The keynote presentation at the ASA convention in October was provided by Michael Marks of Indian River Consulting Group, who summarized the latest NAW DREF "Facing the Forces of Change" study. He reported that the study, which focused on developing potential future scenarios for the wholesale distribution supply chain, had identified four specific "views:"

  • Bricks and Clicks

    Customers want distributors to work with them seamlessly across multiple communication interfaces.

  • Coordinated Channels

    Customers seek more information directly from manufacturers.

  • Unbundled Supply Chain

    Customers and manufacturers pay for only the specific supply chain and marketing channel activities they require.

  • Common Platform

    Groups of large customers form open and neutral nonprofit online exchanges.

    Marks described how Adam Fein, Ph.D., and the Pembroke Consulting Group, authors of the study, researched the field of manufacturers, distributors and their customers to arrive at these scenarios. He offered more in-depth description of the particular characteristics of each scenario, and engaged the audience in a series of questions relative to the plumbing and PVF industries.

Using hand-held, wireless devices, the audience was able to provide instant feedback to the questions, thus making the study's findings immediately relevant. Of the 200-plus people in attendance, 100 devices were distributed, and using the technology, the first question determined that the mix of respondents was 58% wholesalers, 27% manufacturers, and 15% other, including manufacturers representatives.

These graphs reveal some of the interesting findings determined as a result of the audience's participation. They represent the total audience response; an even more interesting perspective is found when breaking down the response by audience segment.

A summary of all the questions that Marks posed during his presentation, along with the audience response statistics, is available on the Indian River website, www.ircg.com. Look under "Download Presentations," and type in the password "password" (without the quotation marks).

The complete "Facing the Forces of Change, Future Scenarios for Wholesale Distribution" report is now available from NAW. Accompanying products include a workbook and video. ASA members may purchase these products from NAW at reduced prices. In addition, a 5% discount is available for orders placed on-line. For more information, visit www.nawpubs.org .

ASA IN 2002

In a joint presentation made during the ASA Convention in October, outgoing President Don Maloney and President-Elect Jack Hester talked about what the association planned to do in coming months to serve its members.

They stressed that although ASA is comprised of member companies that range in size from those doing less than $1 million a year in sales to those with sales in excess of $3 billion, and includes distributors, manufacturers and independent reps, that ASA will serve all of its members. The association remains committed to improving the channel of distribution, and making the industry stronger and more profitable for everyone in it.

A focused approach in three key areas will be pursued, including advancement of technology and standards, education, and continued representation with federal lawmakers and regulators.

Maloney and Hester encouraged all ASA members to make themselves aware of what the association offers, and stated that maximum value of membership can only be derived through active participation.


Early in 2002, the association's leaders will convene to take a look at emerging trends and what they mean to the future of ASA. Consolidation among wholesalers, manufacturers and reps has meant that there are fewer members. Also not immune to the consolidation trend are our members' customer bases, including contractors and homebuilders. Channel dynamics have created a host of new business partners for traditional member companies, and competition from new sources has provided yet another front needing to be addressed.

For ASA to remain a viable resource for its members, it needs to have a plan in place to address these changes on behalf of the industry, and to find ways to continue to take advantage of the critical mass that it represents.

A Quick Thumbnail

The beginning of 2002 will find ASA to be a much leaner organization, from a staff and governance standpoint, than it has been in its 33-year history. The headquarters staff (ASA and the Foundation) is now comprised of 12 professionals, down from a high of almost 20 a few years ago. The Center for Advancing Technology (including Source ASA) employs only four.

The Board of Directors (comprised of delegates representing regional groups and special interest divisions) is down from 32 to 23, and meetings are being reengineered to make them more productive and less intrusive on volunteers' time. Whenever possible, committee and task force meetings are held via conference call, and email has made communication among volunteer leaders quite time- and cost-effective.


Consolidation among member wholesalers has been significant over the past 10 years, resulting in a reduction of the total number of individual companies to a current 574. However, the total number of outlets (branches) in which these companies operate has increased over the same time period to a total of 3,720.

A large percentage of members are small- to mid-sized firms ($1- to $25- million annual sales), while the larger companies with expanded regional or national scopes (annual sales in the billions of dollars) also are participating members.

There are 210 associate member companies, which are manufacturers, master distributors or service providers (such as computer software firms), and in its first year of offering the manufacturers representative membership category, ASA welcomed 24 independent rep firms.

For information about membership, contact ASA at 312-464-0090 or email info@asa.net.


At this writing, ASA is making plans to create a task force of industry volunteers to help it move forward with the industry database project. With the leadership of Jack Hester of F.W. Webb Company, who is fervently behind the goal of building this central data repository, ASA is hoping to convince industry manufacturers to understand the difference between this and the catalog program known as Source ASA.

"In looking at the Source ASA program, it's clearly an excellent catalog program for wholesalers to use in their sales and proposal departments," says Hester. "But the overwhelming number of distributors we talked to have told us that what they most urgently need right now is a database with UPC codes, current prices and product detail information. They want UPC codes so they can cross-reference their parts and get into EDI and VMI, and they want List Price so they can have a simplified way of handling updates from a single source. Many also want weights, measures and so forth to help with automated warehousing applications and central distribution."

To this end, a task force will be charged with determining how the data that is currently already a part of Source ASA can also be utilized and built-upon to form the basis of this new repository, tentatively known as "Source Data." At issue are a number of not-so-small details, not the least of which is how ASA members (wholesalers and manufacturers) can fund the development and ongoing maintenance of this repository.

It's widely known that the electrical industry has spent millions of dollars putting its database together, but most experts agree that the PHCP industry, by working together, can do it for much less. Already, ASA has invested almost $1 million in the Center for Advancing Technology and its efforts to bring new technologies into an industry seeking to reduce costs and protect margins.

Ultimately, a model is being sought that provides for this database where costs are shared by trading partners throughout the industry.


During its November 13th meeting the ASA Education Foundation Board of Trustees laid plans for next year's program development efforts. In addition to improving the PVF CD-ROM training program, the Foundation will begin revising its ProductPro R book-based series of courses.

New research will be conducted to better identify and respond to member needs, and a new program on the basics of profitable distribution will be developed for entry level management and customer service employees.

The Foundation also committed to enhancing the EF website by providing storefront and training capabilities.


Just a reminder, ASA is offering an early registration discount to its Institute for Distribution Management 2002 until January 1, 2002. Discounts are also provided for multiple registrants and Endowment Fund donors. For more information and a faxable order form, please visit the ASAEF website at www.asaef.net/asaef.


On Friday morning, a small but engaged group of 30 managers and executives participated in a Beltech Inc.'s Branch Manager Training School. One of the more enthusiastic participants was Jennifer Mattair of Bogan Supply Co., Inc., Pensacola, Fla., shown here receiving her certificate from Instructors Charlie Frederick and Dan Belanger.

The "Welcome to Vegas" Opening Party, expanded this year to 2 hours, included plenty of food, drinks and camaraderie. On hand to welcome participants to ASA's Las Vegas bash was a roving band of Elvis impersonators. This photo proves that Elvis truly has not left the building!

Jack Hester, President of F.W. Webb Company, Burlington, Mass., accepts the symbol of ASA's Presidency from Don Maloney, President of Coburn Supply Company, Beaumont, Tx. Hester will formally begin his term on January 1. Both teamed up during the "State of the Industry" program to offer a peek into ASA's industry agenda for 2002.

Bob Jarvie, formerly ASA's Sales and Show Director, received a recognition award from the Midwest Distributors Association, who honored his contributions to their organization. Jarvie left the ASA and MDA staffs in October to join the sales team of Messe Frankfurt, Inc., producers of ISH North America. He'd been with ASA for the past 14 years.

Education Foundation

October and November proved to be very active months for ASA's Education Foundation with a prominent role in the ASA convention in October and the Foundation's annual/planning meeting in November.

At the convention, the Foundation hosted its 2nd annual Human Resource Session with a panel of experts from ASA member wholesalers sharing their insights on recruiting, retaining, motivating and training employees.

In a concurrent session, John Carroll of Unlimited Performance shared the wisdom, benefits and techniques of using open-book management to build a company of business literate employees who can take your operation to the next level. Participants gave the packed session excellent reviews. Incidentally, John will share his expertise in a full day seminar at the Foundation's Institute of Distribution Management 2002 in Indianapolis on March 24-27.

In the sales management workshop, Larry Laufer of the Towson University Sales Institute demonstrated the dozen things customers do to take charge of a sales call and the techniques salespeople can use to regain and keep control of the call.

On Friday, Beltech, Inc. presented a 5-hour condensed version of their Branch Manager Training Course. Participants learned the Traits of the Successful Manager, Branch Operations Best Practices and Critical Human Resource Policies. All participants received a workbook summarizing the key points of the program.

Looking forward to next year in Toronto, the Foundation will continue to work shoulder to shoulder with ASA to provide a first class business conference experience to the ASA convention participants.