University of Industrial Distribution

Gases and welding distribution in the halls of higher learning

UID-logoIn today’s world, when global competition has become standard, specialty gases and welding distribution professionals require a broad set of skills as they must manage operations efficiently and cost-effectively. Where can they turn for help in developing their proficiency in the industry while learning valuable business methods? The answer is the University of Industrial Distribution (UID).

Established in 1993, UID is a concentrated educational program focused on the unique needs of the industrial distribution industry. More than 6,580 people have attended the program over the years, including 229 GAWDA professionals. GAWDA is one of 33 members of the Association Education Alliance, a consortium of wholesale distribution associations, that sponsor UID in cooperation with Purdue University’s industrial distribution program. The program is held in March and December at Purdue’s main campus in Lafayette, Indiana.

Courses cover a variety of topics, including sales, operations, personnel productivity and financial transactions. In December 2008, UID courses included Creating Competitive Advantage Through Total Cost Savings, Leadership and Delegation for Distribution Managers, Managing the Account Portfolio and Creating Channel Alignment, one of the newer courses offered at UID. “We’re always looking for new courses to keep up with changing times,” says UID Coordinator Dr. Kathryne Newton, associate professor of industrial technology at Purdue University.

Courses are designed in cooperation with experienced distribution professionals, something Store Manager David Absher from Roberts Oxygen Company (Rockville, MD) looked for when he attended the sold-out UID in December. “We’re trying to get a feel for what other industries are doing,” Absher explains. “Good ideas come from people in the field.”

Who Should Attend UID?
When UID began 15 years ago, it was billed as an executive management program. However, as upper level managers went through the program, they realized its significant educational value for lower-level employees as well. Anyone looking to improve personal performance and/or the company’s bottom line, from branch managers to sales personnel, human resource directors to operations managers, should attend. Tom Gwynn, store manager at Industrial Source (Eugene, OR), was motivated to attend December’s UID because it was recommended by former employers. Says Gwynn, “We were able to use what they learned at UID, so that made me keen to want to go.”

Professional Certificate in Industrial Distribution
UID attendance counts towards earning Purdue University’s Professional Certificate in Industrial Distribution. The certificate reflects the fact that the recipient is knowledgeable about distribution. “The Professional Certificate in Industrial Distribution is a strong marketing tool,” says Nicole Weber, communications manager for the Association Education Alliance. “It gives recipients an edge because it’s now widely recognized and highly esteemed throughout the distribution industry.”

In order to obtain the certificate, 90 hours equaling nine Continuing Education Units (CEUs) must be completed. Recipients must attend either one or two UID programs, with each program counting for three CEUs. The remaining CEUs can be earned through a variety of educational and training venues, including GAWDA programs such as webinars, consultant seminars, GAWDA U courses, regional meetings, education workshops at Spring Management Conferences and the annual convention, and the Young Distribution Professionals Conference. Newton comments, “People are encouraged to attend the training offered by their particular association to obtain their certificate.”

GAWDA members have attended every UID program since it began. December’s UID had 19 GAWDA distributors in attendance, including Absher, Gwynn and Mike Gunnels, operations manager at Indiana Oxygen Company (Indianapolis, IN). Gunnels heard from other GAWDA members that UID helped them discover fresh business ideas. “One of our company’s major initiatives is to find ways to be more efficient,” says Gunnels, “and UID courses provided a good opportunity to do that.”

Targeted Education
The popularity of UID is evident: The December 2008 program sold out in just three weeks. Given the volatility the economy has seen in the past months, it is no wonder that many people are eager to take advantage of all UID has to offer. “This is a time in our economy when it’s more important than ever for the distribution industry to gain efficiencies,” says Purdue’s Newton. “The University of Industrial Distribution program is a great way to help distributor personnel get ahead with targeted education for the specialty gases and welding distribution industry.”

For more information about the University of Industrial Distribution, visit

Gases and Welding Distributors Association