Published December 2015
Brass is a vital yet inconspicuous metal that undergirds nothing less than the entire industrial sector. Essentially an alloy of copper and zinc, brass combines toughness, malleability, pliability, and rust resistance. It’s ideal for fittings—and implements.
Midland Metal Mfg. Company in Kansas City, MO, grew rapidly in the 1980s as a brass fitting distributor. Its product roster now includes fittings and valves for tube, pipe, and hose. At one juncture in the early history of the company, which dates along its deepest root to 1919, spoons were made for a local culinary firm.
In fact, it was with customers in mind that Midland Metal was re-charged—or made active again—some 40 years ago. The new owner was motivated by the desire “to lower supplier costs for plumbing and in-dustrial distributors,” says Billy Hodes, vice president at Midland Metal.
“My father, Bill Hodes, bought the company in the late 1970s and with the help of Joe Carolyn and Nick Hodes, he resurrected Midland Metal Manufacturing,” explains Hodes. “It had been a subsidiary of Ross Manufacturing that had been dormant. Bill Hodes bought Ross Manufacturing and tasked Joe Carolyn and Nick Hodes with ramping Midland Metal Manufacturing back up.”
In 2015, Midland has 49 employees. They deploy as one group. “Each member of Midland’s team has a responsibility and they are accountable to the entire team,” says Hodes. (See Sidebar, Key Personnel.)
The strength of the Midland team derives from the focus on getting an excellent match between person and role. “Our strategy is to put good people in the position to succeed,” says Hodes.
The rewards of being a member of the Midland team are realized in bonuses, as well as in the day to day of doing the best for customers. “All employees receive a bonus based on the overall profitability of the company,” says Hodes.
When employees at Midland Metal reflect on their endeavors at the company, they cite the stimulating and friendly work environment. And they emphasize the customer. (See Sidebar, Reflections from Team Members.)
“The philosophy that guides Midland Metal sounds cliché but rings very true,” says Brett Powell, national sales manager at Midland. “We put the customer first. We spend all day, every day, trying to come up with ideas, products, and services that will help our customers succeed. We cannot succeed if our customers don’t.”
Key Personnel At Midland Metal MFG.
• Vince Hodes—President & CEO
• Billy Hodes—Vice President
• Brett Powell—National Sales Manager
• Charlie Tischner—Chief Technology Officer
• Lori Tillmon—Business Manager, HR
• Nick Hodes—Head of Business Development
• Pat Valdivia—Hydraulic Market Manager
The extensive array of products offered by Midland Metal includes ball valves, cast fittings and nipples, hose clamps, hydraulic adapters, and pneumatic accessories. Businesses in the Midland customer mix are distributors and manufacturers in markets ranging from pressure washing and car washing to food processing, industrial, hose plumbing, irrigation, oilfield, marine, truck and auto—and many more.
“What sets Midland apart from most companies is that we are willing to try something different to benefit our customers,” says Powell. “We offer marketing tools and value-added profitability programs that promote our customer’s brand, not Midland’s.”
First and foremost, the emphasis is on the customer. “We really take pride in customer service,” says Hodes. “A lot of companies say that, but do they really mean it? Do they show it? We strive to offer quality products at competitive prices along with the most convenient and consistent service in the industry.”
Knowing competitors and appreciating them as worthy colleagues in the industry is part of what it takes to own a business. “Our product offerings and pricing are very competitive with companies in our industry,” says Hodes.
Like all companies, Midland Metal has been tested. “One of the biggest challenges Midland has experienced was the 2009 recession,” says Vince Hodes, CEO. “Every industry was down. Every customer was slow. We looked at it as an opportunity to grow our product offering and increase our inventory so our customers could use our warehouse as their own, without all the overhead. We helped our customers expand their product offering so they could make up for the sales that were lost. We put ourselves and our customers in a good position when the market started to pick back up.”No company remains in business without changing. For Midland Metal, one of the biggest changes embraced was the move to e-commerce.
“Midland was one of the first companies to offer online ordering,” says Powell. “We offered a five percent discount on all orders placed online when we launched the website, and we still offer that same discount 15 years later. Now customers can manage their accounts, check stock, print bin labels, track shipments, and place orders 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
There have been other changes, too, of course. For example, the two major divisions of Midland Metal, which had operated separately from approximately 1990, have reunited.
“The industrial division and the plumbing division had been operating as two separate companies,” explains Billy Hodes. “By merging the companies back together, we were able to provide more consistent, seamless service to our customers, as well as expanded product lines.”
In addition to its Kansas City location, Midland has stocking locations in Los Angeles, Houston, and Atlanta. The satellite warehouses allow Mid-land Metal to shorten the time it takes a product to reach a customer.
Every company has some products that stand out as something noteworthy or just plain awe inspiring. We always ask about them.
“We are excited about a couple of products right now,” says Hodes. “We just added a line of freezeless ball valves. Made of forged brass, the added wall thickness prevents frozen, stuck, or cracked valves in the depths of winter.”
Also noteworthy is the way that a product line is organized and presented to prospective buyers. “We are very proud of our value-added marketing program we created for our customers to use,” says Hodes. “The Your Brand is Our Brand program provides several tools for our customers to use in their own marketing at virtually no cost.”
The catalog merits mention too, explains Hodes. “[Our] annual catalog features more than 20,000 products,” he explains. “We print a catalog every year and continue to add products each time so we can offer the best one-stop-shop experience for our customers—allowing our customers to consolidate their vendor base more and more.”
Keeping pace with customer needs is a given for the Midland team. “We attend conferences and conduct job site visits to see how our parts are being used and if there are ways we can deliver those parts to improve our customers’ efficiency and profitability,” explains Powell. “We also rely heavily on our team of sales reps to tell us what our customers want and what they wish we did better. We are constantly looking for ways to improve our offerings and our customers’ experience.”
It’s about helping the customer with a current requirement and then beyond that. “Midland Metal’s focus is on making sure we are putting our customers in the best positions to succeed, both today and tomorrow,” says Hodes. “That requires a balance of precisely executing all we are called on to do today, while developing tools that our customers may not need now, but will give them a competitive advantage at a future time.”
Hodes cites online ordering as an example. “We began offering online ordering to our customers very early on—nearly 15 years ago,” he says. “Customer adoption was slow, but those that did use online ordering saw immediate and significant advantages—more accurate orders, increased efficiency, and cost savings. Today, over half of all our orders come to us online.”
There is also a Midland Metal app. “The app allows you to build, place, and manage orders by scanning barcodes,” says Hodes. “It gives real time inventory levels. We’re seeing slow adoption among our customers, but those that are using it are seeing the profitable advantages.”
Among the many professional organizations to which Midland Metal belongs are ISSA [International Sanitary Supply Association], NCA [National Carwash Association], NAHAD [The Association for Hose and Accessories Distribution], AASA [Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association] and ASA [American Supply Association]. Involvement with trade organizations is an important way to gain a full understanding of customers.
Involvement is also a way to be a full industry partner. “We attend and exhibit at trade shows, contribute white papers, articles, and press releases to trade publications, and we develop product and pricing programs for specific associations,” says Hodes.
People are always in the picture at Midland Metal Mfg. “[We] are a family owned business with a heart and values,” says Hodes. “We truly want to see our customers succeed. Without them, we wouldn’t be in business. A human being—not a machine, will always pick up the phone. We do have a great e-commerce site, but we also have a great customer service team ready to take your phone call and help you out.”
Reflections From Team Members At Midland Metal MFG.
The most rewarding and fascinating part of the work I(we) do at Midland is coming up with solutions to our customers’ problems and providing them tools to help grow their business. Finding the right part at the right price for our customers so they can win new business is a satisfying feeling.
—Brett Powell, National Sales Manager
I’ve been with Midland Metal now for 16 years and the rewarding part for me working here at Midland has been the multiplicity of cultures. How at the end of the day we realize we’re all in some way the same, striving to become better at making each other feel like a family member.
—Eangelia Williams, Packaging
The best part of my job is the people I work with, both internally and the external customer. We are a national company, so I have the opportunity to talk with people all over the country. I enjoy coming up with solutions that help solve a customer’s problem; such as, answering a technical question about a product or navigating the website. Relationships are still the cornerstone to success—be it in business or in our personal lives.
—Mary Bruno, Customer Service
We sell pipe fittings and such. You will find our products in all kinds of places from household plumbing, factories, food processing plants, marinas, and even show rooms for the latest fashions. You never know who you will talk to in a day. With a cheerful voice and knowledge of the products we offer, our customer service representatives have enjoyable interactions with people from all over this great country of ours every day. We sell fittings, but, more than that, we are real, honest, hardworking people who care about how we treat others. Give us a call.
—Mary Beth Hodes, Customer Service
The most rewarding part of my job is the satisfaction I get from helping people. What is fascinating is the way people treat you here. Everyone is like family and cares about what is going on—and if there is a problem, they are here to help no matter what it is. The people here are what make Midland Metal a great company.
—Lonnel Taylor, Receiving Department