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How Mueller Solved a Plant’s Serious Supply Chain Challenge


Imagine being informed that the material you use for a part is suddenly unavailable, and you’re a few days away from your plant’s supply running out. 

Hundreds of jobs are on the line, and you need to solve this problem fast. 

That’s what happened to a leading HVAC company. They turned to Mueller Custom Cut for help. Here’s how we worked with them to quickly find a solution.

What Supply Chain Challenge Was the Customer Facing?

Just days before the start of a holiday weekend, the customer’s regular supplier abruptly announced one of its materials was unavailable. 

“Out of the blue, an incumbent supplier sent me an email with the news they were out of material and would not be shipping any finished product. This news meant that our plant was about to be shut down.” — Customer Buyer/Planner Contact

The supplier didn’t offer an alternative material or the next available date for the original material, and the plant’s inventory was dwindling. The customer wasn’t sure how they were going to keep the production line going. 

“The plant we’re talking about is massive. It employs hundreds of people.” — Chad Hall, Sales Operations Manager, Mueller

The customer needed to act fast to find another source for the part.

How Did the Plant Respond to the Supply Chain Challenge?

The customer set up a video meeting with Mueller early Wednesday afternoon. They were betting we could develop a solution because we supply materials for some of their other parts.

“It’s a plant that we have had on our target radar for many, many years to try to grow the business.” — Chad Hall, Sales Operations Manager, Mueller

The customer wanted to send Mueller some drawings of the part, but we didn’t need them. Our team was already familiar with the part in question because we had quoted them on it before. 

Now Mueller was tasked with finding an alternative material that would meet the specifications required for the product and get a mass quantity to the customer in a short amount of time.

“We brought our urgent need to Mueller, and they responded in a big way to swiftly replenish our stock.” — Customer Procurement Team Contact

How Did Mueller Approach the Supply Chain Challenge?

We knew finding a solution wasn’t going to be easy because of the supply chain issues that COVID-19 has caused in manufacturing. We started by tapping into the connections we’ve made in the industry, and by the end of the day, we had an answer.

“Chad Hall and I spent all afternoon calling vendors. He had a list, and I had a list. We finally found a functionally equivalent material from one of our suppliers who said, ‘Yes, we can get you this material.” — Mike Bryant, Director of Sales, Mueller

The next step was sending a sample to the customer. Fortunately, we already had a piece of the material at Mueller from a sample kit the vendor had sent us in the past.

“We were able to take that sample swatch and overnight it to engineering for them to have in their hands the very next morning.” — Chad Hall, Sales Operations Manager, Mueller

On Thursday, the customer approved the material plus the film and adhesive needed to make the part. Mueller promised the customer we could get a shipment to them before the end of the holiday weekend—even though ​​we didn’t have the foam or tooling available at the time. 

What Did Mueller Do to Solve the Supply Chain Challenge?

Mueller immediately mobilized our production and engineering teams to pull off this difficult task. 

“We reviewed the quantity demands. We reviewed what tooling would be needed to make the parts. We got our production manager involved to say, ‘This is going to require holiday weekend work and drop into our schedule totally unplanned.’ But we had the confidence that we could do it.” — Chad Hall, Sales Operations Manager, Mueller

By Friday evening, we had the necessary raw materials and tooling in-house to start production. Then, it was all hands on deck. From the production line to the management office, many people pitched in to help over the holiday weekend.

“Brad Eudy (Engineering Manager, Mueller) was making the tools. He was helping to develop the processes. Steve Hyso (Plant Manager, Mueller) was making sure we had people here and machines available.” — Mike Bryant, Director of Sales, Mueller

When all was said and done, Mueller beat our self-imposed deadline of 1 p.m. on Sunday by four hours. A shipment of 50,000 parts was on the truck ready to roll to the customer by 9 a.m.

​​“The Mueller team always puts their customers first to deliver a quality product in a timely manner. They continue to problem solve in a constrained market to ensure that the plant operates without the worry of part outages.” — Customer Procurement Team Contact

What’s Happened Since the Supply Chain Challenge?

After the first shipment was on its way to the customer, the Mueller team didn’t go back to business as usual. Because of the number of parts the plant produces in a day, the first order would only tide workers over for a little while. 

“Unless you’re shipping in the hundreds of thousands of parts, they get consumed very quickly. So we had a quick celebration, then we had to keep making parts. We committed to having another shipment ready for pickup on Tuesday after the holiday.” — Chad Hall, Sales Operations Manager, Mueller

By the end of the week, Mueller shipped approximately 275,000 parts. Once we were able to restock the customer’s inventory, a few of our team members visited the plant to make sure we understood the need better and present more options if necessary.

“People we didn’t even know would walk up and thank us. Because they were working. They were able to clock in that day. They were able to earn income for their families.” — Brad Brackman, Regional Sales Manager, Mueller

Mueller continues to make this part for the customer and is working on a long-term commitment for another part.

“The work done by Brad Brackman, Chad Hall, and the rest of the Mueller team has helped our facility in a major way and is greatly appreciated.” — Customer Procurement Team Contact

How Mueller Solved a Plant’s Serious Supply Chain Challenge

Mueller Solves Serious Supply Chain Challenge

Now you know how Mueller pulled out all the stops to help a customer through a crisis in the wake of ongoing supply chain challenges.

Responsiveness and creative solutions are part of our core values. When asked to fix a time-sensitive problem, we reacted quickly, came up with a plan, executed the strategy, and followed up with the customer.

We’d love to create an innovative custom-cut solution for your business. Contact us today!

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