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Sep 18, 2006
Abingdon, VA
Why is McMaster-Carr vague about listing the brand/manufacturer for many items on their website? Is their catalog this way?
I have always preferred to know the brand of any item I buy for the shop.
MSC's catalog lists manufacturer for every item.
Yes it is. I believe it is to keep you from shopping around. MMC is very efficient but not the cheapest. Often times the things you order show up in the oem bag/box inside a MMC bag. They always seem to buy quality stuff so I never worry too much about brand. Their cat 40 toolholders are lyndex, btw...
Many years ago, as an engineer for a large company, I used the McMaster-Carr catalog to look for things we needed for our work. The catalog was very useful back before the internet, since it contained about anything a business needed, and had a good index. I soon discovered that if we knew the maker of the item and could find another source, it would always be cheaper than buying it from McMaster-Carr. The purchasing people loved buying from McMaster-Carr because it saved them the trouble of finding a lower cost supplier. I figured that McMaster-Carr did not disclose the makers' names in the catalog to prevent comparison shopping.

A lot of MSC's stuff just says import or quality import and lets you guess where they get it.

I assume they do this in order to prevent you from directly comparing their prices with other sources. Even if you request detailed info on an item (like a spec sheet or dimensional drawing), the manufacturer's name is almost always blanked out of the pages they send. Usually the manufacturer's part numbers appear on them, and a Google search will reveal the manufacturer.

For SOME items (like power tools), where brand loyalty and compatibility with items you might already own is a serious consideration, McMaster does list the manufacturer in the catalog.
A lot of things you buy for a shop are very brand important: toolholders, vices, inserts, endmills, drill bits, saw blades, coolants, oils, etc., etc.
I do not see how McMaster-Carr sells a lot of these kinds of items, when the buyer has no idea of the brand or quality...
While I am sure most of the above statements are
true, there is another aspect: McM Carr probably
does not want to provide free advertising for
one manufacturer, especially if they might change
their supplier in the future to a different one.

Think of it: you open up the catalog and it's
full of pictures and printed descriptions of
starrett micrometers.

Fine, unless you manufacture browne and sharp!

Here's another thought. It costs a fortune to print that catalog and maintain such a huge web database. It might just be that McMaster doesn't print manufacturers names so they can change suppliers as price/availability/demand changes. Much of their reputation (and my interest in them) depends on them having virtually everything in inventory and ready to ship.

Right you are, McMaster doesn't have sales or give discounts. BUT, I've yet to catch them pricing anything higher than normal (or list, or whatever) to make up for discounting on more visible products.

Any time I want to be sure of brand, I simply call and they are more than happy to give the info. . .


Frank Ford
Gryphon Stringed Instruments
My Home Shop Pages
Speaking as another industrial user...I find that what N2IXK says generally holds true. Things like corded and cordless power tools and their batteries often have a manufacturer name associated with it.

What I find about the other kinds of edge tools and tool-holding stuff is that they generally aren't going to sell you junk. It might not be the latest and greatest technology or the best high-end specialty drill bit if you are making 10,000 holes per hour but I can't think of a single instance since 1998 where a tool I bought there failed to get the job done.

Another angle is that they might prefer flexibility...for example say they wanted to switch from Precision Twist to Cleveland for their drill bits. Not naming an original equipment manufacturer allows them to seek the best price and being true to what they advertise as well.

[on edit...oops, Frank types faster than I do :D ]
I bought a Leeson dc drive from them a couple months ago and wired it up with a motor on a conveyor. I applied power and poof it took out the fuses and let the smoke out of the drive. I took it back and no questions asked, try that at your local electric supply house.
I assume they do this in order to prevent you from directly comparing their prices with other sources.
I think N2IXK is right -- McMaster goes to great lengths to hide the manufacturer in some cases. In many cases they're selling specialty items for prices that are substantially higher than the retail price.

A good example are the precision level vials. McMaster carries the Geier-Bluhm vials for a *lot* more than you can buy them directly from G&B:

Geier-Bluhm's retail price for the 0.0003"/foot master precision level (item number 4-6010) is: $102.49
McMaster's price for the exact same part (item number 2160A2) is $171.20

McMaster also carries Rulon 142 (Turcite-B equivalent) for a heck of a lot more than the retail price from authorized distributors.
Suppliers change. Sometimes a single product may have multiple suppliers.

For example, I bought some 1" ballscrews from them. A lot of people said they carry Nook screws. Those people ordered 5/8 and 3/4 screws. When I ordered the 1", I got Thomsons.
McMaster does change sources sometimes and this can cause issues if you base a product line around a certain item. Because one day you will get your McMaster order in and something will not fit or look terrible. They generally buy quality but I've been getting some China stuff lateley. Mainly hardware stuff. I'm about ready to specify NO CHINA on my orders. I fuss at them all the time about china junk whenever I get on the phone with them.

Their service is first rate as mentioned.

I also fuss about the fractions. I always put in my request to change everything to decimal in their catalog.
McMaster is great for the screws, nuts and all other assorted hardware that you need, and need quick. Their service is excellent. If I place an order in the morning, I get it the next day. I usually stay away from tools and tooling items. I let them nickel and dime me to death on the small stuff. So far everything I have gotten from them has been top quality. If they start sending out china crap I will stop buying from them.

What a timely topic, as I've recently been frustrated by MMC with regard to brands.

Recently I asked about what brand their band saw blades are. They refused to provide the information.

I love MMC, but they can be frustrating sometimes when you're trying to maximize the value of your money. I have precious little money to go around, and MMC has lost sales to me because I simply can't be certain what I'll be getting and can't afford to gamble.

That's exactly what I am talking about Ryan. How the hell can a huge outfit like MMC play hide and seek with the brands of the products they are selling??

The people buying the stuff are not your typical Wal-Mart customers. We are business owners, engineers, machinists, and otherwise intelligent folks.

All other national distributers, MSC, Travers, Grainger, J&L, Enco, and others, show the complete description of the products in their catalogs, including brand names. And all of these companies have virtually everything in stock ready to ship the same day. So MMC has no monopoly on fast shipping anymore.

Of course, cheap import stuff is always a mystery as to brand name. But that should be it!

How has MMC gotten by with this over the years??
"How has MMC gotten by with this over the years??"

I'll venture a response here.

Because they are stone cold dead nuts reliable. Like 9999 times out of 10,000.

I'll venture that the majority of McMaster Carr users are buying function/specification and not name brand.

When you are in manufacturing yourself you need predictable results.

The customer service issues have been mentioned above, their ability to correctly invoice and easily handle direct pay sales tax and account-billed freight are unmatched by any other vendor I deal with.

Even after doleing out verbal beatings to J&L and MSC sales either their billing systems are too clunky or their reps simply don't care. They get it wrong time after time and this takes me away from the important aspects of my job to chase after little compliance bull**** that auditors feast on. I simply gave up and went with the people I could count on.

If I was shopping by brand name or had oodles of time to goggle over catalogs or websites, I'd probably buy elsewhere too.
I work building custom designed electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic and mechanical machines. I also maintain several assembly lines in a factory. I get McMaster parts the next day at 10:00 AM. Yes, the service is worth the price, and the quality is there. I do not mind paying for this level of service. It is a bargain!! Money in the bank.