Open Letter to the Canadian Electrical Industry: Our Supply Chain

EFC's Rick McCarten

June 14, 2019

By Rick McCarten

With an outstanding record turnout at this year’s EFC Conference in Quebec City, delegates were asked to attend a workshop on our supply chain.

Delegates voted on several issues that would help advance our industry towards digitalization, improved performance, ease of doing business, and improved data.


Why do we need a workshop for our industry? All of our research over the years to supply chains customers shows that brand loyalty is mixed — it’s almost 50/50 between the manufacturer and the distributor. What this means is in some cases, if customers are forced to choose, they will go with the product brand, while others will stick with the distributor. Being split like that means no one element of the chain can force major implementation.

For our industry to move forward, we require consensus. To build consensus, we need a big room where we can all get together and stage open voting. Strong majorities build consensus — and that can move this industry forward. This is what happened in late May in Quebec City.        


The first vote was on the new and improved “IDEA Connector” (formerly the industry data warehouse). IDEA now has more attributed descriptors, is now fully capable of metric as well as Canadian dollars and the French language. Ninety percent (90%) of respondents who participated in the live poll at the EFC conference said yes, we need to now implement IDEA in our industry.

The Supply Chain Steering Committee has now been given the mandate to develop ways to implement IDEA into our industry in Canada. The committee must work to overcome those who are hesitant: those who find it too costly or lack the internal resources to get it done.


The second vote was on Vendor Managed Inventory. Based on the poll results, more distributors are participating in VMI programs than manufacturers. After a brief review of the benefits for both parties, 80% of manufacturers and 93% of distributors agreed to implement VMI in the next 12 months.

The Supply Chain Steering Committee now has a mandate to reinforce the use of VMI in the industry, and to examine ways that VMI will further benefit organizations that offer and use it.

Supply chain conference

The third set of questions in our poll explored what role EFC should play in supply chain. The mandate given by the voting conference delegates appears in order of importance:

  1. Create best practices
  2. Build consensus
  3. Offer networking with industry supply experts
  4. Provide the latest in education and training

The third objective of the Supply Chain Steering Committee is to build a supply chain conference for our industry that directly brings IT, operational, logistics, data analysts, e-commerce, website “engineers” together to network, build consensus and learn.

NOTE: We are currently looking to hold a supply chain conference during the third week in November in a central location. Details to follow shortly.

One last question

We asked delegates about timelines. How far along are we? When might competitors with more advanced supply chain operations become a major disruptor to our channel? The wisdom of the delegates, the leaders of this industry in attendance at our conference, have voted — and after averaging the responses, it appears we have only three years to advance our channel. That means we have three years to implement programs that reduce costs, improve errors, and bridge the digital world that is coming, with our excellent service.

D-Day (day of disruption) = 26/05/2022

The committee has a strong mandate and a lot of work to do. If you are interested in participating in this committee, or attending the supply chain conference, please send me a note at:

Rick McCarten is VP, Operations, Electro-Federation Canada.

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