Here's a preview of a new study on Internet usage.

Supply House Times and its sister magazines, Plumbing & Mechanical and PM Engineer, recently helped the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute analyze the Internet habits among players in the traditional channel of distribution. Last year, we sent a survey to 1,000 randomly selected readers of each magazine, spanning contractors, wholesalers and specifying engineers.

"There's been all this hype about e-commerce," says Ralph Herrbach, president of faucet maker Cifial USA, and current PMI president. Herrbach was also instrumental in developing the survey's 20-plus questions. "Before small and medium-sized manufacturers invest in this technology, we needed to understand how our customers were using this new form of media."

While it may not be a surprise that wholesalers, contractors and specifiers had different answers to the same questions, Herrbach says he was surprised to see the similarities regarding getting the most out of the Internet, and, in particular, what information they want that's currently not available to them on the Internet.

When asked what obstacles they were facing that prevent them from using the Internet to its fullest extent, 43% of distributors, 44% of contractors, and 41% of specifiers said there were no barriers.

"I was very interested in this and found it encouraging that many people thought there were no barriers," Herrbach adds. (In a related question, 61% of distributors, 66% of contractors and 82% of specifiers said they did have access to the Internet for business-related purposes.)

A common demand from all three groups for information not available on the Internet was for detailed product information. According to Herrbach's own analysis of the numbers, each group defined "detailed" differently. Distributors, for example, wanted "current" technical data, such as specification and installation manuals. Contractors wanted "easy-to-access" product information, which Herrbach believes means information on a Web site with an easy-to-use graphical interface. Specifiers were looking for CAD-based drawings.

Each of the three surveys can be purchased for $95, or all three surveys can be purchased for $250. For more information, log on to, or contact Lisa Frost at 248/244-1290,