G-F ramps up distribution facilities, expands options

Sunday, October 31, 2004

ATLANTA – HME providers who want to purchase directly from Graham-Field can do so again without having to go through Gulf South Medical Supply.

Although Graham-Field forged a five-year exclusive HME distribution contract with Jacksonville, Fla.-based Gulf-South last year, the parties recently modified terms of the agreement so that providers can again order directly from the manufacturer.

“We’re no longer dictating to customers where they can get the product,” said Mike Norby, Graham-Field’s vice president of marketing and sales. “We’ve changed the agreement to better serve all homecare customers.”

Norby stressed that despite the policy change, HME providers can still use Gulf South or any other distributor they wish.

“Gulf South is an excellent distributor and we work alongside them and other wholesalers and distributors every day,” he said. “For providers, there is a powerful buying proposition for using Gulf South because they can get other items in addition to ours.”

purchase large volumes of durable medical equipment, patient aids and recliner chairs in prepackaged containers.

“We can literally configure a container in the warehouse within 24 to 48 hours,” said Mike Norby, Graham-Field’s vice president of marketing and sales. “They are then sent to our U.S. warehouses for distribution across the country.”

Graham-Field recently opened distribution sites in Atlanta, East Rutherford, NJ, and Los Angeles to complement its main warehouse in St. Louis. The company established the centers in order to retake control of its homecare logistics, which was previously outsourced to Jacksonville, Fla.-based Gulf South Medical Supply.

“Although Gulf South is an excellent distributor, we decided that we can do it better ourselves,” Norby said. “With these locations, we can reach 80% of the country in 48 hours.”

Norby acknowledged that the Direct-Ship program “isn’t for everyone” because of the substantial quantities involved. Yet for those providers who feel they have the capacity to handle it, the containers represent “a huge difference in price,” he said, adding that the 40-foot containers represent an even greater savings potential than the 20-foot variety.

Customers can “mix and match” products within a container, but they have to be within the same category, such as patient aids (“hundreds” of skus), wheelchairs (K-1 through K-10) and geriatric recliners, Norby said. Considering that a 40-foot container has the capacity to fit approximately 5,000 nebulizers or 300 wheelchairs, it makes for a serious purchasing commitment. At press time in late September, the company was still awaiting its first order.

“We’re not expecting a huge outpouring for this because we realize it only makes sense for certain dealers,” Norby said.

Medline also has a container shipment program called Factory Direct, which the Mundelein, Ill.-based manufacturer/distributor started last year. Tom Tucker, vice president of sales for Medline’s DME division is optimistic about its future because customers see its value.

“We have had a growing level of success on orders and have evolved the program by listening to customers over the last year,” he said. “Customers are looking at programs like this to help them reduce costs and increase service levels. If both manufacturers and providers can minimize the time we spend handling product, shipping and warehousing, it’s in both parties’ best interest.”