Sunday, January 23, 2011

Column #50 - The backstory of the downhill slide

So, here we are, along about 1984 in our story of how Delta became an ‘un-legend’. Just so that it’s clear, I will name no names in my stories and I’m really not going to fault any one individual, but I sure will tell what happened and dog-out the corporate mentality that allowed it happen. Also, please understand, I still have a LOT of Delta gray in my blood. Yes, the brand is still alive, but in MY humble opinion, it is a shell of it’s former self. I do wish it well in the future but it has a long way to go and it must get back to its roots.

1984. It was the first year back from the grave of a time-honored name- Delta. Once we got on our feet, the very next year we decided to create a Technical Service Department, of which, yours truly was a founding member.
As a whole, Delta was starting to regain its footing in the industry. Pentair gave us the financial backing to create new tools and helped us maintain a measure of stability. Other than that, they pretty much stayed out of our way. As a reward for that, Delta became an absolute cash cow for them for the next 15 years. Along about this time, Porter-Cable had risen to the top of the heap of the portable electric tool market and it too became a cash cow for Pentair. From 1984 thru 1999, both Delta and Porter-Cable were ‘strokin’. We introduced new tools, had numerous inventions and patents and basically had the markets by the tail…and oh yes, we were making Pentair a ton of money. And then came 1999…

1999. The announcement came that Delta and Porter-Cable were going to “merge” and move into a state-of-the-art 500,000 sq.ft. distribution and Group headquarters facility in Jackson, TN and henceforth be called “Pentair Tools Group”. Right away, we saw that someone had more than a reasonable amount of influence with the management at Pentair. Think about it… when one thinks of a distribution hub for America, Jackson, TN is not it. On the other hand, Memphis would qualify very well. The problem was that Porter-Cable was a ‘big fish’ in a small pond in Jackson and their management team had no desire to move to the Memphis area. Not that I can blame them- Jackson is like heaven when compared to Memphis. But still, the basic idea of having your corporate distribution efforts locked into Jackson, TN, which is about 80 miles from the rail yards and trucking hubs in Memphis (leading to untold amounts of extra shipping dollars) does not seem to make good sense.

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