Kaman Industrial Technologies (KIT), the industrial distribution business Kaman Corp. has built up in recent acquisitions of Minarik, Zeller Electric and others, has secured a national distributor agreement with Schneider Electric. KIT, one of the largest power transmission (PT) distributors in the United States, immediately becomes a distributor for Schneider Electric's lines of industrial automation and control products as well as select power control and protection products commonly used in motor control applications.

It was the acquisition of Zeller Corp., Rochester, N.Y., in August that opened the door for KIT to forge a wider relationship with Schneider. KIT made a similar agreement with fluid power giant Parker-Hannifin after acquiring Catching Fluidpower last year. Zeller was part of Schneider Electric's ACE (automation and control excellence) Distributor program and had already set itself apart with a staff of engineers offering technical support to industrial customers. At the time of the Zeller deal, KIT President Steve Smidler said a similar deal with Schneider wasn't the plan, and expressed the company's support for manufacturers' efforts to maintain distributor exclusivity, but Schneider execs separately expressed interest in an expanded relationship with KIT.

As part of the agreement, Schneider Electric will become KIT's primary line of AC drives, sensors, low voltage controls and automation products. The deal also authorizes the sale of Schneider Electric programmable logic controllers (PLCs), human machine interface (HMI) systems and signaling equipment. KIT will begin stocking these products at its more than 200 locations throughout the U.S. in the first quarter of 2013. KIT's authorization doesn't include construction and industrial-grade power equipment such as NEMA-rated starters, heavy-duty disconnect switches and large circuit breakers.

The Schneider authorization gives Kaman three primary advantages, said Dave Mayer, KIT's vice president, marketing: “One, a significant increase to our automation catalog and automation offering. There are very few products in the Schneider offering that we previously distributed. Two, a global platform. We believe our national accounts are really global accounts. They have global plants and global footprints and want a global automation system, rather than stitching together a sort of best-in-breed offering, which is what we were trying to do. Three, it's a highly differentiated strategy. In the PT channel, this product line is not traditionally sold. Our competitors don't have this offering, so we won't be competing on price, we'll be competing on getting Schneider placed at OEMs and at end users.”

Smidler told Electrical Wholesaling last month that the process that led to KIT's authorization began early in 2012 when Schneider picked up ten independent manufacturers rep agencies that specialized in drives and other automation products after ABB changed its channel marketing plans to bring sales of drives in-house following its acquisition of Baldor motors.

“Schneider went out and picked up all those drives reps, and they needed a channel,” Smidler said. “That's really how it started. They were talking to us, we believe they were talking to other bearing and PT distributors, and during that phase we just happened to buy Zeller. And oh, by the way, we're the only bearing and PT guy that has an automation/high-speed closed-loop motion control business, with Minarik. So I'm sure when they looked at it, they said, ‘Okay, you guys are trying to be technically differentiated, you've already shown that you've invested heavily on the electrical side, mostly electrical motion control and some sensors on the Minarik side of the business.’ It's an interesting little web, how it came together.”