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Engman-Taylor Company Inc.


Engman-Taylor has enhanced its technical services to thrive in the MRO market.

By Chris Kelsch

In the industrial distribution market, there are plenty of options for customers to choose from depending on their needs. It can therefore be difficult for distributors to distinguish themselves from one another.

Engman-Taylor Company Inc. CEO Rick Star knows this well, which is why he has undertaken efforts to enhance the services his company provides. “We’re a smaller, independent company, competing against publicly traded giants,” Star says. “Whereas those types of companies may be very good order takers, we are technical solutions providers.”

Industrial Distribution Roots

Engman-Taylor has always strived to reduce the costs of its manufacturing sector clients by providing application assistance with the products it sells. Founded in 1945 and formally incorporated in 1956, the company now has five locations in Wisconsin, Illinois and North Carolina. It supplies a range of products including cutting tools, assembly tools, safety products, abrasives, and janitorial supplies. Engman Taylor box

Yet, as Star knows, many other companies do that. Most of the larger distributors operate from large central warehouses,” Star notes. “They have acquired our formerly privately owned competitors, downsized those local operations into 20% or less of what they were, and ship from those central warehouses.” And while Star notes that the large companies manage logistics very well, what they don’t offer is high-level technical service. “The acquiring companies have removed the assets that may have allowed them to provide strong technical service,” Star says. “As one of the remaining independents with high quality facilities that house assets that benefit end users, we want to exploit the fact that as the nationals are reducing the number and size of their assets, we are increasing ours.”

And that’s what Engman-Taylor does very well. Since it already sells to manufacturers, it has a natural customer base to sell services to as well. According to Star, the company has focused on three areas that have made a huge difference in Engman-Taylor’s performance.

The first is a growing cutting tool service. The best tooling assembly connection is called “shrink fit” and the process of assembling shrink fit tools is called “shrinking.” Shrunk tools perform better than collet held tools because the tool shank is in full contact with the toolholder. The best performing rotating tools are then balanced. Balanced tools remove imbalance caused by unevenly distributed weight within a tool, such as with a single point boring tool where the tool side of the assembly weighs more than the non-tool side 180 degrees across the assembly diameter. Balanced tools run truer than unbalanced tools, leading to better dimensional repeatabilities, better finishes, and longer tool lives. Beyond shrinking and balancing, tools that are optimized to cut properly dimensioned parts immediately are “preset.” Presetting ensures not just the repeatability providing by balancing, but also conformance to nominal dimensions. Repeatability is of little value if the wrong dimensions are repeated, and presetting addresses this issue.

Shrinking, Balancing, and Presetting each require a standalone machine for processing. Each process also requires technically trained personnel.  Owning the machines can be capital intensive, and hiring and training personnel to run them can also be expensive. Engman-Taylor offers shrinking, balancing, and presetting as standalone or packaged services, saving money for customers that do not want to spend over $200,000 on the machines. According to Star, some customers gravitate from the service to later purchasing their own machines from Engman-Taylor.

Another service that Engman-Taylor focuses on is 3-D printing. Engman-Taylor has two 3-D printers and continued to expand its capabilities. “Three years ago we installed a small desk top model, and learned our way through printing small parts and shapes,” Star notes. “Now we have the ability to print a part, and if it’s a new part that our customer has not seen before, but that they will ultimately manufacture using our tools, the customer is able to visualize and hold the part, creating an understanding that would otherwise be absent. We can do scale versions of big parts, or full-scale models of smaller parts. And our reverse engineering capability is not something that all 3D shops offer.”

Star views these services as manufacturing prep work. But offering the services means more than just having the latest machines. A highly trained staff that specializes in such services is also crucial. “You need the facilities, the equipment and the staff,” Star notes. “We are basically promoting our facilities as assets. That’s what really differentiates us from large, national distributors. You can only get these services from us.”

E-Commerce Strategy

Offering unique services means nothing unless a company can let its customers know about them. To that end, Engman-Taylor has begun to step up its marketing plans. A new digital marketing campaign was launched in February, and a new web store reduces effort and time to order for customers.

So far the results have been positive. “There are certain products and services that fit well with digital marketing and web store sales,” Star says. “3-D printing” is a common web search term, and we are positioning ourselves to appear on those result pages. When a customer inquires, we send them an approval drawing, and then make the part. It is really a simple transaction process for a custom and potentially complex part.”

Eagle Award

Engman-Taylor offers all of its products and services with one goal in mind: to save its customers both time and cost. In fact, Engman-Taylor has won the American Eagle Excellence in Industry Award, presented by the Industrial Supply Association at their annual convention in April of 2017.

The company won based on its work with Mennie Machine Company, a large machine shop based in Mark, Ill. Engman-Taylor and its supplier Walter Tools reprocessed and reengineered a family of difficult to machine cast steel parts. Cycle times were decreased and quality was increased via tooling and cutting data changes. Ultimately, Mennie is saving over $1.4 million dollars annually.

Competitive Spirit

Though Star would like to have been in Denver to receive the award personally, at the time, he was focusing on another of his passions: community service. This time it is in the form of a local baseball team in Brookfield, Wis. Star has worked with the Engman-Taylor sponsored team year round for seven years, developing players for high school and beyond.

The team played on the date of the award ceremony, and will play in 65 games including 10 tournaments through July. “It’s a very competitive team,” Star says. “And Engman-Taylor funds everything, from baseball bats to our indoor facility.”

Competition is certainly in Star’s blood. As Engman-Taylor embarks on its new technical services offerings, he realizes that it will take time to get the message out. “Minds are hard to change,” Star notes. “The perception is that distributors buy stuff and resell it. We’re much more than that.”

And that change has to occur with Engman-Taylor as well. “It starts with a change in our own behavior in promoting services as opposed to products,” Star says. “We are selling solutions as opposed to products.”

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