of the lead-free curve With the federal Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act fast approaching, how confident are you that your suppliers’ products are in compliance with the new lead-free mandate? Manufacturers have had sufficient time to prepare for the law’s start date, but that doesn’t mean everyone will be equally ready come Jan. 4, 2014. Some supplier companies will demonstrate their nimbleness and preparedness by having all the lead-free products their wholesale customers will need, while others that got a late start on the needed conversion and repackaging process will lag behind in supply. One company that is ready to go is Matco- Norca, an independent sourcing company that supplies a wide range of fittings, valves, pipe nipples and plumbing specialties from its four national distribution centers to wholesalers nationwide. Matco-Norca has been preparing for the federal law since California’s AB 1953 became the nation’s first lead-free law and the basis for the eventual federal mandate (Vermont and Maryland followed). It was obvious to top management at Matco-Norca that, as is usually the case with California environmental and consumer safety initiatives, what starts in the Golden State eventually goes nationwide, so using AB 1953 as a platform to update its Product line for a national lead-free law was a practical exercise in foresight. With a distribution center in La Palma, Calif., Matco-Norca started to prepare for AB 1953 back in 2008. As one of its first steps, the company assembled a cross-functional team tasked with analyzing every functional area within Matco-Norca. The team met regularly for more than a year to review product testing and compliance, packaging, marketing and sales materials, sales forecasting, and especially inventory management to guarantee sufficient lead-free product availability and resupply. At that time, the company offered about 15,000 SKUs of which 70% were affected by the California law. To prepare for the lead-free rollout, Matco-Norca systematically reviewed all its products sold in California, Vermont and Maryland in recent years and worked directly with its overseas suppliers and its sales reps in The affected states to define the full extent of product that would have to be offered in lead-free versions. Matco-Norca’s overseas factories commenced using various metal lurgical al loys (including polymers, plastics and lead-free brass) in its new lead-free offerings.Also, the La Palma distribution center was reorganized with a dedicated “Go Green” section to keep leadfree products together and separated from other inventory. Packaging identification is an important aspect of the lead-free process, so the company’s lead-free products are now packaged in cartons labeled with a “Green Leaf ” label. Additionally, all Matco-Norca lead-free products can be found on the leadfree section of the company’s website at www.matco-norca.com. All lead-free products also will carry a part number ending in “LF” for easy identification. These measures, and more, have helped Matco-Norca get ahead of the curve on the 2014 federal mandate. Today, the company has thousands of lead-free items throughout its distribution network and additional products are being added. Customer surveys have been conducted so Matco-Norca can better understand their needs and to assist them in seamlessly transitioning to lead-free. When Jan. 4, 2014 arrives, Matco-Norca will be lead-free ready.
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