When I was in middle and high school, I always worried about the gas valves that were at my work station during science/chemistry classes. What if an explosion occurred? What if someone left the valve open? Do these things even work?

Which brings up a recent conversation on our weekly ASA staff Zoom lunches — a nice byproduct hatched from the pandemic — where someone broached the subject of emergency eyewash stations (certainly a part of our industry today) and if anybody had ever used one. I do recall those being prominently displayed in those classrooms, but never saw one soak anybody.

On the topic of labs, ASA has something extremely neat going down at the University of Illinois in Champaign with our D.NEXT innovation lab located on campus as part of Research Park (in the shadows of Memorial Stadium and what used to be called Assembly Hall). ASA opened the lab during the pandemic last spring.

ASA’s D.NEXT lab is part of the association’s long-term Building One Future platform that is addressing the greatest threats to our members and the industry over the next 10 years. Specifically, D.NEXT team members are exploring the roles, practices, perceptions, trends and technologies that power today’s supply chain, and developing solutions to re-architect or retire operating models, as well as transforming interactions from transactional to experiential.

The D.NEXT lab is part of U of I’s Research Park, a hub for technology commercialization with an environment that cultivates startups and increases capabilities for established companies. The park has more than 120 companies on its roster (and growing), including the likes of BP, Graybar, John Deere, Procter and Gamble, State Farm and Verizon Media Group (aka Yahoo!) to name a few.

I had a chance in early April to take a drive down Interstate 57 and visit with ASA Vice President of Innovation Beth Ladd and her D.NEXT staff and see what the lab is all about.

To say I walked away impressed would be quite the understatement.

If you recall, D.NEXT came storming out of the gates last fall with a dynamite presentation during NETWORK2020 Virtual about the findings from its first research project. D.NEXT team members were tasked with learning about the perceptions contractors have of their distributors they do business with and the other side of the coin with the perceptions distributors have of their contractor customers.

The results, which were highly enlightening, can be found as an exclusive ASA member benefit in the MyASA portal located at www.asa.net. If your company is an ASA member but you do not have access to the portal to get ahold of this study, check with your company’s main ASA contact.

D.NEXT team members recently finished work on a follow-up study that took an in-depth look at contractors buying habits — as in where do contractors purchase their products what spurs them to make those buying decisions.

Again, the results of that study will soon be available in the MyASA members’ only portal. This will be another must-read, trust me.

And be on the lookout for an upcoming episode of my ASA Town Hall Interview Series that takes a look at those two research studies through the observations of D.NEXT team members. I also have another Town Hall planned that will tackle the touchy subject of customers bypassing the wholesale-distribution part of the supply chain.

If you would like to discuss these two research studies with Beth Ladd, she would love to hear from you. Shoot her a note at bladd@asa.net.

These two projects out of the gates are just scratching the surface as to the extreme value the D.NEXT lab will provide ASA member companies as they continue to navigate a constantly changing business environment.

ASA live events return

ASA is excited to be hosting its Emerging Leaders’ EMERGE2021 conference live in Nashville Aug. 22-24 at the Westin Nashville. ASA Platinum Supplier Partner A. O. Smith is the host this year.

EMERGE attendees will be treated to a jam-packed program featuring a keynote from author and speaker Jeff Havens, who will talk keys to thriving in a multigenerational workforce.

An open industry panel Q&A session will take place with three prominent members of the PHCP-PVF supply chain in Winsupply’s John McKenzie, A. O. Smith’s Rick Hawk and Tim Morales of Tim Morales & Associates.

Back by popular demand are the EMERGE, roundtable discussions that will be conducted in two sessions, including job-specific breakouts on the second day. A. O. Smith also will host a one-of-a-kind can’t-miss virtual facility tour at Yee-Haw Brewing in Nashville.

EMERGE events always are smash hits for attendees because of the great blend of education, information exchange and peer networking. Join us in Nashville in August. Registration details can be found here.

And……NETWORK2021 registration is open for the industry’s biggest event Nov. 9-11 in Las Vegas at the JW Marriott (a 20-min. ride to the Las Vegas Strip).

Like EMERGE, ASA’s NETWORK2021 is loaded with a great mix of education and networking events, including sessions with Daymond John, of the hit TV show “Shark Tank,” Kris ‘Tanto” Paranto, one of the key figures in the Benghazi attacks, and Fox Business Channel host Charles Payne. Longtime ASA friend Alex Goldfayn will conduct another one of his well-received sales sessions during NETWORK.

This is but a taste of what’s in store in Vegas in November in what is always the industry’s must-attend event of the year.

To learn more about NETWORK and register, click here.

We can’t wait to get back to in-person events and showcase why our industry is the great one it is. Hopefully we’ll see you in Nashville and/or Las Vegas later this year.