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AT VAL-FIT INC…. GRINBERGS CONTINUE LEGACY OF DOING BUSINESS WITH INTEGRITY.

By Mary Jo Martin
Editorial Director, The Wholesaler Magazine

Far left, Gyl Grinberg President; Middle, Ismael Grinberg Founder; and far right Roy Grinberg, Executive Vice President
Gyl Grinberg
President
Ismael Grinberg
Founder
Roy Grinberg
Executive VP

With a combination of soft-spoken charm and business acumen, brothers Gyl and Roy Grinberg are building upon the legacy in PVF distribution that their father began 55 years ago with the founding of Tuvansa in Mexico. Patriarch Ismael Grinberg decided to expand into the U.S. market in 1979, when he launched Val-Fit Inc.

Now 87, Ismael remains passionate about the business and is still actively involved — still going to the company’s office in Mexico City nearly every day. And while his sons fondly tease that Ismael goes to bed each night with a little steel elbow, they are quick to note that their father is still the company’s most knowledgeable person, especially on valves.

“Our father never pushed the business on us,” said Roy. “But when we joined the business he wanted us to learn it the way he had, from the warehouse up through sales and then management. When I was in college in Mexico, I started working for my father. I remember the first day, asking him, ‘What do you want me to do?’ His response was, ‘Find yourself something to do.’ He handed me the ASTM book, and I headed for the warehouse.”

After more than a decade working with his father in Mexico, in 2000 Roy moved to Los Angeles to head up the Val-Fit office. This 66,000-square-foot location has a staff of 17, most of whom have been with the company at least two decades.

In the meantime, Gyl graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans in 1995 and then moved back to Mexico City, where he worked in sales before being assigned to the operation in Monterrey, where he split his time between distribution management and factory sales. After six years, the Grinbergs sold the factory, and Gyl went back to school to get his MBA. In 2004, he moved to Atlanta to open and manage Val-Fit’s new office there. This 117,000-square-foot facility employs 35 and functions as the corporate office.

The brothers are exceptionally close and have divided up areas of responsibility that maximize each of their strengths.

“We’re both good at different things,” Gyl noted. “Roy has been stronger on the commercial side, while I’ve always been more of a finance and numbers guy. We respect each other’s strengths and have open and good communication. I now handle most of the corporate and operational responsibility for Val-Fit here in the U.S., while Roy spends more time in Mexico. We are both committed to building this company, and we continue to talk to our father all the time and go to him for advice.”

Roy added, “Our father always taught us that if you focus on doing the right thing — respecting people, earning trust and showing empathy — things will work out, and the business will prosper. He prides himself on honesty and a simple, straightforward way of doing business. His name and his word mean everything to him, and we will sometimes close business deals on a handshake. We won’t deviate from what we quote to what we deliver. Because of our father’s long career, he’s built many relationships and has built a solid reputation throughout the world. Our focus is not on growing the company at the expense of suppliers, customers, and employees; it’s on being the best company for them to partner with.

EXPANDING US OPERATIONS:

Because of the Grinbergs’ diversified holdings, they have a true appreciation for all the members of the supply channel, including manufacturing, master distribution and wholesale distribution.

“Master distribution doesn’t really exist in Mexico,” explained Gyl. “Products can be sold from a mill to a distributor or even directly to the end user. The distribution channel is not as well organized as it is in the US. In Mexico, we are a full PVF wholesale distributor, carrying many lines and selling to the end user. This allows us to truly understand what our U.S. customers have to deal with. Having owned a fittings mill in Mexico, we also fully understand what our suppliers have to deal with. This knowledge adds value to our already solid relationships.”

Val-Fit remains committed to operating as a true master distributor in the U.S., never selling to end users and with no minimum orders. They only carry products made by ISO-9000 approved mills and offer free MTRs with all products and shipments.

This year, Val-Fit expanded its U.S. operations even further, opening a location in Houston, a key market for industrial PVF.

“The Houston market is home to about 70% of PVF sales in the U.S.,” explained Gyl. “We have already established our East and West Coast operations, but to become a real solid national player — and to capitalize on the business in Houston — it was essential to open a fully stocked location here.”

Val-Fit’s new 170,000-square-foot Houston operation currently employs 16 but expects that number to nearly double within the next two years. In addition to the massive warehouse, the facility has 5,500 square feet of office space. Products stocked in Houston (as well as in L.A. and Atlanta) include:

  • Forged steel fittings in domestic, import approved and import generic for 2,000, 3,000 and 6,000 pounds.
  • All the respective outlets.
  • An entire family of flanges, ranging from 150 to 2,500 pounds and from 1/2″ to 48″.
  • Butt weld fittings from 1/2″ to 48″ in standard, extra heavy and all the special schedules, up to double extra heavy.
  • A broad variety of special material products.

Beyond what they carry in inventory, the Val-Fit team makes a sincere effort to cater to customers, including sourcing product that they don’t carry in stock. This can be a valuable asset to customers that need help sourcing special materials or product they simply don’t know or understand. Val-Fit’s products are used in a variety of industries; petrochemical, refinery, oil and gas, natural gas, sugar, chemical; basically anything that has or uses a pipeline.

“All of our partnerships with suppliers are more than 10 years old,” noted Gyl. “We make sure to foster these relationships, because international business can be very tricky, and dealing with third world countries can be challenging. We want to make sure we get top quality products but also top quality service from our mills. Getting material from our vendors typically takes between three to six months, and we maintain eight to 10 months (sales) of inventory on the floor. Purchasing requires a great deal of attention, ensuring we can manage these challenging inventory needs while meeting our customers’ immediate requirements and expectations.”

When it comes to value added offerings, Val-Fit’s operation provides outsourced machining, taper boring and cutting for special projects. Customers sometimes require special additions and wall thicknesses, so Val-Fit will send product out to be customized. They also stock a number of fittings and flanges with a square end rather than a beveled finish so that they can machine the product down to whatever wall thickness a customer needs.

The new Houston facility provides ideal logistics and capacity for a company such as Val-Fit. “This facility was really designed for our type of business,” Roy described. “We have rail access in the back, an endless amount of dock doors and a large truck apron that allows us to comfortably and efficiently manage our high volume of shipping and receiving. There wasn’t a lot we needed to do to reconfigure this space, but we did make use of lessons learned at our L.A. and Atlanta operations to ensure our warehouse is highly efficient. We are using computer designated bin locations for receiving and pulling material, increasing efficiencies and reducing mistakes. Also, we are doing daily cycle counts that help us keep up with our inventory each day instead of dealing with the nightmare involved in a full year end inventory count.”

DEDICATED TO SERVICE:

Overall, the Grinberg brothers believe Val-Fit’s focus on customer service has been central to their success.

“We are very committed to ensuring the quality of service our customers deserve,” said Gyl. “We provide quick turnaround on quotes, usually same day and, although some orders are just too large to ship the day we receive them, about 80% do ship same day. We are proud of our friendly and knowledgeable staff, who do their best to make our customers’ experiences with us pleasant and enjoyable. Val-Fit offers a very flexible restocking program; even though we do charge a restocking fee, we try to be as understanding as possible when it comes to the customer’s situation.”

Val-Fit also recently hired a person at the Atlanta office who will be dedicated to customer service. “This will add an extra layer of service that will not only help our customers but our own inside sales staff as well.”

All three locations (totaling more than 350,000 square feet of warehouse space) have inside and outside salespeople. Those working outside spend a great deal of face time with customers, building relationships and gathering feedback; most of the quoting and ordering is done through inside personnel. Customers are assigned to a specific inside salesperson that they can develop a rapport with, rather than simply being assigned based on geography.

Val-Fit also has developed a new MTR system that allows customers to pull the reports directly from www.valfit.com. Customers need to contact their sales associate so that the IT department can create a username and password.


“What it all comes down to,” said Roy, “is our service and reputation. Treating people right and with respect gives rise to mutual trust with our business partners. Our product is a commodity, so it often comes down to price, availability and service; we try to offer our customers the best of all three.”

Looking forward, Gyl is cautiously optimistic that the market will continue to improve. “We think 2012 will be similar or a bit better than last year, and 2011 was a good year for us. There are many uncertainties out there, including the U.S. political landscape, the European economy and volatility in oil producing countries, making any current predictions sketchy at best. Still, we believe there is more of an upside, and we are working hard to position ourselves accordingly.”