August 3, 2021
While electronics will be the buzzword of the 1980s, the future structure of the distribution industry is less of a certainty.
The last 50 years have been exciting ones for the electrical industry but they won’t compare to what is going to happen in the next decade, let alone the next half century.
The industry is going to be tossed on its head and shaken into unrecognizable shape. The reason: electronics. The revolution in electronics and computers will hit the electrical industry as hard as any other, perhaps a lot harder.
The switchover to high-tech electronics began in earnest in the late 1970’s and has been picking up steam ever since. The recession, which stalled the progress of so many industries, emphasized the need to many companies to modernize through electronics and increase productivity, helping them to keep one step ahead of the competition. The electrical industry, as a result, has been reaping the benefits of this trend, at least among customers who had the money to go the electronics route.
As the pace of the revolution quickens, it is clear many electrical distributors and contractors are overwhelmed by it all, even dazed. Many admit they don’t understand what these new devices are all about. Not only do they find the technical complexities perplexing, the constant stream of innovations is creating a flood of information that is difficult to wade through.
Some firms are determined not to be left behind, have opened electronic divisions, and are hiring highly educated young technical people and salesmen who are unencumbered by the outdated notions of pre-electronic days.
Distributors are taking a stab at the new technology but they’re keeping one foot on the electric side, reluctant to make a full commitment to the dawning of a new technological age.
Not everyone agrees that distributors should be scrambling madly aboard the electronics bandwagon. Some caution that electronics provide only the “brains” for the new devices. Electrical and other materials will still be needed to fill out the rest of the “body”.
While electronics will be the buzzword of the 1980s, the future structure of the distribution industry is less of a certainty. Some predict distributors will become more highly specialized: they will zero in on a few areas and develop expertise. Others predict that far from having all kinds of specialty firms, the smaller companies will disappear and only broad-based outfits will survive. They will handle similar wide ranges of products, and although they will develop a degree of technical proficiency in their product lines, they will rely on manufacturers to provide them with in-depth product knowledge as customers ask for it.
There is no doubt that the next few years will be pivotal ones for the industry in terms of technological developments and the very make-up of the industry itself.
Source: CEDA: Fifty Years of Service – An Historical Review of the Canadian Electrical Distributors Association, 1934 to 1984, Kerrwil Publications. Please feel free to reach out to us any time if you have great photos, historical anecdotes or perspectives. We would love to hear from you.