Strong Distribution Associations Build Strong Supply Channels

Tracy Mulqueen

During my recent review of more than 60 distribution associations, several interesting patterns emerged. Below is a chart showing how these associations compare in terms of annual operating revenues, scope of legislative advocacy efforts, the variety of education and training offered, and the extent to which some are leading effective channel strategies. One trailblazing association, the Health Industry Distributors Association (HIDA), has a dedicated Channel Strategies program and hosts several channel strategies activities throughout the year for mid- to upper-level executives from distribution and manufacturing companies. Channel strategies refer to the activities that bring together distributors, manufacturers, end users and other channel partners to encourage collaborative efforts and improve an industry. 

It’s not surprising that associations with the greatest legislative advocacy involvement, combined with well-developed education and training programs and effective channel strategies, earned the highest annual operating revenues. Among these, several demonstrated an especially high level of channel strategies activities involving year-round planned, purposeful and structured interactions with senior level distributors, manufacturers and end users.

HIDA has extensively integrated channel strategies through its year-round legislative work, meetings, educational programs, industry research, and published reports. Its members, medical products distributors, work closely with manufacturers on shared legislative activities, like meetings with congressional leaders, and they also include manufacturers and end users as program partners, speakers, panelists and sponsors for high-level meetings and training activities. During one recent event, more than 400 prescheduled meetings involving channel partners took place over a three-hour period.

In addition, HIDA has conducted research that has helped enhance the quality of distributors’ work and positioned them as supplies and procurement planning experts, as well as leaders in developing e-commerce strategies and solving pricing accuracy challenges.

Another exceptional organization, the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED), offers a special executives program that provides opportunities for distributor and manufacturer executives to meet year-round. NAED also provides industrywide conferences to support cross-functional collaboration of purchasing, marketing and technology teams, in addition to conferences supporting emerging leaders and women industry professionals. Like HIDA, NAED conducts industry research and publishes reports to support cross-channel discussion and solutions. As NAED has excelled at strengthening distributor and manufacturer relationships through these activities, it is now focused on building similar relationships between distributors and contractors.

FEDA recently established an Advocacy Council to guide the Association’s new legislative priorities and will look to its Education Foundation and new Education Committee to identify and operationalize as many of the best educational partnerships and programs possible for our members. Also, this year’s efforts to join distributors, manufacturers and service reps at the E&S Industry Summit were FEDA’s first steps toward carrying out activities among channel partners to address industry challenges. We can now do so much more to partner with and support these groups throughout the year.

Going forward, FEDA will reference and monitor evolving association models as benchmarks as we build strong legislative, education and training, and channel strategies programs within our association. FEDA also can benchmark model strategies for developing young leaders and elevating the use of technology to advance our industry. 

Well-Known Distribution Associations
Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute American Supply Association
American Veterinary Distributors
Association Associated Equipment Distributors
Association for High Technology Distribution
Association for Manufacturing Technology
Auto Care Association
Bearing Specialists Association
Business Solutions Association
Ceramic Tile Distributors Association
Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network
Copper and Brass Servicenter Association
Convenience Distribution Association
Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance
Equipment Marketing and Distribution Association
Fluid Power Distributors Association
Food Industry Suppliers Association
Foodservice Equipment Distributors Association
Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Health Industry Distributors Association
Healthcare Distribution Alliance
Industrial Supply Association
International Association of Plastics Distribution International Foodservice Distributors Association International Sanitary Supply Association
International Sealing Distribution Association
International Sign Association
Irrigation Association
Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association
Metal Service Center Institute
Motorcycle Industry Council
National Association for Hose and Accessories Distribution
National Association of Chemical Distributors
National Association of Container Distributors
National Association of Flour Distributors
National Association of Innovative Lighting Distributors National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers
National Association of Steel Pipe Distributors
National Beer Wholesalers Association
National Electronic Distributors Association
National Fastener Distributors Association
National Grocers Association
National Industrial Belting Association
National Insulation Association
National Marine Distributors Association
National Paper Trade Association
North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors
North American Association of Utility Distributors ‘
North American Building Material Distribution Association
North American Wholesale Lumber Association
Outdoor Power Equipment and Engine Service Association
Pet Industry Distributors Association
Petroleum Equipment Institute
Power Transmission Distributors Association
Professional Beauty Association
Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association Security Hardware Distributors Association
Specialty Tools and Fasteners Distribution Association Textile Care Allied Trades Association
Water and Sewer Distributors of America
Wholesaler Florists & Florist Suppliers Association
Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, Inc.
World Millwork Alliance