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Pioneer Distributors looking to expand regionally

Published:Thursday | March 16, 2017 | 3:26 PMNeville Graham

By May 1, this year Pioneer Manufacturing Distribution Company (PMD) will be making a regional push on the heels of the successful roll-out of a partnership with Sealed Air, the company that acquired Diversey in 2011.

Managing Director Alfred Thomas says he is taking a 'hard look' at the numbers before he hits the road.
“We are not saying where at this time. We want to make sure we do the calculations and work with Diversey as we take it to the next level,” said Thomas.

PMD has been in business for 11 years and owns the Chloro-Do bleach brand, which it acquired from Colgate Palmolive as its first product. In addition to bleach, PMD developed Chloro-Blu cake soap and Chloro-Soft fabric softener. Those products were distributed along with the L’Oreal line of personal care products and Pro Pet Dog Food. Thomas says up to three years ago the company purely focused on those areas.

“We had one division concentrating on consumer products. Chief among those products was Chloro-Do bleach. We supplied that to all supermarkets in Jamaica. We also had fabric softeners, soaps, shampoos and other personal care products,” Thomas said.

PMD started partnering with Sealed Air Diversey two and a half years ago. Thomas says like any business the Fortune 500 Company was wondering if it made good sense to continue operating in Jamaica when he made a pitch.

“They were weighing their options in terms of continued involvement in Jamaica. My company leveraged my previous experience with Gillette Corporation in Boston USA. That made a good business case for them and as testimony to their faith we have grown their business by 50 per cent over the two years or so,” Thomas said. 

In 2014, PMD was appointed sole distributor of the Sealed Air Food Care & Product Care lines in Jamaica, The partnership concentrated on providing major food and beverage manufacturing companies with hygiene chemicals and packaging material.

Meanwhile, the hotel care and cleaning chemicals coming out of Diversey were distributed by Caribbean Producers Jamaica (CPJ). That arrangement put the food distribution company in an awkward spot since, according to General Manager David Lowe, it took CPJ too far away from core business. Thomas says PMD grabbed the opportunity and despite a rocky start the expanded partnership is paying off.

“We had some challenges because we had to put in new equipment and retrain staff. Since then it has been getting better and better to the point where two weeks ago we landed the contract for all aspects of hotel care from sanitation to laundry, pools and kitchen at Jamaica’s largest hotel Gran Bahia Principe,” Thomas said.

Expanding on the Bahia engagement Thomas said PMD used it as a signal challenge to prove that they could swim with the fish in a big pond.
“We had 12 engineers down there over a four week period and they installed all the US$120-130 thousand worth of equipment on time and leaving that client very impressed,” he added.

Describing his business model over the years, Thomas said PMD uses a lean, efficiency-driven and customer-focused operation to grow business. He declined to say how much was invested in the expansion of the operations but said there are 20 new members of staff on top of the 32 who were there before.

“What I can say is that our partner Diversey has enabled us through credit facilitation along with our bankers working with us and even family members to do the expansion and pay our bills,” Thomas said.

He also says PMD uses logistics and outsourcing to keep costs low. Chloro-Soft is manufactured in Costa Rica and blue soap is manufactured under contract by Seprod. This leaves PMD more time to keep in touch with customers.
“There are 12 contracted trucks that do deliveries for us along the north coast four times per week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays Thursdays and Fridays. We load them overnight and they hit the road early morning,” he said.

PMD is located at Carifta Avenue in the outer fringes of the Spanish Town Road, St. Andrew industrial estate. It is a privately-owned entity which has been in operation since 2006. Thomas says by 2018 the company will be approaching the equities market by listing on the junior market of the Jamaica Stock Exchange.