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SMITH: Q&A with Lee Ackerley, Co-Founder and Director

  1. What are the critical demand drivers you see creating continuing opportunities for growth in your business in 2019?

Smith’s ability to be a strategic partner for our customers through our service offerings – such as vendor-managed inventory, excess inventory solutions, hubbing, scheduled orders, and long lead time part management – will serve as a key critical demand driver in 2019. Smith will also serve our customers’ needs for PPV opportunities by offering lower priced parts on many key components.

  1. What steps are you taking to respond to the growing volatility in the global trade environment? How much and what kind of impact do you think tariffs and new trade treaties will have on distribution?

Worldwide, our sales representatives have observed our customers strategically redirecting their manufacturing in response to tariffs and new trade treaties. Smith has implemented tariff notifications in its internal, proprietary trading platform to make sales representatives and customers aware of parts affected by the tariff.

  1. How is e-commerce changing how you support your customers and achieve customer delight?

Our e-commerce platform allows us to better communicate with our customers and positions Smith as a digital partner for purchasing components. Smith’s part search feature allows customers to view available inventory online through Smith also lists available inventory on many online inventory sites around the globe.

  1. What are you doing to attract, retain and motivate your employees in a highly competitive market for workers of all types?

Employee retention and happiness has always been a focus and strength at Smith. Smith invests greatly in employee training and provides employees with the tools for advancement that they need to spend their entire careers at Smith. As evidenced by our average senior management tenure of over 17 years, Smith maintains the best employee retention statistics in the entire industry.

  1. How have your operations benefitted from the adoption of new IoT and cloud technologies? Where are you at in creating a “Smart” distribution operation and what are your plans for the future?

Smith’s global proprietary trading platform provides our traders around the world with up-to-the-second price trends and order/delivery information for millions of different component part numbers. Smith is adding and developing new technologies that will help automate parts of our operations processes. Smith is also leveraging artificial intelligence in support of our offerings.

  1. What developments are you seeing in the growth of non-traditional customers and markets? Are they having a meaningful impact on your business?

Smith consistently serves customers across a broad range of industries. As more and more products are becoming “smart”, we are seeing new sectors gaining prominence such as IoT, AI, hyperscale data centers, and cloud computing. Sectors like these are growing every quarter and creating demand for new technologies and hardware in the supply chain.

  1. How important are your partners in supporting your customers and delivering differentiated value? What do you do to cultivate successful partnerships?

Smith’s partnerships allow us the flexibility and availability of product to navigate the volatility of the electronic component supply chain.  Smith works with franchise partners on design in and crossing parts as well as VMI, scheduling, testing, and more.


Questions for All

  1. What are the biggest surprises between your expectations and the reality of 2018 for your business and the distribution industry?

For the industry, this year has been a time to adapt, and Smith has stayed at the forefront of change through market intelligence data and its key network of suppliers. Although we anticipated success for 2018, sales exceeded expectations, making 2018 Smith’s best year on record in every category.

  1. What are the most important initiatives you are pursuing to position your business for success in 2020 and beyond?

Continuing to grow our portfolio of franchise lines will be an ongoing focus in the years ahead. Smith will continue to innovate in support of industries like cloud computing, aerospace and defense, and medical. Continuous growth in our extensive state-of-the-art quality control, software capabilities, IT asset disposition, vendor-managed inventory, and other value-added solutions will also be key.

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