It’s certainly been far from the year Marc Strandquist anticipated when he first began his role as president for the Americas with Optimas Solutions in January of 2020. Optimas is a global, tech-enabled industrial manufacturer and distributor that delivers fasteners, inventory management, and production-related solutions.
“It’s been a challenge, that’s for sure,” says Strandquist, who was recently promoted to CEO. “But quite honestly, for me, challenges in business are ideal in the sense of that’s what I like to do…manage or overcome obstacles to the best of my ability. So, considering everything this year, including the pandemic, I think we’ve been doing exceptionally well at Optimas. And, I’m very proud of our accomplishments so far this year.”
The company — with headquarters in Glenview, Illinois, and teams across the Americas, Europe, and the Asia Pacific — does have a lofty mission. Optimas Solutions’ aim is to help companies minimize supply chain risks, optimize inventory and operations, and improve overall quality. More impressively, it delivers, at least according to several case studies it references on its website.
For example, Optimas Solutions has helped a global machinery manufacturer improve part quality by 95%. It also supported a global truck manufacturer in standardizing common components for its production platforms, saving nearly $6 million in lifetime costs.
“I credit so much of this success to the people on our teams, who are extremely special,” shares Strandquist. “So many of our employees offer years of experience. I know, I sit with 34 years in the industry, and it helps to form a vision of what’s possible, how to best serve, and what can be tailored to best support those in the market.”
One recent example: Optimas launched a Standard Fastener program that offers on-demand, e-commerce access to common fasteners (such as screws, washers, and nuts) for maintenance, repair, and production applications — and with minimal quality documentation requirements.
“The Standard Fastener program applies directly to building an agile supply chain based on the 80/20 rule,” he says. “The vast majority of our customers rely on a core group of fasteners. Roughly 20% of those items comprise 80% of their spend. We are focused on delivering those items quickly and competitively so they can concentrate on managing demand.”
Of course, the timing of this program is ideal given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses, and particularly supply chains for distributors. “We realize that speed to market is critical to our customers, especially now,” he adds.
Strandquist’s background includes nearly two decades in different roles with the Würth Group, a global wholesaler of fasteners, chemicals, and accessories, with more than 400 companies under its umbrella. He’s also previously served as president (and a member) of the National Fastener Distribution Association.
“I started with Würth in 2001 and I left mid-2019. In my previous role, I was executive VP, managing about 10 different companies, with some 2,200 employees, and around $850 million in sales,” he shares. It’s valuable experience he brings to Optimas.
Optimas Solutions developed about five years ago when its owners, American Industrial Partners, a U.S. private equity firm, purchased the fastener division of global distributor, Anixter – Wire and Cable (now Anixter Fasteners). The company’s original fastener distribution inception, however, dates back to the 1890s.
“Some restructuring was done as Anixter Fastener was essentially a conglomeration of different distributors rebranded under one name,” explains Strandquist. “But rather than developing one, massive global fastener company, Optimas Solutions was broken down into two divisions: an international one, which is headquartered in England, and the Americas, which is the largest division and the one for which I serve as president.”
Even in his short time with Optimas, before the pandemic hit, Strandquist had a goal of transforming the company with significant digital tools.
“It’s a very competitive world out there and, to be successful, it’s important to do more than just cover the basics — which is true pre- and post-pandemic,” he says. “So, we knew if all we were only going to offer a supply service with zero value-added services, that was never going to be fully successful in the long-term. And, we wanted to add innovations and transform the company using advanced technologies.”
Part of this change has meant installing the top ERP (enterprise, resource, planning) systems, including Epicor in Optimas’ manufacturing facility in Wood Dale, IL, as well as an advanced program for distribution. “It’s almost like we’ve jumped from Fred Flintstone to the Star Trek: The Next Generation,” laughs Strandquist.
Another addition this year has been a forecasting and demand-planning tool called, ToolsGroup, which helps with inventory forecasting and supply-chain management to increase efficiencies and reduce costs. “It’s a pretty sophisticated program that tracks product data and usage and then, essentially, translates that into orders and smart supply-chain management.” This includes tracking which warehouse has the products ready to ship.
“You know, every company is different, but we chose to accept the challenges of this year and refused to remain stagnant,” he says. “We’ve been proactive and aggressive in terms of improving the company, and transitioning Optimas from a more traditional, industrial distribution company to an innovative, tech-faceted business that supports its customers’ many needs and requirements.”
Although Optimas Solutions intends to continue its growth trajectory — in more ways than one; Strandquist says the company has plans to consider new acquisitions next year — its primary motivation is this: to make a difference for people in the industry.
“One of the things I’m most proud of so far this year is how we’ve responded and supported our customers in the past few months. Many had temporarily shut down because of the restrictions and would tell us on a Friday that they’d reopen on a Monday, only to rethink that decision and remain closed. Our answer every single time was this: ‘We’re ready to go whenever you are…no questions asked. We’re here to help,’” he says. “And, we’ve meant it.”