IDEA’s 2023 Conference in Nashville, TN, from Sept. 18-20 offered attendees a look at both the association’s journey over the past 25 years and a glimpse of some of the new services it will be offering in the future
Mike Wentz, IDEA’s VP of sales and marketing and a veteran of the ERP industry and survivor of the dot-com era has shepherded dozens if not hundreds of distributors and manufacturers through the ever-evolving world of distribution software, online storefronts and digital product data during his 40-plus years in the electrical wholesaling industry. He kicked off the meeting with a fascinating retrospective of the market’s journey with product data, from the reams of Trade Service catalogs that used to line the counters of distributor branches, through the exciting but often frustrating days of the dot-com revolution and onto to the modern era and the development of the IDW and now the IDEA Connector.
In today’s world of digital electrical product data, electrical distributors and electrical manufacturers continue to work together with the IDEA team to develop clean data that can act as “single source of truth” for not only wholesalers, manufacturers and independent reps, but quite possibly eventually end users as well.
David Oldfather, IDEA’s president and CEO, updated members on his team’s efforts to bring on new service providers who can continue this quest, and to help the association offer a new and enhanced suite of services. He said IDEA’s Technical Advisory Council (TAC) wants the association to focus on several core goals:
• Become more predictive in nature by predicting missing data and/or market basket data
• Leverage AI and machine learning to help IDEA offer services beyond what’s now available
• Position the TAC to remain/be open to reviewing all new data management opportunities, such as best-in — class or state-of-the-art services, startups and innovative offerings.
Current members of the Technical Advisory Council are: Aravind Padmanabhan, executive VP & CTO, nVent; Kerry Young, president & CEO, Bluemeteor; Josh Bone executive director, ELECTRI International; Satya Sanivarapu, NAED’s technology director - Digital Supply Chain; Phil Hale, CIO, Elliott Electric Supply; and Michael Delagado, president & CEO, Canals.ai.
IDEA and its TAC have put a renewed focus on working with all key partners in the electrical industry’s supply chain, including the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the National Electrical Manufacturers Representatives Association (NEMRA), and the meeting was notable for the discussions on how distributors and manufacturers can work more closely with the contractor community to service their electrical product data needs.
Josh Bone, who has worked closely with NECA through ELECTRI International for many years and has a seat on IDEA’s TAC, provided some solid insight into the challenges that electrical contractors now have with job-site productivity, hiring new electricians to keep pace with the wave of retiring Baby Boomers and the need to embrace pre-assembled products and system.
The overall tone of the meeting was buoyant, and although final attendance figures weren’t available at press-time, one IDEA staffer said attendance was roughly the same as the 2022 IDEA E-Biz Conference, which attracted more than 200 attendees and set an attendance record.