Customers gain value through Lawson Products, Kent Automotive training

Oct. 18, 2017
Lawson Products and its Kent Automotive division offers products and training to collision repair centers, dealership groups, independent body shops and mechanical repair shops.

There are no signs that Lawson Products and its Kent Automotive division is slowing down its rapid pace of industry acquisitions as the company celebrates its 65th anniversary this year.

Based in Chicago, Lawson/Kent markets more than 7,000 vehicle product lines throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean along with providing a comprehensive assortment of inventory management services and training programs to its customers.

When distributor Mattic Industries Ltd. of Vancouver, British Columbia came on board in November, it marked Lawson’s fourth industry purchase within 14 months, and each addition to the portfolio is fully integrated into the parent firm’s operational flow, including its internal and external educational offerings.

“Lawson Products doesn’t acquire companies; we invite companies to join us,” said President & CEO Mike DeCata.

“This acquisition complements both companies’ strengths in providing outstanding customer service, particularly within fleet management and the oil and gas industry,” he says, referring to Mattic’s distribution centers in Surrey, B.C. and Calgary, Alberta.

“We’ve expanded Lawson’s footprint in North America and are positioned to immediately grow this business and capitalize on the Canadian market opportunity,” says DeCata. “Mattic has strong, long-lasting customer relationships, and its employees are known for their deep product knowledge of fasteners and applications for the trucking industry.”

“I’m proud of the Mattic team’s achievements and I’m thrilled to have found in Lawson a company that shares our values and our focus on being close to customers to meet their needs,” says John Matthew, Mattic’s founder and president.

“Our acquisition strategy emphasizes a well-defined, efficient and collaborative process from which all parties benefit,” says Matthew Brown, Lawson/Kent’s senior vice president of sales. “At the center are the people who are guided by clear communications, agreed upon timelines and pre- and post-acquisition plans centered on leveraging the best of two successful companies.”

Brown explains that “we’re acquiring talent – individuals with sales experience and the motivation to take advantage of additional product offerings, develop underserved territories and accelerate growth. New sales team members are welcomed into the Lawson/Kent culture, which offers the stability of a legacy organization combined with the energy and heart of a startup.”

“Making an Impact” is a mantra widely disseminated among the employees, aimed at emphasizing “a customer service model without compare.”

“Sales representatives and customers benefit from access to more high-quality products,” Brown says, “including a vast selection of highly engineered, high-performance private-label products.”

Services are rendered across the automotive spectrum, encompassing maintenance and repair centers, OEMs, new- and used-car dealers, fleets and government motor pools.

“While we partner with large collision centers and dealership groups, we offer the same quality products and training to both independent body shops and mechanical repair shops,” says Brown.

“We do this because it helps us secure long-term customers. Technical expertise sets us apart from our competitors; sharing our technical knowledge with customers is a value-add when selling products and building customer relationships,” he says. “We do see sales grow as customers recognize the value we provide compared to our competitors.”

Carving out market share

Mechanical training includes water leak repair, brake noise elimination and electrical repair as well as product-based education. “Most shops welcome it,” according to Brown, “because they recognize it helps them reduce cycle time and reduce rework.”

Collision repairers benefit from the training because it improves overall efficiency and profitability by increasing CSI (customer service index) scores, lowering cycle times and lessening the number of comebacks that raise the ire of insurance carriers footing the bill and striving to please their policyholders.

Conducted at a discounted rate of up to 30 percent, “we are part of the I-CAR training alliance with five approved classes: plastic repair, seam sealers, corrosion protection, body shop safety and headlight restoration. We offer similar training in Canada although not through I-CAR at this time,” Brown says. “In both the U.S. and Canada we offer education on our PROS profit enhancement tool.”

A new electronic interface directly links PROS to the CCC ONE system, eliminating the need for re-keying estimating and parts information and providing a single source of information for estimators and technicians – resulting in better accuracy and complete parts-tracking to reduce the time it takes to process a claim.

Last year’s launch of an Aluminum Repair Solutions program delivers a single source for aluminum repair materials, offering a full line of OEM-quality, specialized products, expertise, and education for American and Canadian collision centers.

“With the growth in aluminum-intensive vehicle design comes a subsequent rise in the repair market,” DeCata points out. “We’re helping our automotive customers leverage the aluminum repair market opportunity, wherever they are in their aluminum readiness – whether building capacity now or planning for the next three to five years.”

“Early movers with a high-quality approach, and clean, safe shops are already carving out market share in aluminum repair,” says Brown. “They’ll benefit from word-of-mouth advertising.”

A modest beginning

Established in 1952, “Our founder, Sidney L. Port, started the business selling industrial fasteners out of a small Chicago storefront, just wanting to provide for his family and help others do the same,” DeCata recounts. “From that modest beginning, Lawson Products has grown into a high-performing industry leader; 65 years later, I see Mr. Port’s values – an entrepreneurial spirit, confidence, caring – in every employee, every day.” Former President and CEO Buddy Kalish served the company for 43 years prior to his retirement in 1999.

Overall sales in 2016 amounted to $276.5 million. Bearing the motto of “Your Partner in Profitability,” along with its automotive training resources, the firm routinely maintains 50,000 individual products in stock. Five strategically placed North American distribution centers are anchored by a 300,000 square-foot facility in McCook, Ill.

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About the Author

James Guyette

James E. Guyette is a long-time contributing editor to Aftermarket Business World, ABRN and Motor Age magazines.

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