‘The opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s indifference.’

I’ve been thinking a lot about these words from Nobel Prize winning author Elie Wiesel as this issue was being put together. When it comes to the relationship between distributors and suppliers, there are a lot of feelings, none of them indifference.

According to the annals of the National Welding Supply Association (renamed Gases and Welding Distributors Association in 2002), NWSA was founded for one reason: to address the growing hostility between suppliers and distributors. In the mid-1940s, many suppliers were selling direct, bypassing distributors as the exclusive medium through which products would be sold. Some suppliers began private branding their products; others required that once a distributor established the account, that account would revert back to the suppliers on a direct basis. Back then, each side viewed the other with suspicion and hostility. In 1945, several distributors determined that an association of distributors would foster dialogue with suppliers and encourage the beginning of a fresh relationship. The first item on the fledgling association’s agenda was to create a constitution that would define its purpose. The mission was simple: to promote cooperation among distributors and suppliers.

The mission of today’s GAWDA, stated on the first page of the bylaws, is “to promote the safe operation and economic vitality of distributors of industrial gases and related welding equipment and supplies. The mission statement is followed by ten purposes of existence. Here is number three: To PARTNER with our manufacturer members. (Capitals are original to bylaws.)

We’ve received a lot of requests over the past few months to do a story on the evolving relationship between suppliers and distributors, and what it might mean to tomorrow’s supply channel. We went directly to the source and asked distributors and suppliers for comment. They did not hold back.

The Supply Chain Summit begins on page 36 with Big Sal and Al who began their relationship as trusted partners. Following is Jim Earlbeck’s presentation from the Seven Springs Regional Meeting that asks some poignant questions. Included are unedited comments from distributors on what is working in the relationship and what could use some help. Suppliers have their chance beginning on page 56. No discussion about the supply chain would be complete without addressing digital distribution and the elephant in the room…AmazonSupply. Amazon’s VP of Industrial Supplies is interviewed on page 70, and on page 64, four distributors who are succeeding at selling online share some secrets.

Remember high school physics and the inflection point? An inflection point is like driving down the highway at 65 mph and you suddenly turn the wheel by 12 or 15 degrees. In that split second, you know things are going to change and you will never get back on the course you were on. At any point of change, relationships can evolve, and if we consider this time a period of change, it is up to distributors and suppliers alike to monitor the inflection points. Your hands are on the wheel. Just like in 1945, this may be one of those moments that people get to change history just a little bit.

The Annual Convention offers one of the year’s prime opportunities for distributors and suppliers to network, strengthen the relationship, and learn some new things. Nowhere else can you find the industry’s top-tier executives all assembled in one room, eager to talk with each other. The Guide to Convention Exhibitors begins on page 76 and showcases what exhibitors have in store for you in San Diego.

As I think about partnering and relationships, I want to thank the GAWDA distributors and suppliers in this issue who shared their insights and opinions. This magazine has always been about promoting the economic vitality of distributors and their suppliers. As we share dialogue, we prove: There is no indifference among GAWDA members.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Carole Jesiolowski Meet the Author
Carole Jesiolowski is senior editor of GAWDA Media and executive vice president of Data Key Communications located in Syracuse, New York. She can be reached at 315-445-2347 and carole@weldingandgasestoday.org.