In most cases, when a small shop needs cutting tools, abrasive belts or other consumed items, someone gets into a car and drives to the store to get them. For many small machine shops, leaving the floor is time consuming and therefore expensive. On the other hand, bigger shops often have personnel dedicated to keeping tool stores stocked. Some really big shops can command a tooling vendor to put a person on the site at the shop. It now appears small shops are getting some well-deserved attention from at least one tooling vendor.
Coming soon to a parking lot near you—actually your own lot—is a new service called Milpro. Last month, Milacron Inc. launched this new distribution effort for selling tool crib items. With this initiative, each of more than 100,000 small shops will be visited once a week by one of the Mobile Tool Cribs. Each truck will carry round and stick cutting tools, grinding wheels and disks, coolant, abrasive belts, hand tools and many other consumables that a shop uses to operate.
But the mobile tool crib is only half of the Milpro concept. According to research the company has conducted, many of you are hooked up to and use the Internet. And if you're not now, you soon will be. Milacron has established a sophisticated web site at Milpro.com and plans to use this site for conducting electronic commerce. You can buy stuff on-line. In addition, the site contains detailed technical information and printable copies of those pesky MSDS sheets. The plan brings a level of service to small shops that hasn't been practical before.
Milacron Inc. is the former Cincinnati Milacron, without machine tools. A big chunk of its $1.5 billion in sales comes from industrial products. Over the past few years, the company has embarked on acquiring several cutting tool manufacturers including Valenite, Widia, Data Flute, Brubaker, New England Tap and Fastcut Tool. Combined with the group's original coolant and grinding wheel business, it has created a good selection for shops to shop from.
It's this line of products, in addition to partnerships with 3M, Fowler Gage, Lista and Snap-On Tools, that should make this truck truly a tool crib on wheels. There's even a small lab on-board to check metalworking fluids. While a truck will visit each shop once a week, the Web site is available 24 hours a day. It's this combination of parking space and cyberspace that makes this concept new and different. And it's just for small shops.