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News and Press

2013 MDM Market Mover: A&M Industrial Carves Out Emergency Response Niche

Distributor's Emergency Response Team helps it succeed in changing market

In 2013, MDM is recognizing distributors that are innovative in their approach to their markets. A&M Industrial, Rahway, NJ, was selected as an MDM Market Mover for its shift in focus away from products to essential services and its Emergency Response Team.

By Jenel Stelton-Holtmeier

When Superstorm Sandy struck the Northeast in October 2012, flooding, power outages and closed roads disrupted business for days and, in some cases, weeks. A&M Industrial in Rahway, NJ, was no exception.

But even as the industrial distributor faced its own challenges, its Emergency Response Team hit the streets to provide critical services to its clients and help get power up and running along the coast. Additionally, the company moved quickly to provide water and ice to affected areas.

"We're very pround of the work that we did for our communities," says Kevin Rosenthal, executive director of business development at A&M. "It's not always about the operational side; there's also the humanitrian side."

A&M Industrial has carved out a niche in its markets by building an Emergency Response Team and creating a suite of services and products around clients in emergency situations.

Evolution of the Emergency Response Team

A&M Industrial is no stranger to emergency response. Over the past 12 years, the company has been involved in repair, restoration and recovery of essential services for its clients and communities during three mahor emergency situations, in addition to several smaller situations. But Superstorm Sandy was the one that hit closest to home.

A&M's Emergency Response Team first started to gain prominence within the company about 20 years ago in response to changes in the market.

"We began a program to target essential sevices as a way of making our company remain visible in a changing marketplace, one that one consolidating with a lot of standardization happening, with a lot of nationalization in terms of the way our clients were looking to do business," Rosenthal says.

When 9/11 happened, A&M Industrial was the only authorized vendor allowed to work out of the Con Edison mobile command center a block away from Ground Zero. "I personally lived there for three and half months in a tent" working to restore power and gas service to Manhattan, Rosenthal says. "We had worked what we thought were emergencies before then, but we didn't know what a real emergency was until then."

It was a horrible event, Rosenthal says, but it was also the greatest learning experience on emergency preparedness, supply chain resiliency and leadership. "We had the honor and privilege of participating in the recovery."

Rosenthal and his team took what they learned and built on it with subsequent events including the Midtown Manhattan steam explosion in 2007 and Superstorm Sandy.

The Importance of Adaptation

"In a crowded marketplace, you have to answer the question: 'Why you?'" Rosenthal says.

It's important to learn from every situation and build your core competencies and skill sets to continue to meet the needs of your clients, Rosenthal says. It's not always about what clients want, he says. Instead it's about understanding what their businesses are about to help them understand what they need.

"In today's marketplace, companies need to continue to reinvent themselves to be able to deliver on these types of propositions," he says. What's needed today may not be viable tomorrow.

For example, A&M had to invent new products to address safety concerns after the steam explosion in Midtown Manhattan - things that didn't exist before that, Rosenthal says. And they're still working to develop more new products to continue to improve the safety of these systems. "It's a specialized system with the specialized needs," Rosenthal says. "And we needed to rise to that challenge."

Every emergency situation has its own unique characteristics, and a company that focuses on responding to those situations had to have the flexibility in how they meet the needs of those situations.

Tips for Emergency Preparedness

A&M Industrial not only helps its clients prepare for and respond to emergencies; it also practices what it preaches internally.

"I don't know that anyone could have predicted the severity of Superstorm Sandy," Rosenthal says. "But we had a number of contingencies in place" to keep A&M up and running and responsive even during severe outages.

"It really is a part of our culture today," he says.

With that in mind, Rosenthal offers these tips for companies looking to develop their own emergency preparedness plans.

1. Make sure you have the essentials: alternative power supplies such as generators, accommodations for employees to stay onsite if necessary, emergency food and water supplies, pumps, tarps, and so on. "And sometimes it's the simplies things that we forget," he says. "Do you have a battery? When the sun goes down, things can get more difficult if you don't have a working flashlight."

2. Have a health and safety plan in place that includes evacuation procedures and established meeting places.

3. Make contingency plans with your suppliers for products essential to your own business. And for Rosenthal, this includes having redundancies. Have one supplier for when you have time to be more economical, but also have one who can deliver at a moment's notice, he says.

4. Talk to experts. "We help companies to develop their emergency response plans by understanding the company structure and their industry and facility needs," Rosenthal says. "We don't expect this to be their core competency."