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HUB-Supply Chain Supply Chain Case Studies

HD Supply Takes Extra Measures to Protect Employees and Customers

Based in Atlanta, HD Supply is one of the largest industrial distributors in North America.

When HD Supply serves a client, it does not consider itself a separate company. “We like to think of ourselves as an extension of that customer’s team,” says Christopher T. Raabe, vice president of supply chain for HD Supply Facilities Maintenance, the company’s largest business unit.

This philosophy has been essential as employees have continued to serve customers, including property managers and maintenance professionals, during the coronavirus pandemic. “Our associates are passionate about what they do for our customers,” he states.

Based in Atlanta, HD Supply is one of the largest industrial distributors in North America. Its Facilities Maintenance business is a leading supplier of maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) productions for property managers and owners of multifamily, hospitality, commercial, healthcare and government facilities. “We strive to deliver exceptional customer experiences in the safest manner possible every day,” he says.

HD Supply also reaches its Facilities Maintenance customers with 43 distribution centers and 60 cross-dock locations across the United States and Canada. “That gives us incredible national reach for same- and next-day services,” Raabe says.

Playing it Safe

HD Supply was not blindsided by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We were monitoring it from the very beginning,” Raabe states, explaining that the company did this by measuring supply risk with a high degree of precision, which is a fundamental part of its in-stock inventory management process.

When the company saw early signals for potential delays in its orders in January, “We knew we had to quickly mobilize our task force,” he says.

Since then, the company, deemed an essential business under applicable Shelter in Place and other quarantine orders, has focused on four core “pillars” in its response: associate safety, customer safety, supply risk and business continuity. When it came to associate safety, the team took measures to ensure its employees felt secure and comfortable, whether reporting on-site to a facility or telecommuting. 

“We adopted social distancing and a variety of different processes in line with federal, state and local agencies and CDC guidelines,” Raabe recalls, adding that the company has implemented health screenings across its distribution center network, along with alert lines and tracking to maintain complete control over the impact of the virus on its entire employee base. “We also provide our frontline employees with access to protective equipment to ensure they are able to perform their customer service functions in a safe manner.”

HD Supply also adjusted its time-off and work-at-home policies to better align to the changing environment. Currently, “Our Sales and support team members are operating out of their homes,” he says, noting that the company moved customer call centers off site.

Customer safety is an important focus for the company as well. HD Supply has used its existing vendor relationships — along with new ones — to ensure that its customers have as many cleaning and safety supplies as they need.

The company also has adjusted its delivery processes so that its customers and delivery personnel are not required to come into contact during the delivery process. This includes removing the need “for a signature in our process,” Raabe says, adding that HD Supply relaxed its return policies as well.

“We think [that is] the right thing to do.”

Ready to Switch

Supply risk is a major area of focus for HD Supply and its task force. When it learned about the virus’s presence in China, it adjusted the methods for securing products.

The company continues to monitor its channels and assess every single supplier, their risk levels and redundancies to balance all of those factors against its supply base. But if one vendor’s plant shuts down, HD Supply will leverage another supplier to provide a similar product. “It’s about making sure we’ve got an agile supply chain in terms of domestic and imported product across all of our categories,” Raabe says. 

Business continuity is another major focus for the company. For example, if HD Supply had to shut down one of its large facilities, “We’ve built an agile network to back up ourselves and rebalance the flow,” he says. To-date, the Facilities Maintenance business has not had to shut down any location. 

So far, the company has held simulations from its headquarters in Atlanta modeled after a variety of situations that contemplate the loss of one or multiple distribution hubs across the network. “We’ve fully tested that,” he says. “It stays at the ready so that we can turn it on in four hours.”

Road to Recovery

One of the industries the coronavirus has impacted the hardest is hospitality. Many hotels, Raabe notes, have temporarily closed or been converted into spaces to house first-responders, and HD Supply has done its part to help.

“We’ve donated critical products to customers and partners in our communities that we think can be helpful during this time,” he says. These include cleaning supplies, light bulbs and other maintenance materials.

Going forward, HD Supply will focus on maintaining stocks of products its customers are looking for as well as adjusting its operation to a new business environment. “There’s a lot of things that are never going to go back to being the same way they were before,” he says.

“We want to make sure that we’re adjusting every day to being the preferred provider for customers,” Raabe continues. “The recovery is uncertain at best, and we’re taking it one day at a time and we’ll be there every step of the way for our associates and customers.”