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R&B Wire’s Future Plans: New Products, President

R&B Wire Products Inc. is continuing its legacy as a long-standing local family-owned business, with the promotion of Grant Rawlins to president, bringing the Santa Ana firm into its third generation of leadership.

Rawlins, previously the account manager of the cart and handling equipment manufacturer, isn’t afraid to handle things differently than his father and grandfather, who acquired the business in 1966.

His promotion comes after he spent more than a year selecting evaluating the company’s new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. R&B’s old system, which the company had used for around 20 years, became outdated, according to Rawlins.

“In carrying on my family’s legacy, I feel responsible to drive the business forward and not just accept the status quo,” he said.

R&B’s signature laundry carts have guest starred on TV shows like “Seinfeld,” “Friends” and “Desperate Housewives.” They’ve also played bit roles in movies like “Anchorman 2,” “Wayne’s World” and “Catch Me If You Can.”

While the company says it has secured about 98% of the market share for the laundry cart industry, it has been trying to break out of that niche and reach other industries to further its growth.

“We’ve been doing the wire laundry carts for so long that customers often forget that we also make a bunch of other products too,” Rawlins said.

Though the company’s core laundry cart products have been in use for decades, there’s been moves to modernize of late.

Last year, it introduced CartCop, an anti-tamper device that allows laundromat owners to secure an Apple AirTag to their carts for theft deterrence and loss prevention.

R&B previously earned a Family-Owned Business Award from the Business Journal in the medium-sized category in 2018. The family’s local executive ties extend beyond R&B Wire, including Allison Rawlins Tift, a lead broker in the Irvine office of real estate firm Land Advisors Organization, and Lucy Rawlins, who became the first female chairperson of New Majority Orange County last year.

77-Year History

R&B started in 1946, making baskets and carts with machinery from WW2.
Grant Rawlins’ grandfather, Rea, bought the company in 1966.

Rea’s son and Grant Rawlin’s father, Rick Rawlins, began working for R&B after he graduated with a business degree from the University of Southern California in 1974.

“I learned more about business during [my] first six months than I did in four years at USC business school,” Rick Rawlins told the Business Journal during an interview after R&B received its Family-Owned Business Award.

“There’s nothing like practical experience when you have to go out and sell something and produce a product and make it happen.”

Rick took over the business in 1985. Grant’s turn at the helm of the company has yet to be determined, he said.

Precise Costing

Grant Rawlins’ path to promotion was his work testing and implementing R&B’s new ERP system, which went live in January.

“It’s like the brains of your operation,” he said.

Rawlins’ called the project a “humbling” 18-month process.

“It was like disassembling your house, moving it and rebuilding it somewhere else,” he said. “You’ve never had to think about the plumbing, electricity or the things you’ve always used until now.”

Unlike R&B’s old ERP system, the new service it’s paying for calculates not only the cost of materials but also labor to develop a product.

“It’s going to give us better visibility to our labor cost and future-proof the company for growth,” Rawlins said.

Growth Plans

R&B’s expansion plans include efforts at rebranding itself as a supplier to industrial product distributors such as W.W. Grainger Inc. (NYSE: GWW) and Fastenal Co. (Nasdaq: FAST).

In doing so, the company features its carts, baskets and racks on blank backgrounds, “without context” on its website.

“That probably goes against every single piece of branding advice” out there, Rawlins said.

However, putting their products in context “pigeonholes” them, despite their universal applications, noted Rawlins.

“If somebody sees the product in a laundromat background, they’ll think don’t need it because they don’t have a laundromat,” Rawlins said. “They won’t think about how they could use it for their manufacturing facility or whatever business they’re in.”

R&B hopes to double its industrial supplier business over the next 10 years. The company does not release revenue figures, but Rawlins said he anticipates R&B to see a 10% to 12% growth in revenue this year.

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