Offering Unique Products

Offering Unique Products:

How Cole-Parmer Keeps the Voice of the Customer in Mind

Paging through the Cole-Parmer web site or catalog can yield some surprises: A pocket-size lightning detector? A spatula balance? Though Cole-Parmer offers tens of thousands of products, careful consideration goes into each item that lands on the page. Behind the scenes, a team of product managers have spent months, even years, gathering ideas and fielding suggestions.

The team analyzes the laboratory and industrial markets to find what functionality is missing and how a particular instrument could become more efficient. They glean insights from customer requests. They listen to field sales representatives, trusted suppliers, and international dealers. They scour industry journals and conduct online research. They collect recommendations from technical

application specialists, who respond to customer concerns every day. With all of this feedback, they assess the market to bring the most promising opportunities to Cole-Parmer customers.

“We leverage our market awareness and determine how products are differentiated and which can offer extra value to our customers globally,” explained Brian Barnett, Director of Global Portfolio Management. “In some cases, our brand partners offer the best options. At other times, we approach our private-label suppliers to develop the technology ourselves or serve as a liaison in the process.”

Bundling Products: Easy Does It for Customers 

For many products that require multiple components or accessories, Cole-Parmer’s product managers have assembled packages or systems to make ordering a one-step task. For example, a pump system such as the Standard Gear Pump System contains the pump along with a calibration column, relief valve, and static mixer. The Cole-Parmer® Horizontal Mini-Gel System for electrophoresis includes the base unit along with a safety cover with attached power leads, gel tray, tapered baffles for casting gels, and long-life platinum electrodes.

“Clustering or bundling products just makes it easier for customers,” said Barnett. “Instead of making a list of five or six items, then ordering them individually, they can place one order for the system. Periodically, we review which products are ordered together most often, then decide if we can bundle them into a package.”

Leading Product Development: How Can We Produce Solutions?

While bundling creates some new products, another avenue is to develop functionality that is not currently present in the market. Ideas for new or enhanced products are placed in a new product funnel that is constantly evolving.

“We may receive a product idea from a customer at an industry trade show or in a targeted survey reply,” said Barnett. “For example, our customers requested pump tubing engineered to meet and exceed purity expectations for bioprocess and biological manufacturing regulatory standards. The new Puri-Flex™ Pump Tubing from Masterflex®  is offered in our new 2011/12 general catalog in direct response to this request. Puri-Flex meets the requirements of USP Class VI, FDA 21 CFR 177.2600 and 21 CFR 177.1810, RoHs compliance, REACH compliance, ADCF, ISO 10993-4 and 10993-5.”

Similarly, Category Manager Eric Nofziger identified the need to expand and customize Cole-Parmer’s line of microfluidics. Through discussion with R&D professionals and insight from industry articles, he knew that micro-, nano-, and pico-liter/minute flow systems would save researchers costs on reagents and deliver instant homogenization to produce faster results.

“This technology began in the semiconductor industry and can be readily applied to research and pharmaceuticals,” said Nofziger, “and Cole-Parmer is able to provide a complete solution. We expanded our lines of tubing, fittings, pumps, lab-on-chips, microscopes, and other components. We can even offer custom configurations on the lab-on-chip designs. We’re the only cataloger to offer some of these products in the microfluidics line.”

Suggestions such as these are placed in the new product funnel, then evaluated, screened, and prioritized.

“We assess a broad spectrum of new technologies and products against our core competencies,” said Curt Pinnow, Product Development Manager. “If we feel we can solve customers’ problems, or create a solution for their problem through our suppliers, we may move forward with product development. Because we have access to many unique ideas and a variety of outstanding suppliers as well, we serve as the agent to deliver solutions.”

If a product is deemed market-worthy for Cole-Parmer customers, the product manager initiates discussions with a supplier. “Suppliers selected for new products are those that can offer the best value and most reliable support,” said Barnett. “In fact, all of our suppliers receive a quality score, which helps to make our decision easier.”

Anchoring Cole-Parmer’s wide selection of products is a technical support team poised to respond to application, compliance, selection, and troubleshooting questions. When any new product is considered for the Cole-Parmer portfolio, it is first run through internal analyses to determine if the team can support the product technically.

Suppliers of Choice

By offering a selection that runs both broad and deep, the Cole-Parmer product management team seeks to provide customers with an abundance of choice.

“If more than one supplier is offering models that our customers need, we carry more than one supplier,” stated Barnett. “We prefer to offer choice: multiple versions and multiple brands so our customers can decide which is best for their application and setting.”

That’s why customers can find more than eight brands of balances, 15 safety glove manufacturers, and 40 brands of thermometers on

And new brands are added regularly. Those introduced in the Cole-Parmer 2011/12 General Catalog include Ocean Optics, Watersafe™, Fourier Systems, Red Lion®, Weksler Glass and Thermometer Company, Midwest Instruments®, Maglite®, Stuart®, and Shimadzu, among others.

It is all part of the ongoing product management and development cycle. Yesterday’s unique products become today’s standard classics. Today’s breakthrough ideas emerge as potential technologies for rigorous consideration.

“We are in a continuous process of receiving feedback, applying it to our product selection, and introducing relevant, dynamic products to Cole-Parmer customers,” said Barnett.

So, the Digital Ozone Monitor or Pharmaceutical Metal Detection System that appears on Each was chosen with a singular intention in mind: supplying solutions for the Cole-Parmer customer.

If you have a new product idea to suggest, please contact us