The Sanitary Supply Wholesalers Association (SSWA), headquartered in Sylvania, Ohio, an association for wholesalers and manufacturers of cleaning and maintenance products, worked toward an aggressive set of goals at its recent annual conference.

The conference focused on three issues: partnering between manufacturers and distributors, the development of international alliances and ways that SSWA members can add value to their products, according to Chuck Wuttke, president of SSWA.

Prior to the conference, the members of SSWA had certain goals in mind. “We wanted to work toward developing international alliances,” says Wuttke. “Another goal was determining the value we can add — how we can work together to benefit each other.”

The value and art of partnering was also discussed by guest speaker, Edwin Rigsbee. Rigsbee is an author and founder/president of Rigsbee Enterprise Inc., a marketing firm in Westlake Village, Calif. “He taught us how we all can profit from partnering,” says Wuttke.

Tim Underhill, another guest speaker, explained how wholesalers can improve the supply chain’s efficiency with value-added services and products. Underhill is also an author and president of Underhill & Associates, Tulsa, Okla.

Globalization and technology were also common themes. “We talked about what people in international markets are looking for and how we can best market to them,” says Wuttke.

Instead of a manufacturer selling directly to a distributor, manufacturers and wholesalers can work together to add value to their products and also gain savings, explains Wuttke.

Wholesalers represent a lot of manufacturers and many international distributors might not need a big quantity of an item. So wholesalers can just give them bundles of three or four — all they need, he notes.

Working together internationally, SSWA members can help each other save money. For example, they can lower shipping costs by grouping shipments together.

“Wholesalers tend to fit [distributors’] needs,” he adds.

Technology was another hot topic for the conference. “We talked about websites, the expanded use of e-mail and palm pilots,” he says. Most SSWA members are using this type of technology because it is more efficient, according to Wuttke.

The conference accomplished the goals it intended to, according to Wuttke, including discussions of adding value to products and creating future international alliances.

More importantly, the conference gave wholesalers and manufacturers the chance to discuss their futures together.

“We are always working ahead and looking for ways to pool resources — lower insurance rates, telephone rates, trucking costs, etc. — to economically benefit those who belong to the group,” says Wuttke.

“We are ever present and ever changing to respond to the needs of wholesalers and manufacturers and adapt to meet those needs,” he adds.

— Kari Strobel

Mergers and Acquisitions

AmSan LLC, Cary, N.C., a subsidiary of American Sanitary Inc., recently completed the acquisition of Easterday Janitorial Supply Co., Sacramento, Calif., from ABM Industries, San Francisco. With the completion of this acquisition, AmSan has 70 operating locations in 41 states.

Industrial Soap Co., Smith-Scharff and Franklin Janitor, all located in St. Louis, recently formed an alliance, creating one distributor of janitorial chemicals, equipment and disposable products for food service, housekeeping supplies and retail packaging supplies.

Perkins Paper Inc., Taunton, Mass., announced the acquisition of Advance Paper Co., Inc., Portland, Maine, a food service and sanitation products distributor.

OMNOVA Solutions
, Fairlawn, Ohio, recently formed a strategic alliance agreement with Daikin Industries, Osaka, Japan. The two companies will work to develop PlyFox™ fluoropolymer products that have been designed to replace certain PFOS (perfluorooctyl sulfonate) that are being withdrawn from the market because of environmental concerns.

Bunzl plc
, the parent company of Bunzl Distribution, St. Louis, has entered into an agreement with British Polythene Industries PLC to purchase its United Kingdom bag supply business. With sales of about $51 million, the company’s major business is supplying paper and plastic bags and packaging to U.K. supermarkets and other retailers.

News Makers

IBM Global Services, White Plains, N.Y., as part of its new Leveraged Procurement Services program (LPS), has announced the addition of AFFLINK, Tuscaloosa, Ala., to its LPS supplier list.

Kimberly-Clark Professional, Roswell, Ga., has changed the brand name of its line of antimicrobial skin care products. The KimCare family of products will now be branded as Kimberly-Clark Professional Skin Care.

Whirlpool Corp., Benton Harbor, Mich., and The Maids Home Services, Omaha, Neb., have recently ended their six months of testing a co-branded valet dry cleaning and laundry service with positive results. Maids is systematically adding the first of two phases to its additional home services program with the valet dry cleaning and laundry test with Whirlpool.

Advantage Marketing Associates (AMA), Tracy, Calif., an international alliance of wholesalers providing janitorial, food service and industrial maintenance products to distributors, has expanded into Mexico through its newest associate member, Lienz S.A. de C.V. With the addition, AMA’s distribution in Mexico includes Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterey and Meriba.

Rubbermaid Commercial Products, Winchester, Va., a manufacturer of commercial-quality products for food service, sanitary maintenance and industrial marketplaces, announced it plans to double its new product development team by filling 30 newly created positions in July.

AFFLINK, Tuscaloosa, Ala., recently announced Spir-it/Zoo Piks Inc., Wakefield, Mass., is its new supplier and Parwin Co., El Dorado, Ark., and Kent Landsberg/North Star Paper, Plano, Texas, are new member distributors.

‘Town Meetings’ Ponder Ergonomics Rule

The U.S. Department of Labor recently finished holding public forums on the federal ergonomics rule. “Town meetings” were conducted in Washington D.C., Chicago and Stanford, Calif., in July.

“The public forums on ergonomics are not rule-making hearings; they are informal opportunities for interested persons to address a panel of representatives from the Department of Labor on the three questions raised in the June 12, 2001, Federal Register notice,” according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Speakers — those who submitted a notice of intention to speak — are industry professionals from unions, companies, corporations, associations, universities and other facilities. They addressed the following three questions: What is ergonomic injury? How can OSHA, employers and employees determine whether an ergonomics injury was caused by work-related activities or non-work related activities? And thirdly, what are the most useful and cost-effective types of government involvement to address workplace ergonomics injury?

The U.S. Department of Labor also announced this is the beginning of its initiative to create a new comprehensive approach to ergonomics — ”One that is appropriate to the 21st Century workforce,” says OSHA.

Testifying before Congress, Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao discussed six main principles that the department will use as a guide on which to base and develop a new standard.
The rule should: emphasize the prevention of injuries; be based on the best available science and research; should focus on cooperation between OSHA and employers; should take into consideration the varying capabilities and characteristics of different businesses; needs to recognize the costs of compliance and must include simple, common-sense instructions, according to Chao’s testimony.

Scientist Discovers Process To Turn Paper Mill Waste Into Useful Product

An engineering professor has patented a catalytic process that could help paper mills save millions of dollars a year by converting a polluting byproduct into a useful chemical — formaldehyde.

Israel Wachs, a professor of chemical engineering at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Penn., created a method that was tested by Georgia-Pacific Corp. in its pilot plants for two years. The process succeeded in converting a methanol wastewater stream contaminated by sulfur compounds and hydrocarbons into formaldehyde.

Methanol and sulfur compounds are produced at paper mills when logs are digested under intense heat and pressure to extract cellulose, the material used to make paper.

The conventional method of disposing of these byproducts — carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) — is incineration at 1,500 degrees, an expensive process often requiring additional fuel, such as natural gas. The burning fuel emits CO2, a greenhouse gas, and SO2, an ingredient in acid rain.

Manufacturer Faces Hefty Fine After Selling Unregistered Pesticides

Ecolab, based in St. Paul, Minn., has agreed to pay a $277,953 fine to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after the company was accused of selling and distributing unregistered pesticides.

In addition to the fine, Ecolab has agreed to conduct two environmental projects that will total at least $107,000.

The agency had proposed a fine of $546,700 to the company for allegedly selling and distributing ChloraSorb products — an absorbent deodorant used mainly in hospitals — without having them first registered as pesticides with the EPA.

EPA was willing to reduce Ecolab’s fine because of its cooperation with the agency when the fine was first proposed.

International Paper Plans Indefinite Shutdown of Paper Machines

International Paper, Stamford, Conn., recently announced plans to indefinitely shut down production capacity of 670,000 tons within its containerboard and coated papers businesses. Three paper machines at the company’s Savannah, Ga., mill and one at its Hudson River mill in Corinth, N.Y., will be indefinitely shut down. Shut downs will occur over the next 12 months.

A total of 655 jobs will be eliminated as a result of these actions, in addition to the previously announced plans to eliminate 3,000 salaried positions within the company’s U.S. workforce.

The reductions are a result of the company’s staff support changes as well as organizational changes. The eliminations represent 10 percent of the company’s U.S. workforce.

Diesel Exhaust A Greater Cancer Risk than Previously Thought

A recent analysis by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that exhaust from diesel engines accounts for 78 percent of the cancer risks associated with all outdoor air pollutants.

The analysis, done by the U.S. Environmental Defense group, is based on a massive EPA study, which provides detailed estimates of the levels of 41 top hazardous air pollutants present in every community in the United States.

EPA’s previous version of the air pollutant report did not include information on diesel particulate emissions.

Cancer risk from air toxins is much higher than the public had believed, and a great deal of the problem can be addressed by focusing on the diesel exhaust, according to the EPA.

The U.S. Environmental Defense’s website can translate quantities of hazardous air pollutants into cancer risk statistics, nationally and locally.

Packaging Demands Up in U.S. Markets

Demand for paper and plastic packaging in U.S. markets, where the two types of packaging compete, is projected to increase more than 2 percent yearly to 86 billion pounds in 2004, according to the Freedonia Group Inc., a Cleveland-based industrial market research firm.

Plastic packaging demand is expected to increase at a faster pace than its paper counterpart. This increase results from a growth in food service areas, improvements in barrier properties, product strength, storage, clarity, moisture-resistance and other attributes, such as cost and performance advantages.

Other sections of plastic growth include plastic shipping drums, milk and juice containers, food trays and liquid detergent containers, the study contends.

Nation’s Unemployment Rate On the Rise

The nation’s unemployment rate climbed to 4.5 percent as 114,000 additional jobs were cut in June, creating the biggest three-month job decline since the last recession a decade ago, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Washington.

The DOL recently reported that the job losses in June were centered in manufacturing, which suffered its eleventh month of job cuts as a result of the year-long economic slowdown.

The Bush administration insists the economy will rebound in coming months, helped by the tax cut Congress has passed and lower interest rates from the Federal Reserve.

However, not all economists agree. Some say the rise in the unemployment rate, which has fallen to a three-decade low of 3.9 percent last October, could raise fears among Americans about the stability of their own jobs.

If public concern becomes widespread, it could trigger a cutback in consumer spending, industry experts say.

“Green” Products Defined by European Commission

The European Commission, the European Union’s (EU) executive branch, recently released information explaining how public agencies can make environmentally-friendly product purchases, including purchases of energy-efficient goods and recycled goods and/or service purchases.

The strategy examines each stage of public procurement and explains how agencies can consider environmental concerns with each step.

As a follow-up, the Commission intends to produce a handbook on “green” public procurement, which will be aimed at local authorities and will contain examples of “best practices,” as well as guidance on how to integrate environmental concerns into day-to-day purchasing without jeopardizing internal market rules.

Meanwhile, the EU Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce, which represents the interests of American industry in Europe, has rejected European proposals for an integrated product policy — one that would allow for a lower sales tax rate for “green” products.

Lower taxes will encourage manufacturers to focus on present solutions instead of searching for ways to improve their products, the Committee contends.

Also, according to the committee, EU’s plan to encourage the purchase of environmentally-friendly products could run against global procurement rules.

Members of the EU Committee include 140 of the largest American companies, 40 of which are on the Fortune 100 list.