Lawson Products expands product lineup, cooperative contract resources as governments continue to cope with the pandemic
“If COVID-19 taught us anything it’s that we need our customers and they need us more than ever, and with that realization we should expect more from each other,” says Christina Nielsen, director, government accounts, North America, for Lawson Products, a distributor of fleet and facility maintenance products and services to the industrial, commercial, institutional and government maintenance, repair and operations market (MRO) in North America.
As public procurement directors source products in 2021-2022, Nielsen urges them to reconsider the true value of the relationships they have with their suppliers. She suggests that they ask themselves the following questions:
- Is your expectation that they (suppliers) merely deliver products at a price or are they contributing to the smoother and more reliable operation of the departments you serve?
- Can you pick up the phone and rely on them to find you alternative sources for products in the type of supply chain environment we find ourselves in?
- Do they provide any level of service that helps ease your labor concerns?
- Do they bring you purchasing and contractual solutions that help you be more nimble and creative?
Lawson Products serves state and local governments, school districts, colleges and universities with its cooperative contract that is available through OMNIA Partners, Public Sector. The firm helps customers lower their total cost of operation by increasing productivity and efficiency. Its problem-solving professionals and the Lawson Managed Inventory program ensure that customers have the right parts to handle the job.
As we head into 2022, cities and counties are more willing to consider relying on cooperative agreements, Nielsen believes. “With limited procurement personnel and higher-than-ever demand for strategic sourcing of key COVID-19 items, we’ve seen an increased openness of local governments to adopt cooperative purchasing agreements instead of creating their own contracts.”
Nielsen points out that Lawson holds several cooperative purchasing agreements that have been created using the lead agency model, meaning they are competitively solicited and publicly awarded contracts created by some of the most respected public procurement departments across the U.S. “Adopting a cooperative agreement as a local government’s own means they can enjoy all the benefits of being under a competitively solicited contract without undergoing the time-consuming task of going through a new solicitation.” Nielsen says her firm has seen legislatures boost their efforts to accommodate cooperative purchasing agreements at the state level, even in states where cooperative contracts were not previously accepted.
Two factors drove Lawson Products to expand its product lineup in 2021, Nielsen says—COVID-induced trends and market trends, primarily around workplace safety, independent of the COVID pandemic.
With the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak hopefully behind us, Lawson Products has found that demand has stabilized for its personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitizer and disinfectant offerings. Some of those products are now permanently featured in Lawson’s lineup where they were not before. “For example, facilities managers are no longer frenetically sourcing disposable Tyvek suits, but demand for disinfectants that are EPA-approved to be effective against the SARS/CoV-2 virus is here to stay. Electric backpack foggers continue to place high on the list of products that facilities maintenance personnel appreciate so they can quickly and reliably disinfect municipal buildings and schools. So, in these areas, our product line has been reshaped and expanded for the long-term,” Nielsen tells Co-op Solutions.
In 2021 the company added items to its lineup that help contribute to a safer workplace and environment. One example is a concrete repair and striping product called Mega. Mega is a ready-to-use surface patching kit that helps facilities managers ensure concrete surfaces are free of tripping and fall hazards by smoothing over them without the need for professional equipment or 3rd party application costs. Products like Mega, Nielsen says, help public operations stay compliant with OSHA and environmental standards so their workers and the environment both benefit.
Governments in 2021 must be very careful when sourcing PPE, and they have to be cautious about accepting alternative products, Nielsen says. “With so many new manufacturer entrants to the PPE market specifically, many cities and counties got burned by sourcing suboptimal quality PPE in their scramble to satisfy the needs of health/safety regulations in their communities. We have seen the request for samples as a part of every bid/RFP opportunity for PPE become a best practice and one that we do not believe should go away.” Nielsen adds that it’s important that cities and counties be assured by their supplier-partners that the PPE products they’re receiving are indeed able to perform up to the specification they claim to be.
Customers are working to diversify their supplier base, Nielsen says. “The general trend of supplier consolidation by procurement departments over the past few decades has been systematically challenged in the wake of COVID-19, meaning, in times of constrained supply of critical MRO materials and an overburdened supply chain, more supply options are the preferred route to satisfying the needs of your end-users.” Nielsen says she’s seen city and county procurement departments go “outside the box” of their handful of contracted suppliers to entertain other partners and options that can better satisfy their needs.
No question, Lawson Products is investing in resources that will improve the overall experience of its public sector customers as they obtain goods and services from the company. One example, says Nielsen, is the company’s efforts to improve its e-procurement capabilities to ensure faster, more seamless integrations with the most popular platforms in the public sector. “We are also hiring more public-sector-specific contracting and customer service specialists. Having the right products and services will always be critical, but ensuring our customers prefer the experience of working with Lawson is at the forefront of how we’re making decisions around investments in this space.”
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County. Contact him at [email protected]