Developed new technology that now accounts for 30% of online sales


Once thriving businesses were outgunned when Amazon and the Big Box stores came to town. The economy bucked. The shift was cataclysmic.

That force also overtook many regional distributors in the commercial cleaning industry who had worked safely within their historical manufacturing network. This new world order would require strong customer relationships, greater value beyond distribution, and redefining an industry with the high-tech tools of a new marketplace. Kelsan found that winning combination, and they partnered with Efficience to set a new standard.

The Company

Kelsan was the first, and now largest, “Jan-San” distributor in the region. Founded in 1950, Till Keller set the values that established and sustained industry and customer relationships across Tennessee and surrounding states. For many people who cleaned this region’s schools, hospitals, stores, businesses, and restaurants, it was Kelsan who provided the cleaning products. To build on their strengths at a critical time, Kelsan became an early innovator in adapting technologies as a competitive tool. Today, that innovation is part of their continued quest to deliver superior value beyond being a ‘supplier of cleaning supplies’.

“With the right technologies, we can compete with the Amazons and Fortune 500s. Efficience allows us to play on a larger field while maintaining the level of service and solutions that our long-term customers expect.”


Vice President of Marketing, Kelsan

The Problem

Since 1991, the number of independent Jan-San distributors went from 24,000 to 4,000. Many products became commodities bought on the lowest bid which forced price (and costs) downward to compete. The Big Box Office Supply Stores jumped in the game with the lure of quick service and low price. For an emerging group of customers, E-Bay and Amazon were setting new E-commerce-style expectations. Those aligned with the manufacturing world would have to make a leap to adapt their software paradigm from production to instant gratification.

The Solution

You have to redefine yourself, and sometimes you’ll need help to do that. Efficience helped reduce steps and costs by developing software and systems to streamline processes. They worked together to develop new technology solutions that delivered on evolving customer expectations. Kelsan could focus their experience and technologies on delivering that superior, value-added service that was the weakness of Online and Big Box competitors. It was part of a transformation that helped Kelsan stand apart from the 20,000 distributors who are now a historical footnote.

The Steps

Efficience became part of the Kelsan story about 15 years ago. The history of working with Efficience was in place when Monty Kilburn arrived, and it has continued to evolve under his marketing leadership.

Many still insist that Business-to Business (B2B) is a different ballgame, and it is expected that B2B will lag behind. However, buying expectations are set in the consumer world. They may ‘buy’ like purchasing agents or executives, yet they still want to have it their way instantly. As a recent industry blog observes, “Unbelievably, some jan/san distributors still don’t have websites and even fewer offer robust online shopping. Perhaps less than half provide an option for mobile shoppers.”

The Big Ticket

A custom software application that could deliver Amazon- level expectations could have a steep price tag. The more cost-effective solution offered by Efficience was integration: a traditional manufacturing application with E-commerce features and functionality on top. Now, 30 percent of orders are electronic. Management strategy is informed by data on demand.

Keller might not have envisioned technology as part of the Jan-San company he founded seven decades ago, but it certainly fulfills his vision and the company’s mission of Value
Beyond Distribution.

Next steps

“I have confidence that Efficience will continue to keep us ahead of the technology curve, and that supports our vision of making Kelsan the place people love to work and love to work with.”