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10 Things to Look for in a Fastener Distributor

Industrial fasteners may be tiny, but they are critical components in countless manufactured products. While the actual fasteners you purchase are often standard, your experience working with different suppliers can vary greatly. Choosing the wrong vendor can lead to shipping delays, wasted time, and high costs.

If you are a buyer, the right fastener distributor acts as an extension of your purchasing department. Below are several qualities to look for when evaluating distribution partners.

What is a fastener distributor?

Fastener distributors are integral players in the supply chain that link producers of fastening components (screws, nuts, bolts, etc.) to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) or other industrial users. Generally, distributors do not manufacture fasteners and other class C components themselves, but act as intermediaries that connect OEMs to hundreds of fastener sources.

What are the benefits of working with a fastener distributor?

One-stop shop for fasteners and related services. Fastener distributors primarily purchase standard fasteners in bulk for resale to industrial users; but many will also provide engineering solutions for items made to blueprint, or secondary processes such as painting, patching, kitting, and assembling. Additional services can range from general warehousing to on-site vendor managed inventory (VMI).

Force multiplier for both producers and buyers. Fastener distributors can connect hundreds of OEMs to hundreds of fastener manufacturers, acting as a force multiplier for both parties and offering network effects (as more producers and buyers join the network, value increases).

What should you look for in a fastener distributor?

Here are 10 critical qualities to evaluate when shopping for a fastener distributor.

  1. Large Selection, Immediate Availability, & Competitive Pricing. First and foremost, a distributor must have the products you need when you need them at the right price point. Ask your distributor how many products they keep in stock at any given time, as well as how many products they have access to through their supplier network. Additionally, find out how their pricing stacks up against competitors. The right supplier will work with you to ensure cost effective sourcing.

  2. Vast Product Knowledge. How many years of experience does the distributor have? A company that’s been in the business for decades will have an edge over new players when it comes to answering tough questions about product applications, finding tough-to-source parts, or helping you decipher your clients’ requirements.

  3. Measured Quality & Performance Standards. Product quality assurance is critical to your business. Your distributor should have some type of benchmarking or score-carding in place to ensure a strong track record for order accuracy, on-time delivery, and minimal defects.

  4. Ease of Doing Business. When you call your fastener distributor, do you speak with a real person, and is it the same person every time? Your fastener distributor should make your life easier, not harder. A sense of urgency is another good indicator of strong service. Companies that respond right away, resolve issues quickly, and offer same-day sourcing and order processing will help you get things off your desk quickly.

  5. Ability to Drive Down the Total Cost of Ownership. Total cost of doing business is more than just the number on an invoice. Does your fastener distributor’s timely service and sourcing ability help reduce overhead costs? Do they optimize transportation to provide the most cost-effective shipping rates? Do they anticipate market movements and shift strategies accordingly? The right distributor will understand your goals and work as a true partner to help you drive down cost.

  6. Supply Chain Agility & Diverse Supplier Network. In recent years, the manufacturing sector has dealt with rising shipping rates, long lead times, and geopolitical threats. A fastener distributor that has strong relationships with a large, diverse network of both international and domestic suppliers can help you regionalize your supply chain and reduce dependence on foreign suppliers.

  7. Financing & Warehousing Solutions. To help you manage inventory and simplify your supply chain, a distributor can provide off-site warehousing of large inventories, as well as financing through “stock and release” programs. This additional layer of supply chain agility can further reduce overhead costs.

  8. Forecasting or Modeling Capabilities. Can your fastener distributor correctly forecast the number of parts you will need to accomplish your long-term production goals? Through sophisticated data analysis, the right partner will anticipate your monthly or annual purchasing needs and build a safety stock to ensure your production line keeps running smoothly.

  9. Lean Operational Mindset. If your organization is focused on lean manufacturing, a fastener supplier can help you minimize waste associated with unnecessary transportation or motion, excess inventory, idle time, and more. Through strategies, like drop shipping and off-site inventory management, efficiency-focused distributors can help reduce operating expenses and simplify your supply chain.

  10. Digital Distribution Through Automation & Integration. Many fastener distributors are stuck in old ways of conducting business, which is manual and inefficient. Today's OEMs expect robust data capture, fast communication, zero errors, and digital buying experiences like instantaneous quotes. Does your fastener distributor embrace automation and integration? Are they committed to continuous improvement and digitization? Those that do can help you further improve efficiency and reduce costs.

As a full-service fastener distributor, Blue Ribbon Fastener works as an extension of your purchasing department to deliver a best-in-class supplier network, drive continuous improvement, and help you achieve supply chain agility and resiliency. Our large inventory and flexible supplier network ensure products ship quickly.

Don’t let fasteners “screw” up your operation or project. Contact us to get a same-day quote.

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