The ‘nuts and bolts’ of good business: Bolt and Engineering Distributors’ ‘back to basics’ approach

Jan Viljoen, Managing Director (MD) at Bolt & Engineering Distributors (B.E.D.) ; Mike Giltrow, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Bolt & Engineering Distributors (B.E.D.) ; Ernie Barnett, Co-founder of Bolt & Engineering Distributors (B.E.D.)

Bolt and Engineering Distributors (B.E.D.) supplies a comprehensive range of locally produced and imported fasteners as well as quality tools, welding and cutting equipment and consumables, bearings, lifting products, PPE, Industrial paints and thinners and oils and lubricants to South African industry, including the mining, engineering, materials handling, transportation, rail and agricultural sectors. The Group, established in 1983, is an industry stalwart with a distinctive ‘100/0’ core ethos of taking 100 percent responsibility, with zero tolerance for excuses.

Armed with this very strong guiding principle, and with a solid track record and pool of experience built up over its 37 years in servicing the market, B.E.D. is certainly no mere ‘bolt from the blue’, says CEO Mike Giltrow.

“Our approach is encapsulated by our taglines ‘it’s our business to know your business’ and  B.E.D ‘the perfect fit – fast’,” he enthuses.

“While B.E.D. continues to service and maintain customers and supplier relationships across Southern Africa, we are consistently focused on growing market awareness of our differentiated and quality solutions offerings, underpinned by our ‘back to basics’, simple yet effective approach to doing business,” Giltrow points out.

“Since our inception, our approach was to start with the basics of industry: a nut, bolt and a washer. In a nutshell, we have built our business on these three components. Therefore, if our customers have anything which needs to be fastened and tightened, drilled, welded, cut, protected, turned or lubricated – B.E.D. can provide the complementary tools/solutions,” he explains.

The company’s core expertise lies in fasteners, as the Group started off predominantly distributing these to industry. Giltrow draws attention to the fact that, while nuts and bolts are often overlooked and may not seem important, “you cannot hold something together without the nut and bolt! Likewise, the washer should not be forgotten. In line with our B.E.D. ethos, it is by paying attention to the little things that we take care of the big things – and ensure excellent products, solutions and customer service,” he enthuses.

However, over time, the Group steadily grew its wider-ranging, complementary product and service offerings.

“To insert a nut and bolt, you need to drill a hole; and to tighten the nut and bolt, you require a spanner. Following that are hand and power tools. Logically, to meet these fastening needs, our range grew to include these product offerings,” Giltrow points out.

To this end, B.E.D. currently not only offers a vast, quality range of both standard and specialised nuts, bolts, screws and anchors; but also a selection of allied products from local and international suppliers. These include hand tools, power tools, pneumatic tools, compressors, welding equipment, safety equipment, bearings, and industrial paints.

Notably, the Group also imports and distributes premium quality brands from an impressive list of international and local suppliers, including Fronius, Messer, Zenweld and Hypertherm, says Giltrow, adding that the Group is also an authorised distributor for SKF in South Africa. These solutions are supplied from the B.E.D. fastener, tool, bearing, lifting, welding, and health and safety divisions to meet customers’ requirements.

“We aim to be a ‘one-stop’ supply source for our customers wherever we can,” Giltrow comments.

‘Bolted’ Branches

To further support B.E.D.’s product and service offerings – and to add value to the industrial supply chain as a whole – the company developed a local, easily accessible footprint in various geographic locations in close proximity to its customers’ key businesses activities – which include mining, power generation, infrastructure engineering and agriculture.

B.E.D. was originally founded in the early 1980s by Mike Giltrow and Ernie Barnett, who both played a vital role in the establishment and growth of the company.

“Despite Ernie’s well-deserved retirement in 2010, his guiding presence is still felt in many facets of the business,” acknowledges Giltrow, pointing out it was due to Barnett’s wise advice that the company’s first and very pivotal acquisition was made:

“As advised by Ernie, B.E.D.’s very first acquisition was that of Bilbet Supplies in Klerksdorp, in 1988, which became our first branch. This brought us Jan Viljoen, who went on to become our excellent and long-standing Managing Director. It also meant that the Group established operations and a solid footprint in a pivotal mining area, thanks to Jan’s wealth of contacts and experience,” Giltrow acknowledges.

The Klerksdorp branch was succeeded by branches in Welkom, Rustenburg, Secunda, Middelburg, Steelpoort, Ellisras, and Cape Town. B.E.D. also has premises directly on site at the Sishen iron-ore mine in the Northern Cape.

“These branches – which are essential to B.E.D.’s key practice of always providing easily accessible and available stock to our customers – are strongly independent, and yet equally strongly bound together by the Group’s culture in terms of our distinctive operational ethos of taking 100 percent accountability and responsibility – and of being differentiated in terms of our customer service focus,” Giltrow points out.

Consequently, while each branch forms part of the whole, each is nevertheless encouraged to be run independently at the same time, “as if the branch managers are running their own business”, he explains. This independent and entrepreneurial management approach enables B.E.D.’s branch managers to focus on their respective team’s goals.

Keeping it at 100 percent

Referring to the company’s core focus of constantly taking 100 percent responsibility and accountability, in order to give customers great service and quality in every single interaction, Giltrow stands firm:

“There are zero excuses not to give our best to our customers,” he maintains, explaining that in light of this, B.E.D. is utterly dedicated to providing premium, reliable stock – “sourced and delivered each day to all our branches.”

Managing Director Jan Viljoen expands on this practice, explaining: “B.E.D. provides a tailored end-to-end solution to our customers. To achieve this, our staff meticulously source, check, inspect and deliver the required products to each customer.

Meanwhile, daily deliveries to each branch are achieved by our in-house delivery team using 36 1.2-ton Hyundai H100 bakkies. This is, in effect, us making good on our brand promise of ‘the perfect fit – fast’. In other words, B.E.D.’s differentiator, which quite simply is the service excellence we provide – together with the optimal experience which our customers and suppliers receive.”

Giltrow agrees, noting that, “at the end of the day, B.E.D. success is achieved by our excellent people and our service-driven ethos – and by focusing on the most basic, essential and fundamental ‘nuts and bolts’ aspects of the business and getting those right.

As we always say, the value of bolts may not be much individually – but what they underpin and hold together – our business and our people – are invaluable.”

In summary, through knowing our core competency, and our customers’ industries and requirements thoroughly – getting the ‘nuts and bolts’ right – we can really contribute to the cohesiveness and success of South Africa – ‘bolting’ our nation together!” he concludes.

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