Fortiline experiences exponential growth after converting to Mincron solution

Fortiline is one of the fastest-growing waterworks distributors in the U.S., and its momentum shows no signs of slowing down.

In 2016, they opened 8 new locations, and as of March 2017, they’ve averaged opening one new branch a month — Austin and Helotes, Texas, and Winter Garden, Fla. They also recently partnered with a sister company to open two branches together. Those new facilities, in Mesa and Peoria, Ariz., means that Concord, N.C.-based Fortiline now has literally expanded their footprint across the U.S.

Just 12 years ago, Fortiline had eight branches; today they have 50 — a whopping 630% increase since 2005! And there are still nine months to go in 2017.

A number of factors have been instrumental in the company’s tremendous growth, namely the hard work and dedication of the Fortiline team, an improving national economy, and the building and repair of infrastructure. As a water and sewer pipe distributor, Fortiline tapped into markets where they saw the most growth potential and capitalized on those opportunities.

It’s also worth noting that the onset of this epic expansion coincided with the company’s implementation of a new distribution management software system. Since 2006, Fortiline has been driving their business with Mincron solutions.

Director of Branch Operations Support Andy Johnson worked at the branch level for several years prior to that implementation, and described “a night and day difference” between Mincron and their previous software.

“I have been hands-on with the system since the beginning,” he said. “I relied on it for literally every area of the branch’s operations. Using the new system made it so much more efficient for everyone to do their jobs. I saw the system at work first hand, the difference it made for each user, and the overall difference it made for the branch’s performance.

Measurable benefits

Three years ago, Johnson was promoted to manage Fortiline’s support system, where he has taken a very active role in training staff to use the Mincron solution even more effectively, and exploring ways to further leverage it. Fortiline is currently running on release 12 and has already installed 12.1; they will migrate to it this summer. The system is essential for every area of their operations, including inventory, financials and even sales commissions.

“Probably the most obvious benefit we see is in inventory management,” Johnson described. “It gives us a much better way to measure and track our inventory, and to make smarter decisions for future purchasing. It provides us with detailed historical data, recommended order reports, line buys to replenish, and forecasting the right inventory quantities to maintain. It provides us with measurements for individual branches to make sure they’re in line with sales and product coming in. It’s a great tool for making quicker, more accurate purchasing choices, and really is the key to our inventory management.”

They also use WebSmart, Mincron’s B2B and B2C solution, as well as some solutions from Mincron’s partners.

“We’re proactive in moving toward more e-commerce, and want it to be a larger part of our business,” Johnson remarked. “Some of our customers, like municipalities, want to use a web portal to place their orders. In fact, some won’t even let you in the door if you don’t offer that capability.”

As Fortiline has grown, so has their software training.

“With the exponential growth of our staff, we’ve developed a formal training program, and we communicate with people every day on ways to help them use the system better,” Johnson said. “When we make an acquisition or open a new branch, we typically send two trainers for every five to ten new people. They spend two weeks at the location, which we feel is enough time to get them up and running — plus it’s a great way to establish relationships. But we’re flexible and will extend that timeframe whenever needed. We want new teams to be comfortable in performing their jobs. With the Mincron solution, people pick it up relatively quickly.”

Fortiline has experienced substantial, measurable benefits using their Mincron solutions.

“Since Fortiline implemented Mincron solutions, we’ve doubled our inventory turns from three to more than six,” Brewer noted. “It does such a good job tracking how people purchase, and what we stock and carry. We trust the system to ensure we have the right product in the right locations, and enough of it, without tying too much cash up in inventory.

“Our average days on hand have dropped from 100 to around 60, and we’ve decreased our dead stock significantly. The system helps us identify what is dead stock at one location, and then move it to another location that has a better chance of selling it. That’s one of the great features Mincron solutions provide — moving inventory around within our own company so we don’t accumulate dead stock. On top of that, our customer service levels are up.”

Johnson added, “Literally everything from ordering to receiving product, to a customer’s first contact with us to a sale, to getting the product into their hands is done through our Mincron system. It even sets up warehouse locations for the product to be stored, and conveys those locations with the most efficient picking order to our crew when they’re pulling stock for shipment.”

It has also been crucial in working with Fortiline’s bankers and investors. “Because the system is so accurate when it comes to forecasting and tracking sales, purchasing and open orders,” Johnson explained, “we can be confident in the dollars it says we have coming down the pike — and gives us the ability to go to banks and investors and show them very a very predictable fiscal performance forecast.”

An additional benefit has been the ease of making modifications. “We’ve modified our system to pull additional data we wanted to capture,” Brewer noted. “Mincron solutions can be customized to meet any distributor’s needs — a significant advantage compared to other software providers. It’s relatively easy for customers to make modifications in house, and there are almost no limitations to what customers can do with their systems.”

A look inside Fortiline

Fortiline Waterworks is one of the largest U.S.-owned distributors of underground water, sewer and storm utility products for both the public and private sectors. They maintain an extensive inventory of various pipes, hydrants, valves, fittings, restraints, iron castings and service brass — and have other miscellaneous products readily available.

The company was founded in 1997 as Mainline Supply Co. in Asheville, N.C. Over the past 20 years, their goal has remained the same — to supply customers with quality products by reputable manufacturers at the most competitive prices. They continue to believe that specializing in doing one thing extraordinarily well is the key to superior service.

Fortiline’s customers range from small municipalities to large multi-state corporations. The company and their customers have built loyal partnerships, which keeps Fortiline motivated to continually improve their business. So despite their incredible growth, the Fortiline team remains very grounded and customer oriented. An employee once described them like this: “We have big company clout and small company attitude.”

There are five operating groups within Fortiline:

  • HDPE Fusion Group — HDPE pipe is durable, cost effective and can be used in a broad range of projects including industrial, municipal and landfill applications. The group is ready to assist customers with the growing use of HDPE products, particularly in water and wastewater applications. Fortiline is also a McElroy distributor and can sell and service McElroy’s wide range of fusion machines.

  • Municipal Group — Provides knowledge, superior service and a wide array of products to any federal, state or local agency customer. Dedicated to being the premier source of water, wastewater, storm, erosion and safety materials, metering and tools. Fortiline’s staff is extensively experienced in all facets of public procurement.

  • Storm Water Solutions Group —Offers a solution-based suite of products that meet the needs of private, commercial and municipal customer groups throughout Fortiline’s geographical coverage. Provides an array of drainage supplies, and its team investigates, understands and services customers’ drainage product needs.

  • Treatment Plant Group — A turn-key source of pipe, valve and fitting packages for water, wastewater and industrial treatment plant contractors nationwide. Each type of plant has a very specific process and must be maintained in order to protect our citizens and environment.

  • International Group — A leading international distributor of underground utility and municipal infrastructure material, Fortiline understands the complexities of the international marketplace and takes the time to fully understand each of its customers’ needs and jobs.

Last fall, Fortiline was acquired by MORSCO Inc. (the former Morrison Supply Co.), a Fort Worth-based distributor of commercial and residential plumbing products, HVAC equipment, and pipe, valves and fittings. MORSCO has 170+ locations across the U.S. doing over $1.7 billion in annual sales.

Fortiline continues to operate as a standalone company, and MORSCO waterworks operations will fall under Fortiline’s wing. Already, Fortiline management has impressed the MORSCO team with the capabilities and benefits they’ve realized using the Mincron system — particularly when it comes to efficiency, ease of use, maneuverability, and data compilation and measurement. Another benefit has been the fact that their IT department is remarkably small for a company of this size because the Mincron system requires very little ongoing maintenance and management.

Mike Swedick, who had been Fortiline’s President and CEO and now leads the MORSCO Waterworks Division, was also recently appointed President of MORSCO’s Plumbing Division.

“During Mike’s time at Fortiline, he was instrumental in the creation of a highly-functional leadership team and a formal strategic planning process,” praised Chip Hornsby, CEO of MORSCO. “He worked closely with his management team to develop a clear vision and a strong metric-driven culture, all of which resulted in explosive earnings (EBITDA) and top-line growth.”

In response to the announcement, Swedick commented, “We look forward to continuing to build our waterworks platform while collaborating with the leadership team at MORSCO to build a world-class distribution company.

“I am proud of the growth we achieved at Fortiline and I look forward to realizing similar gains within MORSCO’s Plumbing Division. We will start our journey toward success by uniting all of the individual plumbing brands within the MORSCO family under a new philosophy, ‘One MORSCO – One Vision: To be the preferred and most trusted resource for plumbing, HVAC and utility infrastructure product solutions.’”

Click here to view a video on Fortiline’s corporate philosophy.

By Mary Jo Martin
Marketing Manager