Exhibitors say NEX 2000 is a place to demonstrate products and strengthen bonds with trade partners.

It may be a little less glamorous than some other shows, a little more nuts-and-bolts. Instead of shower "temples," visitors see shower "systems." Water heaters outnumber whirlpool tubs. Beauty, comfort and luxury are discussed, but so are installation instructions and product specifications.

The North American Expo, held Oct. 6-7 in Chicago, is a show for professionals. Its primary sponsors are the American Supply Association, the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating, and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association.

"The target of this show is the contractor and wholesaler," says Ken Martin, brand marketing director for Delta Faucet Co. "We are showing them our bread and butter, a nice mixture of our products."

At NEX the focus is on the wall out and behind the wall, while at the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show attendees are interested in the wall out only, says Timothy Mullally, president and general manager, Hansa America and KWC Faucets.

"This is where we show the brass," says Mark Siuda, marketing manager/wholesale at Price Pfister, explaining that at NEX his company spends more time demonstrating the internal workings and the mechanical side of faucets.

Unlike the home center industry, in which two companies represent 80% of the business, the plumbing wholesale industry has some big players and many small ones, says David Lingafelter, vice president/marketing at Moen. "It's hard to get to all of them, but various venues, such as NEX, give us the opportunity to contact them."

While new exhibitors and products appeared at NEX 2000, some of the manufacturers interviewed by Supply House Times said it is more of a relationship show than a new-product showcase.

"I still believe this industry operates on people meeting and talking with people, face to face," says Ila Lewis, executive vice president at Gerber Plumbing Products. "Such meetings lead to a greater willingness to share information and can help to build trust."

NEX is not a buying-and-selling show, says Dennis Broderick, senior vice president/sales at In-Sink-Erator. "This is a relationship show. Wholesalers and contractors bring their top people in to talk one-on-one. This is an important show for us."

The Kohler Co. sees trade shows such as NEX as an opportunity to educate contractors,says John Schott, marketing manager/North American faucets.

"We put our products in settings to give them ideas about how products can be combined in a suite. Also, we want our distributor partners to be able to get their hands on some of the newer items they may not have seen at other shows," he says.

New at NEX

The 2000 NEX show attracted new exhibitors including Stadler-Viega, which demonstrated its new press tool that creates PEX tubing connections with one-handed operation. A simple three-step process secures a fitting connection.

"We have two types of tubing that use the same fitting system," says David Garlow, national sales manager. "We knew that NEX is an important wholesaler showcase. We have a new national sales manager, new president, new Western region. The time was right. We are always trying to increase our customer base, wholesalers as well as contractors."

Another first-time exhibitor at NEX this year was Saginaw Pump, which showed its IAPMO-listed Guardian water-powered sump pump for use as a back-up in case of sump pump failure or a power outage.

"We decided to be at NEX for the market exposure," says Les Tyner, president/chief executive officer at Saginaw Pump. "This was the next logical step for our marketing. We created a special display for this show."

State Industries, A.O. Smith Water Products Co., Lochinvar Corp., Bradford White and American Water Heaters presented the latest editions of their water heaters at NEX.

A.O. Smith's Burkay Legend 2000 boiler line features new self-diagnostic microprocessor-based controls. All water heating and hydronic application models in the line feature Dia-Scan II, an on-board computer control that monitors all electrical operations to enhance efficiency and facilitate troubleshooting.

Also, A.O. Smith has extended its line of Genesis high-efficiency gas boilers with six high-output hot water supply models and six hydronic heating models, all ranging from 1 million to 2.5 million Btu.

State introduced an "intelligent" electric water heater under the Maytag label, called the Maytag Series 12 PC. The residential unit has an energy-saving, programmable electronic thermostat control. It is available in 50-gal. and 82-gal. capacities and is covered by a 12-year limited warranty.

Also, State has expanded its line of large-capacity commercial water heater storage tanks. With varying capacities ranging up to 5,080 gal., the storage tanks are available in vertical or horizontal design, jacketed, and insulated or uninsulated, and there are three tank-lining options.

Among Bradford White's latest offerings is the commercial Power Direct Vent gas water heater. It uses a co-axial (pipe inside a pipe) venting system that draws air from outside the building for combustion. This can be helpful in applications in which a negative air pressure situation or corrosive air supply is present.

Bradford White's new TTW2 series through-the-wall water heaters boast a high energy factor rating, low operating cost, high first-hour rating and long venting compared with other power-vented water heaters, according to the manufacturer.

Lochinvar introduced the Efficiency Mate, an indirect-fired, potable water storage vessel with an internal heat exchanger that allows water heated for space heating by an external heat source to be used for domestic hot water.

The new Double Duty residential water heater from Lochinvar provides hot water for domestic use and also helps to maintain a comfortable space temperature via hydronic or radial heating. The water for domestic use is heated and then stored in a glass-lined storage tank. The hot water in the tank transfers heat into a heat exchanger surrounding the tank. Within the tubes, water for space heating is circulated and heated.

American Water Heater is offering a self-cleaning electric water heater with a self-diagnostic control system and four user-selectable operating modes. It automatically adjusts to homeowner water-usage patterns. The water heater also features a patented "de-limer" dip tube that minimizes sediment and lime buildup.

Bath and kitchen

Body jet sprays, faucets and toilet seats were among the bath-and-kitchen items introduced at NEX. Alsons Corp. introduced its Shower Spa body spray shower system, which will be available in January. It features three vertical body jet sprays that can be adjusted in different directions to provide total body coverage. Each of the extra-wide body jet spray heads projects 12-in. wide spray coverage for every foot of distance.

"Our system is competitively priced and requires fewer body jet sprays to cover the whole body," says Chuck Mistovich, Alsons' marketing director.

Jaclo Industries introduced new packaging for its bath and shower products. Individual parts are available carded. Shower systems are in clamshell packaging.

Elkay Manufacturing showed its new single-lever, post-mount pull-out faucet collection. The top-mount faucets have a separate single-lever control and retractable pull-out spray. The faucets are available in almond, black, white, chrome and brushed nickel finishes.

SmartWave Technologies has launched a new version of its SmartWave Adapter, an automatic ABS aerator module and solenoid valve module that converts an existing faucet into one that is electronic, wireless and battery-operated. Automatic flow control is combined with anti-scald protection.

"The first generation product was introduced at NEX two years ago in Toronto," says Jillian Jarvis, vice president/marketing and sales. The patented product, which is now made smaller for greater aesthetic appeal, transforms a traditional faucet into a hands-free electronic faucet in about 10 minutes, she says.

Chicago Faucets unveiled its Model 897 wall-mount service sink faucet. The redesigned product offers full interchangeability of parts. The re-engineering also makes it more affordable, says Patrick Kimener, Chicago Faucet's national accounts director.

Beneke, a division of Sanderson Plumbing Products, introduced wood composition toilet seats with redesigned covers that extend to the edge of the seat, heavy-duty hinges with snap-down covers, and a multi-coat paint finish for a smoother surface. The seats are available in regular or elongated style.

"NEX is our big show. We sell to wholesalers," says Johnny Triplett, Beneke's field sales manager/west. "As we work the market, people give us reasons why they prefer Brand A over ours. We took those comments and put them into the new design."

Moen created a new display of its vertical spa for NEX in response to increased interest in shower systems.

"Builders would rather use a vertical shower in lieu of a Roman tub," says Kevin Taylor, district manager at Moen. "This runs on 1/2-in. copper pipe and delivers the correct share of water. The vertical spa is a space-saver. It leaves more walking area in the bathroom compared with the Roman tub."

It also complements the consumer's time-pressed lifestyle, he adds. "With a vertical spa/shower, you are done and toweled off before the whirlpool is full."

More than 450 vendors participated in NEX with booths showing plumbing, heating, cooling, industrial piping, kitchen-and-bath products and computer software.