CES and Robex: Always an Exciting Challenge
“The fact that there’s a multitude of people who can quote for them but they keep coming back to us? That’s pretty special,” said Operations Manager Caleb Joines of City Electric Supply Fredericksburg, Virginia about his customer, Robex.
And he was right. Robex has a long history with CES Fredericksburg, and an even longer one with City Electric Supply in general.
How It Started
“I’ve known one of the CEOs of Robex since I started working summers in high school,” explained Joines. “I knew what kind of business he did, so moving into this career, I thought, ‘That’s a perfect contact!’”
So when Joines discovered that Robex already had an account with City Electric Supply, but hadn’t been using them much, he jumped at the opportunity to start quoting things.
“Caleb asked if there was anything we could quote to get our foot in the door, and before we knew it, we were filling orders,” added Branch Manager Andrew Shreve.
A Unique Challenge
“That’s when we found out how big Robex was,” said Joines. “We were just thinking it would be a good relationship for the store. Come to find out, it’s now one of our biggest accounts!”
What makes this account different from others? Turns out, a lot.
“These requests come in, and I don’t know what half of them are,” admitted Joines. “That’s exciting to me. It’s a learning process from the first email. You see it and don’t know where to find the stuff, so you have to not only find it, but you have to find out how to get it there quickly without charging freight on anything. It’s a challenge from start to finish, but I love every minute.”
“Seeing Caleb, two to three years into the industry, diving into these materials and requests, the industrial classifications they need to meet, is exciting to see,” said Shreve. “It gives me confidence moving forward — if he can handle this, all the other stuff will be a cakewalk.”
Most recently, Caleb dove into requests for two big Robex projects, known around the branch as Streator and Tulsa. Both jobs are bottling plants, but each came with unique challenges.
“Streator is a glass bottling plant that Robex has a contract with,” said Joines. “That’s been an ongoing job. It’s one of those scenarios where the machinery gets old and needs updates.”
What made Streator more complex was the fact that one of their locations had a limited number of CES branches in the area.
“There are seven or eight states we’ve shipped stuff to for Streator,” said Shreve. “We didn’t always have branches close, but we put it all on a freight truck and still got it delivered on time.”
Tulsa, the other job the branch worked on, didn’t struggle with location thanks to a nearby CES branch that helped out with local deliveries.
“We didn’t have to charge Robex for little shipping stuff because that branch could supply it,” said Joines.
“We were able to direct ship essentially from our backyard,” said Shreve. “It sure helps having 500+ locations nationwide.”
On top of that, City Electric Supply has profit sharing so that when a branch steps in to assist another branch with an order, they both earn part of the profit.
“We share profits with other branches,” said Shreve. “It encourages everyone to work together. It benefits us and other branches when they can help. All for one, one for all.”
“Profit sharing helps,” said Joines, “but CES is a team anyway, always willing to help.”
While the location turned out to be an easy part of the job, Tulsa had its own challenge —everything had to be stainless.
“I’ve never had to sell 10-foot pieces of stainless steel pipe, let alone thousands of feet of it,” said Shreve. “To be able to source it was definitely new.”
The good thing is, CES branches are constantly sourcing new things.
“Our strength is the autonomy CES gives us. Every branch has its own profit center, so we have the ability to buy essentially anything,” said Shreve. “Being able to do that sets us apart from competitors and makes it fun. There’s nothing we can’t get.”
And he meant that.
“I can get toilets,” Shreve laughed. “It doesn’t matter.”
And they proved that to be true, as they ended up supplying 10,000 feet of ¾-inch stainless steel pipe and then another 2,500 feet of 1-inch stainless steel pipe for a new conveyer belt that goes all the way from the tea bottle filler to the palletizer.
Seems like it would take a while, right? Not for this branch — they turned it around in about a week.
“Robex pushes us outside of our realm,” said Joines. “It’s been great business. It’s a blessing getting stuff from them — it’s always a challenge, but we always get it done.”
What do these jobs mean for the branch in the future?
“After the initial order, you’re always talking to someone new. You’re having to link up with other people, like the lead foreman on the job site. That creates a new relationship,” said Joines. “They see what CES can do, and then on the next job site, they’re like, ‘Well, CES helped me last time; I’ll go to them again.’ And that’s how business multiplies.”
Andrew and Caleb are confident that the connections they’ve made along the way will open up new opportunities for the branch, and they’re already looking forward to it.
“The best positive feedback we can get is the next order, the next opportunity,” said Joines. “Even if it’s just a quote.”
Indeed it is, because after all, it was a simple quote that started the great relationship between CES and Robex in the first place.