The second fundamental

It’s no secret that products and services partner well. One could say the two exist side by side. Gough certainly sees it this way and sums up the APS Industrial team with two words: dynamic and responsive.

“If we see an opportunity in the marketplace for our customers to excel, we can react and respond quicker than our competitors, which is a real advantage for our customers,” he said. “This crossed over to the service side of the business. When I first started, we identified we needed to bolster our technical support to really gain market share and grow in EP.”

Having qualified staff around the country, whether its electrical fitters, electricians or engineers is another feather in the distributor’s cap. But Gough noted that without a deep knowledge of the product, qualifications aren’t enough to deliver the best service for customers. A strong core of senior expertise helps APS achieve the best of both worlds.

“Whether its market sensitive pricing, technical support, power CAD studies, discrimination studies or testing we have a dedicated and focussed team to support our EP portfolio, and our customers really value that.”

Looking forward

COVID-19 has thrown a myriad of challenges to Australian manufacturers. The resiliency and flexibility shown by industry has been admirable – and led to new innovations and pivoting operations for many businesses.

Now most of Australia’s states are returning to a higher degree of normalcy, APS Industrial has earmarked a focus on the customer’s voice, and face-to-face interactions as an upmost priority.

“As we return to the availability of face-to-face interactions, it is energising to know that our teams can get back out there in front of our customers, whilst implementing the learnings that we took from close to two years of restrictions,” Gough said. “Reconnecting with customers and regularly meeting our partners is so important. On top of this, our technical support teams are around the country and so well connected. The system of working with different partners like the electrical contractor or switchboard builder and having a presence at the consultant level at different sites helps us customise these solutions for businesses.”

Gough also noted APS Industrial’s focused approach.

“We’re very focused as well with our larger end users and have had a lot of success by combining our EP offering with the market leading factory automation portfolio. We can leverage off this success in terms of the Siemens factory automation products and drives into the EP space.”

In a further show of the Siemens and APS relationship, late last year APS was appointed by Siemens as its Australian distribution partner for its building technology products, which Gough said adds further value to its EP portfolio.

“Thermostats, sensors, valves, damper actuators and variable speed drives are all coming to APS as a Siemens distributed product, which only increases our ability to provide the customer with a complete solution,” he said.

Speaking of leveraging off success – APS have introduced a new adaptation centre at its Adelaide facility where local engineers and staff are trained by Siemens’ German expertise.

“The new adaptation centre enables us to bring in circuit breakers from Siemens and adapt them locally in Adelaide to respond to the market quicker,” Gough explained. “One of our strategies is to respond to the market quickly to be competitive. By doing this, we’re also adding value with Australian-built content with our own engineers, electricians and fitters working on these products that are imported from our Siemens factory.”

APS Industrial has also invested in a new distribution board manufacturing site next door to the adaptation facility for ACBs, building on its already substantial offer of distribution boards.

“This will enable an extremely broad range of customisation to our family of distribution boards – ultimate and essential – using local manufacturers, again increasing local content,” Gough said. “The local content flows all the way through to the miniature circuit breaker and all our line protection products in the control offers. On the control side, we’ve got our motor control centre offer, which features a smart switch gear solution, whether it’s something as simple as a motor starter application for contactors, relays, overloads, push buttons, isolators or switches.”

The variety of products creates an opportunity for manufacturers to find their niche and acts as somewhat of a one-stop-shop for electrical contractors. Behind the products is a strong wholesaling network, including agreements with all of Australia’s major electrical wholesalers.

“An example of this is our hang sell point of sale merchandising initiative for push buttons, where we’ve engaged in local grassroots manufacturing,” Gough said.

APS Industrial recently strengthened its distribution capability to have a true nationwide reach, by acquiring Tasmanian distributor Bamford Engineering Products – Electrical, Automation & Instrumentation.

“From the outset of the APS business, we committed to establish ourselves as a leading partner for local industry,” Gough said. “This began with our Australian mainland locations in all major capitals and now includes Tasmania. To solidify our Australasian reach and footprint, we also have a strategic distribution partnership with Cuthbert Stewart Ltd.”