Sellen Construction Cuts Down on Manual Orders, Saves $150K per Year
April 1, 2021
By Blue Print Editorial Team
By Blue Print Editorial Team
BUILDING A BETTER SUPPLY CHAIN
Whether it’s a new skyscraper or the renovation of a historic landmark, Sellen Construction can handle the project. Based in Seattle, the company has built some of the region’s most iconic structures, including innovative projects for world-class companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and AT&T.
Sellen’s business is structured to focus their team’s energy and talent on build time – so that, ideally, every dollar spent, every ounce of effort, is poured into the project. The supply chain plays a pivotal role. Reducing delays, touches, and waste creates more time and resources for Sellen’s craftspeople to focus on what they do best: delivering projects that bring success to their partners and the community.
“We decided that we needed to find a partner to help us manage our supply chain,” said Adam Rohde, Vice President, Sellen Construction. “We’ve always been a bit of a “do-it-yourselfer” type company, but we do realize that, with partnership being one of our main values, that there are other stakeholders out there who can do things better than we can do it. And that only helps us achieve our goals.”
Sellen’s supply chain centers on their warehouse and rental yard facility, where the daily challenge is to prepare and deliver the supplies, equipment, and materials required at surrounding jobsites. As work progresses, jobsites need different tools and consumables for each step in the project. For the warehouse and rental yard, this means early mornings spent prepping the orders that each jobsite has placed. All rental reservations are accounted for and readied for delivery, and if there’s any fabrication or millwork required, it’s added to the queue. Delivery and any needed retrieval is also handled by Sellen’s drivers.
In the past, Sellen had four people ordering from multiple vendors for multiple jobsites. And without a solid process, getting the right parts and equipment out to each site on time was becoming a major challenge, to the point where it began impacting projects.
Sellen established goals to improve consumables management and reduce invoicing costs. And as part of a company-wide initiative to embrace lean processes and outsource non-core capabilities, they made the decision to integrate with a strategic supplier who could bring true expertise to jobsite consumables. They evaluated a pool of five suppliers, conducted onsite trials with the top two selections (Fastenal and another large national supplier), and, according to Bowman, came to an easy decision: “Fastenal just blew it out of the water.”
The onsite program integrates Fastenal’s distribution “machine” into Sellen’s daily warehouse operations. Two full-time Fastenal supply chain experts manage roughly $200,000 worth of consigned onsite inventory to quickly fulfill daily orders for the jobsites. The inventory is continually adapted to anticipate fast-changing needs and supported by Fastenal’s supplier network and distribution/transportation infrastructure.
“Our customers expect our buildings to be completed on time. Our project teams are working tirelessly to get that done,” said Travis Muld, Sellen’s warehouse business manager. “We’re here to support our project teams. We’re here to make sure there’s no work stoppages. From the consumable end of it or even the fabrication part of it. We need to get the equipment out to the project teams so they can keep working.”
“As we’ve implemented the Fastenal onsite program here at Sellen, it really allowed them to meet some of their KPIs,” said Steve Leal, Fastenal’s district manager. “And so some of that was really getting control of that consumable inventory. We manage it, we maintain it. They have full inventory turns and now they really have value within inventory: where they know the asset, they know the turns that they get from that asset.”
The key is deep visibility into usage. As products are issued for projects, Fastenal enters Sellen’s unique customer part numbers, allowing each item to be tracked within Sellen’s internal system. Where before Sellen only saw the total number of items used, today Sellen and Fastenal can visualize the exact items and amounts used at each individual build. The results: improved planning for Fastenal and simplified job costing for Sellen.
Vending technology brings that same visibility (along with point-of-use access) to products used within the warehouse. Fastenal sent a team to examine how best to provide Sellen with a system that would maximize tracking and productivity. Together, they identified the strategic point-of-use locations for tools and equipment, then Fastenal custom-configured machines to automatically track and dispense those items.
“The things that are going out more often, we wanted to make sure we didn’t have to walk a mile to grab them; we wanted it to be closer,” said Bowman.
CUTTING BACK ON INVOICE COSTS
The Sellen/Fastenal Onsite program also helped to simplify purchasing and reduce administrative costs associated with jobsite consumables. “We had multiple invoices coming from every different vendor,” said Bowman. “And we could never keep the right cost structure because you’d buy something one week and the next week you’d buy from somebody else and the pricing was different. And by the time we went to process our invoicing there were a hundred-plus invoices from all different companies. Descriptions were different; so, it was hard for our accounting people to decipher and figure out this description from the other vendors. So, things got pretty confused.”
Both Sellen and Fastenal needed tracking of parts and it was made a priority.
“When Fastenal came in, they worked with us on the descriptions, using long descriptions and using our program system with our CONS which is the consumable number,” said Bowman. “So anytime we order something from Fastenal, it has our CONS number on it. That was easy for us to track. So, it just saved all kinds of time on our invoicing. It really streamlined the process for us.”
Fastenal streamlined Sellen’s invoicing and was able to improve the usage of labor and floor space. Sellen is also using many of the other services Fastenal offers, including:
“Being able to manage our supply chain in partnership with Fastenal has really enabled us to deliver that quality at every single point along the job,” said Adam Rohde, Vice President, Sellen Construction. “It takes one more variable out of the equation.”
KNOWING THE IMPORTANCE OF LADDER INSPECTIONS
Fastenal does inspections whenever ladders come back from jobsites. If they have the correct stickers on them and they aren’t damaged, they can go back into circulation and be used for another job. If a rung is bent or the ladder is damaged, it’s pulled for repairs and another is put into service.
ENSURING HOISTS ARE READY TO LIFE BEFORE EACH JOB
When a hoist comes back from a job, it gets sent to a Fastenal servicing site. All hoists need to be inspected and ready for use on the next project before they are sent back out. Sellen can’t afford to learn something isn’t working once it’s already out on the site. They need to be able to trust a hoist before the first load is put on it.
ADDING VALUE WITH CONSTRUCTION SPECIALISTS
Corey Roberts, one of Fastenal’s construction specialists for Sellen, heard a jobsite felt their impact drill wasn’t getting the job done on a project. He reached out to DeWalt to find a time when an expert could come work with the Sellen team at their site to find the best tool for the work.
INSPECTING AND PROVIDING RELIABLE EQUIPMENT
Every time tools come back from a job they are placed in totes, ID’d, and sent back to get inspected (and, if needed, repaired). Retractables for fall protection are handled through this same process. Equipment needs to be trustworthy before it is sent to worksites. Sellen can’t afford downtime or the chance that a tool won’t last for the duration of a project.
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WHAT THE SELLEN TEAM SAYS
Adam Rohde | Vice President - Director, Operational Excellence and Engineering, Sellen Construction
“When I think about the partnership between Sellen and Fastenal, it has just taken the best parts of both companies and allowed us to take the whole idea of supply chain management within this context of the general contracting community and push it forward to a place that it’s not been before.”
Travis Muld | Warehouse Business Manager, Sellen Construction
“The onsite solution team is now part of the Sellen team. They help us get everything done that we need to do every day. They are helping us get better at supply chain management, and it’s truly value added. The support that they get from their upper management is superb. You cannot ask for anything more.”
Tim Bowman | Warehouse Operations Manager, Sellen Construction
“I spent a lot of time doing emergency orders and trying to figure out which supplier to get it from the quickest so I could get it to the jobsite. When Fastenal came in it just made it more efficient. The product was there when I needed it, and I didn’t have to wait around. I didn’t have to make emergency calls.”
Steve Leal | District Manager, Fastenal
"Every time a product is issued to a jobsite, we track that data and not only from which jobsite but from what phase and who took it and when it went out and what type of job it was. So, what’s exciting about it is we go through the data and it’s starting to become a forecasting model of what products should we have in our Sellen onsite branch. And what products don’t they need anymore. Then we look at some of the other jobsite services that they’re outsourcing to other folks that could be taken back in house and run through the Fastenal program, effectively yielding more time for the jobsite to focus on building.”
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