ASA's forays into the technology world have been the subject of a lot of seminars and conversations, and they've created a lot of potential benefit for our wholesaler and manufacturer members. The problem is that most of the people to whom we direct our promotional efforts don't understand what it is we're trying to do.

Don't get me wrong. I'm talking about some very smart people who run some very profitable companies. But they generally hire people who get paid to understand this stuff. However, those people aren't at the meetings when we talk about things like ASA's Industry Database and Source ASA. We really wish we could get them there, but that's another article.

What I've done here is sort of like "ASA's Industry Database for Dummies," except that I didn't call it that because I want to keep my job. Believe me, it took me a long time to understand this stuff myself, and even longer before I could translate it to English.

Please give this article a few minutes of your time, and I promise it'll help you to understand why ASA is really behind this effort, and why we're asking you to join in.

The Industry Database (IDB) is a data file of more than 1,000,000 products in the plumbing, heating, cooling, and industrial PVF industry. It's just the data; it's not bundled with any particular software or function. It's being promoted to fill the void that exists for a standard industry-wide resource for product information. The key word here is "standard."

Right now, the standard data for each product includes UPC number, vendor name, vendor ID number, product description, list price, and up to 120 other descriptive fields. It also contains marketing content like product images and catalogs. When manufacturers enroll in the IDB service, they will be asked to provide regular updates to this information, so they can be sure it's always accurate and up-to-date.

The IDB is stored on a computer server managed by Harrison Publishing House. Harrison has been publishing price updates for contractors for over 100 years. ASA has partnered with Harrison to transfer this information to the IDB, so that it can be updated for wholesalers to use for their businesses. That's why it's critical for manufacturers to enroll, so that they can be sure their wholesalers are getting the most up-to-date info.

Manufacturers who enroll will be asked to send their product information (in a secure way over the Internet) so that it can be included in the IDB. Distributors who subscribe to the service will be able to download (in a secure way over the Internet) this information for any and all of their suppliers who are enrolled.

The IDB service will send an email to wholesalers to let them know any time a manufacturer has sent in a change (i.e., price changes) to alert the wholesaler to download the new info. Wholesalers can designate their particular vendors to avoid downloading more files than they need or want.

Many wholesalers are using numbering systems that they've created themselves, because up until now, there has been no industry standard. With IDB, they can download the standard product data directly into their computer operating systems. They then know that all their future electronic transactions will be using an industry-accepted standard for product information.

They can use it to update their systems with manufacturers' price changes, a costly and time-consuming task, since an average wholesaler carries hundreds of product lines. Many product lines have frequent updates and changes, requiring wholesalers to spend expensive man-hours to incorporate the changes into their systems.

Other uses for IDB in a wholesaler's business include the use of UPC numbers (barcodes) for receiving/warehousing needs. To help in determining warehousing logistics, packaging quantities and dimensions of boxes/pallets, etc., are now being populated in IDB. Wholesalers with central distribution systems can also use UPC numbers (barcodes) for tracking, and IDB packaging data for determining truckload specs. Of course, the IDB will also help wholesalers use EDI more effectively.

The IDB benefits the manufacturers by providing them with ONE central place that their wholesalers can go to obtain data that they KNOW will be correct. They know it'll be right because they themselves are responsible to send it in regularly. The IDB service promises that all changes will be incorporated into the IDB file 72 hours prior to its effective date.

IDB helps manufacturers improve their customers' profitability. Their wholesalers will save money, and will be more inclined to adopt other technologies, like EDI, now that they will have the industry standards to fuel it. And, use of the IDB can help a wholesaler and manufacturer more easily set up Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) or continuous replenishment systems, saving everyone money and helping with production planning.

One big difference is that the IDB is just data, and Source is data PLUS a working software program. Source has been collecting this data, along with more information like catalog pages and other marketing-type details. It contains software that allows wholesalers to use the data for things like Job Submittals (using the custom software that's included), and other marketing uses. Currently, there are about 200,000 products contained on the Source program. It's currently being used by about 75 wholesalers.

IDB, on the other hand, does not come "connected" to any software program. It is a standard file (think of it like data in an Excel spreadsheet) that can be used in a variety of software programs (including Eclipse, NxTrend, Prophet 21 and others that have already created "data-warehouse" modules for their systems just waiting to be filled with information).

Manufacturers and wholesalers who enroll in the IDB will automatically get all of the content and software that's on Source ASA at no extra charge.

Manufacturers: Manufacturers can enroll for $3,500 annually. Included in this price are services to upload (add to the IDB file) as many products (with as many of the data fields) as possible, and to update this information in the standard format as often as necessary. IDB then streams this info down to wholesaler subscribers and alerts them of all changes. Manufacturers already on Source are automatically upgraded to the IDB during 2003 at no extra charge, and when they renew in 2004, they'll pay the standard $3,500 IDB annual fee. That means you are enrolled into 'both' programs, IDB and Source, for the one $3,500 annual fee!

Wholesalers: Pricing is based on annual sales volume and number of branches. It ranges from $4,500 to a maximum of $12,000 per year. This data can be accessed by all of your branch locations and includes an unlimited number of downloads for any and all of the manufacturers included on IDB. You receive the data, catalogs, and product images, the service to notify you of changes 72 hours prior to effective date, and unlimited user access to the Source ASA e-catalog and Submittal Builder. We'll even link the Source catalog to your website to enhance your e-commerce offerings.

Contact Kevin Price at the ASA Center for Advancing Technology. Phone 1-800-608-7308 or email Kevin can tell you more about the IDB, and even will arrange for an online demonstration. You can also visit the IDB website at for information or to register for an online seminar.