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Tyler Regnier ’16 Challenges in Inventory and Product Development

Tyler Internship BlogTest Gauge & Backflow Supply Indianapolis fills quite a unique niche in the Indianapolis market. The company, which was founded in 2011 by James Probst, supplies backflow prevention devices, backflow repair parts, and backflow test gauges. Additionally, the company runs a week-long course several times a year, which educates and certifies plumbers to test properly backflow devices. Prior to the start of the internship, I had very limited knowledge of backflow devices, but I soon learned that a backflow prevention device prevents contaminated waste water from flowing into clean domestic water lines. Working for Test Gauge & Backflow Supply has broadened my business horizons, and given me experience in inventory management, product line development, and the diverse components of a small business.
As Product Development Intern, I have helped create and promote Test Gauge & Backflow Supply’s water quality product line, working closely with the company’s new water quality specialist, Larry Owen. With 30 years of experience in the world of industrial water softeners and reverse osmosis systems, Larry was asked to join the company to head the water quality line. I was given the task of marketing the product. Working with others in the company, I was able to devise a product development plan including market research, pricing, product selection, print and online marketing materials, and a detailed set of goals to guide the development of our new product line.
Being my first in-depth experience working for a company that provides a tangible product, developing the water quality product line has certainly been a learning experience. Some aspects of the product development plan were fairly self-explanatory, such as pricing and product selection. Others, such as creating professional print marketing materials and performing market research, were much more challenging. I conducted online research, read product catalogues, and had numerous discussions with James and Larry, all to gain a better understanding of the industry and properly identify the best potential suppliers and customers. I then compiled a list of potential customers using various online resources such as NAISC codes and websites of plumbing and mechanical engineering associations, which we then used as our starting target market.

In addition to developing the water quality line, I have assisted the company as they improve their inventory management processes. Working for a retailer has opened my eyes to how inventory can so strongly impact cash flow. Turning profits as a retailer is not simply about making sales. Profits are strongly impacted by the amount of inventory kept on the shelves, the amount of time that inventory sits, the method in which the inventory is purchased, and multiple other factors. Currently, I am analyzing how customers receive their product, either by will call, shipment from our warehouse, or shipment directly from our supplier’s warehouse. With this information, we can adjust our inventory to meet the needs of our customer without purchasing excess inventory.
In addition to my newly acquired knowledge of inventory management, my position with Test Gauge & Backflow Supply has allowed me to improve my professional skills. Working closely with Larry and James has greatly improved my teamwork skills. Each of us has had specific roles in creating the new product line and depend on each other’s outcomes to complete our tasks. Additionally, this position has given me the opportunity to set and track specific goals. Towards the beginning of my internship, I worked with the other members of the team to create a list of specific goals and completion dates for establishing, marketing, and selling water softening systems. I have also practiced and improved my Microsoft Excel skills that I learned in ECO-251 with Dr. Howland and Dr. Byun. I use Excel nearly every day to figure pricing, compile market research, track customer contacts, and much more.

Although I did not become a certified backflow tester, I did participate in parts of our backflow training course. Our week long course includes classroom training and hands-on backflow device testing in our custom wet lab. Here, I am testing a reduced pressure principle backflow assembly using a differential pressure gauge (see picture).

I am extremely grateful to both Wabash and the Lilly Endowment, which have allowed me to gain and sharpen my professional skills through this internship. I would also like to thank Kim Johnson who provided me with expert advice and assistance as I designed and created a print product catalogue for the company!