Undeterred by events which have reduced travel and attendance at other national events, wholesaler members of the Northamerican Heating, Refrigeration and Airconditioning Wholesalers Association turned out in force to address the future of distribution as the largest HVACR distribution organization gathered in Las Vegas for its annual convention in early December.

Programs and discussions centered on the association's developing concept of Market Center Distribution, described as a rallying point for the perpetuation of local, independent distribution and as a challenge to wholesalers and their supply chain partners to streamline the channel through removal of redundant costs, increasing transactional efficiency and strengthening partnerships.

Association President Scott Nicholson opened the convention by telling the assembly, "Amid many very dramatic changes to our country and our way of life we can be pleased that we have and continue to weather the changes with the tenacity and focus that are characteristic of wholesale distributors." He also briefed the members on the status of ongoing discussions with the Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Wholesalers International Association (ARWI) aimed at combining the two associations. Member survey results of both groups are being collected by an independent consultant working to guide the talks.

Well-known consultant Michael Marks introduced the new "Facing The Forces Of Change" report compiled by the Distribution Research and Education Foundation under the auspices of the National-Association of Wholesaler-Distributors.

He described the report, which centered on future scenarios for wholesale distribution, as providing a strong complement to the Market Center Distribution concept. Marks moderated a panel convened to discuss the MCD concept, which featured incoming NHRAW President Jim Truesdell of Brauer Supply Co., St. Louis, and incoming President-Elect Doug Young of Behler-Young Co. in Michigan. They were joined by manufacturer Presidents Gary Henry of Hart & Cooley and Earle Weaver of White-Rodgers.

Panel participants stressed the need for a new openness in relations between manufacturers and wholesalers with a need to press forward with the development of an "industry data warehouse" which would help facilitate supplier-assisted inventory replenishment. The role of the association in providing a forum for communication and programs by which wholesalers and manufacturers can improve their respective "core competencies" was stressed.

In addition to a well-attended conference booth program, the meeting also featured a host of seminars on topics such as branch manager training, selling high efficiency equipment, and advances in e-commerce. The many councils and committees of NHRAW held extensive meetings and reported to the convention. Of particular note was discussions taking place in the Equipment and Systems Council and also the Government Relations Liaison Committee concerning the proposed DOE minimum efficiency standards for central air conditioners.

The proposed standards would raise minimums to 12 SEER within the next five years. Some manufacturers advocate a 13 SEER standard. The committees recommended and the trustees agreed that an e-mail survey should be conducted of NHRAW members to determine if the association should take a position on the issue, and if so, which standard should be supported.

New officers were inducted, including President James Truesdell; President-Elect Doug Young; Vice President Randy Tice; Treasurer Bill Shaw; and Secretary Dave Draga. It was announced that the office of vice president would function as technology liaison to the board for developing e-commerce issues in conjunction with the Supply Chain Technologies committee.

The summer business conference is set for Boston this June, with next year's convention planned for Orlando.