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This Week in IDEA | June 28, 2011

Our eNewsletter, This Week in IDEA, keeps you informed with the latest news and education about IDEA, our solutions and services, and our customers and partners. IDEA’s knowledgeable staff and other contributing writers share insights, resources and special offers to help you Unleash the power of e. Subscribe now to receive This Week in IDEA in your email inbox every other Thursday and add our RSS feed to your reader.


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Forum Early Bird Rates End in Two Days

Don’t forget to register for the IDEA E-Biz Forum 2011 by this Thursday, June 30 to save $100 off each registration and $500 off your exhibitor booth! We’ve designed an agenda with educational keynotes and break-out tracks that will help you learn new ways to increase productivity by building an eBusiness culture. Educational tracks are targeted to senior executives, IT/eCommerce professionals, product managers and sales/marketing.

Some companies that have registered early: Border States, Butler Supply, Cooper Industries, Eaton, General Electric, Greenlee, HellermannTyton, Kirby Risk, Laner Electric, Milbank, R-K Electronics, Thomas & Betts, Van Meter Industrial, Viking Electric, and Werner Electric. Join them>

Our agenda was designed with you in mind. Here are a few highlights:

Executive tracks:

  • Lean Distribution -- A Change in Thinking; Lean Forever -- Howard Coleman, MCA Associates
  • The Progress of eCommerce in the Electrical Industry -- Milos Jancik, former EFC President; M. Jancik Consulting

IT/eCommerce Tracks:

  • Clean-up: It's a Dirty Job But Somebody Has to Do It -- Lorraine Mott and Samer Shehadeh, Cooper Industries
  • Achieving Smarter Commerce through Optimized Buy and Sell Processes -- Scott Lewis, IBM

Product Manager Tracks:

  • Technical Training: Brainstorm to Bottom-line Results -- John Kiso, NAED
  • Manage your Catalog Content by Managing your Priorities -- Jason Archbold and Todd Kadry, Border States Electric

Sales and Marketing Tracks:

  • Seize the IDW Opportunity with the Electrical Attribute Schema v2.0 -- Mary Shaw, IDEA
  • Digital Marketing Strategy: Ride the Groundswell or Crash and Burn -- Amanda Johnson, IDEA

Download the new Agenda & Activities Brochure and view the complete agenda online for more details.

Early bird rates end in a couple days -- register now and spread the word!

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Switching on the Savings – Part Two

By Sonia Coleman

In the last issue, representatives of Affiliated Distributors (A-D), Becker Electric, Franklin Empire, and Fromm Electric shared some details about their transition to IDEA’s Industry Data Exchange (IDX) for their eCommerce needs. This week they talk about future plans, the savings they’ve experienced, and the benefits of being part of the A-D community. You can also download their story and share it with others.

Future Focus

Franklin Empire, with 19 locations in Quebec and Ontario, has been involved in EDI since eCommerce was just a discussion topic. Shapiro’s background in computers propelled the business to invest in technology early—as a result, the distributor gets 55% of its invoices by EDI and processes 90% of the invoices it receives into accounts payable without human intervention.

“It’s a big win for us,” said Shapiro. With so much experience in eCommerce, Franklin Empire was no stranger to switching VAN providers. However, it was hope in the future that propelled the company to convert to IDX. According to Shapiro, he intends to use the Industry Data Warehouse (IDW), the electrical-owned data synchronization platform, to obtain manufacturer-owned product information.

“I’ve wanted to support IDEA for a long time, and IDX turned out to be the way to do it,” he said.

Shapiro points out that some distributors aren’t aware that they can use IDX without being an IDW user.

“IDX was originally created to transmit large data files to and from the IDW; that is no longer its only purpose, but I’m not sure everybody knows that,” said Shapiro. “Right now I’m not an IDW user, but one day I will be. Using IDW to obtain the content that I need to sell, not only pricing information—but also French and English descriptions—would be very important to me. And accessing product information from one resource, integrated with IDX, would have a terrific impact for our company.”

Savings and Service

Meanwhile, Franklin Empire is reaping the benefits of lower costs for EDI transactions through IDX.

“Our costs are considerably less than what they were, and the other potential benefits that will come when we are able to start to use the IDW to do price updates,” Shapiro said.

Others point out that IDX’s lower cost, coupled with its superior service, is a winning combination.

“The significant reduction in cost without major additional costs to convert made it an easy choice to switch to IDX from our previous VAN provider,” said Fromm’s McKee. “The service IDX provides is stable—we haven’t experienced an issue since our conversion.”

“IDEA staff not only executed the project, but I felt like someone was paying attention,” said Shapiro. “They didn’t just sell me a service and then walk away and hope that the conversion would go through. They were involved 100 percent, and they stayed with it until it was done. They definitely have the technical competency on hand.”

Since switching to IDX four years ago, A-D headquarters has received exceptional service.

“We’ve had 100% uptime on IDX,” said Pieretti. “The level of service has been very good, including technical services. We’ve found that they are quick to respond with any changes to mappings. Overall, IDX offers high support levels at a competitive price point.”

A-D has also experienced optimal results with affiliates.

“IDEA has excellent customer service, and they’re very good at helping anyone I refer to them in timely manner. Once affiliates are set up with EDI, the customer service continues to be great. I know that I can recommend them with confidence,” said Hilberts.

Hilbert also points out that IDEA’s online application, the IDX Tracker, brings added value. Customers can look up and track documents securely, access business metrics, plus submit customer service requests online. According to Hilberts, this enables IDX customers to be self-sufficient and access detailed information for more efficient customer service.

Community Benefits

Ultimately, IDX offers another way that A-D affiliates can unite to compete more effectively and keep revenues in the industry.

“As A-D brings us together, we gain economies of scale. Not all affiliates have IT departments as large as national chains, but by going through A-D, we are given comparable resources with those national chains to remain competitive,” said Hanna.

By working together, A-D and its affiliates are leveling the playing field for independents by developing a community of best practices and competitive discounts.

“We’ve built a community relationship between IDEA, Activant, A-D and our affiliates that enables information sharing,” said Hilberts. “We have this great resource in IDEA that we can call anytime to help with our questions and assist affiliates in getting a reference or recommendation on a product that they’re using.”

Unlike traditional value-added networks (VANs), IDX is an electrical industry initiative, founded by electrical distributors and manufacturers.

“The more we can do amongst ourselves to benefit the industry is a benefit to all of us. I’m not sure how many other distributors are aware of the savings they could get by switching to IDX,” said Snyder. “Once we made the move to IDX, it was one of those things we said to ourselves, ‘Why didn’t we do that earlier?’ Because it was easy, the transition was smooth, we had no downtime and the savings are exactly what IDEA told me it would be.”

Download the “Switching on the Savings” Case Study>

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Marketing Inefficiencies Waste Money

By Bob Gaylord, President and CEO, IDEA

Manufacturers, are you content to waste money and irritate customers? Of course not, that doesn’t make sense. Yet, as I listen to your distributor customers, that’s what I’m hearing. Distributors say they are not getting the marketing data they need to sell your products and compete effectively. Manufacturers tell me they are providing all the marketing data asked for.

This communications disconnect about product data is resulting in waste for both distributors and manufacturers. Your distributor customers are acquiring and merging your product marketing data from multiple sources to keep pace with market pressures and end-user demands. Distributors use this “meshed data” to describe your products. Concurrently, manufacturers—many with richly populated websites—provide data to multiple distributors and other demand users in a series of one-off requests.

This is not the efficiency intended when the leadership of the most influential companies in the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) created IDEA. IDEA was created to drive costs out of the electrical distribution channel. The initial solution was simple: a single data platform for manufacturers to publish their transactional, pricing, and marketing data for all their distributor customers. Manufacturers would control how their products would be positioned in the marketplace. Distributors would pull all their vendors’ product information from a single source.

A simple concept, and yet more than 13 years later, we still struggle with a data gap. The stakes have never been higher, nor the friction in trading partner relationships greater. As web commerce continues to gain traction in the electrical channel, distributors feel at a disadvantage with such competitors as,, and creeping into the channel.

How will you respond? IDEA is your company and partner -- we know the data. Contact me personally (, ) to review how your data stacks up with that of your competitors.

Download this opinion editorial published in NEMA’s electroindustry magazine>

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Thomas & Betts and OSRAM SYLVANIA: Sponsors of the 2011 Forum

Thanks to Thomas & Betts for their Gold sponsorship and OSRAM SYLVANIA for their Silver sponsorship of the IDEA E-Biz Forum 2011. These companies demonstrate their support of the only eBusiness event dedicated to business-to-business leaders in the electrical supply chain.

Thomas & Betts has been a leader in providing products for commercial and industrial construction, industrial plant maintenance, repair and operation, electrical utility distribution, and communications and original equipment manufacturing for over 100 years. They offer one of the broadest product lines in the electrical industry, with more than 70 of the most widely recognized and valued brands. Their broad portfolio supplies over 70 percent of the items used in a typical electrical application. Thomas & Betts is headquartered in Memphis, TN. Learn more at  

OSRAM SYLVANIA is a leader in lighting solutions and specialty products that feature innovative design and energy saving technology. The company sells products for homes, businesses and vehicles primarily under the SYLVANIA brand name, and also under the OSRAM brand. Headquartered in Danvers, Mass., OSRAM SYLVANIA is the North American operation of OSRAM GmbH, a wholly owned subsidiary of Siemens AG. For more information, visit  

 Join these companies and become a Forum sponsor>

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New B2B eCommerce and Synchronization Customers

New IDW Customer

EncapSulite International of Rosenberg, TX became an Industry Data Warehouse (IDW) customer on June 17, 2011. EncapSulite has been helping businesses create the proper lighting environments for their production and retail departments for more than 40 years. EncapSulite provides industrial, commercial and decorative lighting to the nation’s largest food processors, pharmaceutical companies, supermarkets, lighting designers, trade show exhibitors, semiconductor manufacturers, hospitals, printing companies and screen printers. They will utilize the IDW Data Synchronization Platform to synchronize their product information with their distributor trading partners. Find out more at  

New IDX Customer

World Trading Company, Inc., a distributor from Hauppague, NY, became an Industry Data Exchange (IDX) customer on June 20, 2011. They will conduct electronic data interchange (EDI) over the Internet via an outsourced AS2 service.

New IRD CERICOMX Customers

As a 1SYNC Data Pool On-Board Solution (OBS) partner, IDEA implements suppliers that subscribe to the 1SYNC data pool using the IRD CERICOMX® Data Synchronization Platform. IDEA was recently assigned eight suppliers:

These companies will be trained to use IRD CERICOMX®, an online catalog that suppliers use to register product data with the GS1 Registry® and GDSN via the 1SYNC Data Pool. Suppliers also use this solution to publish product data to demand partners including retailers such as Lowe’s and Walmart.

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