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CIPH hosts first virtual annual conference

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CIPH restructured its annual business conference in 2020 into a webinar format because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating’s (CIPH) 88th annual general meeting went on without a hitch in its first-ever webinar format. Over 290 people attended the virtual meeting; this is close to the 300 members who typically attend. In attendance, there were 76 voting members with delegates from nine provinces on June 16.

Gail Kaufman, vice-president of marketing and eBusiness for Wolseley Canada, Burlington, Ont., was elected chairman. Bill Hooper (Uponor) was elected first vice-chairman and Matt Robinson (B.A. Robinson) moves into the second vice-chairman’s spot. Outgoing chairman Andrew Dyck (Barclay Sales) moves into the treasurer’s role. Two new directors were added to the board – Valerie Malone (Lixil Canada) and Francois Deschenes (Groupe Deschenes).

Kaufman launches her term as chairman during unusual times. The pandemic has caused things to change in the industry, some of which might be for the best, she added. “This is a defining moment in time for our industry, not just a time to weather the storm, but a time to shift.”

She reported that customers appear to be enjoying the curbside pickup option and would like wholesalers to continue with this process in the future.

Her plan focuses on two key points: networking and finances. There is a key opportunity for the industry to provide networking events for members to come together to discuss how to work through the “new normal.” In addition, tradeshows have been a major portion of revenue for the association. There needs to be a dialogue between members to discuss ways to add value in addition to the tradeshows to move forward through the pandemic.

She would also like to see cross networking panel discussions involving the Women’s Network to engage a broader audience.

A special thanks were given to David Hughes, Hydronic Certification Program Instructor, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, as he was stepping down as chair of the Canadian Hydronics Council. Several other people received thanks including Richard Barb, Canadian Water Systems Council, Barbara O’Reilly, CIPH Women’s Network, Josh Hopkins, Pipes, Valves and Fittings Council, and Kevin Ernst, Plumbing and Mechanical Advisory Council.

New abnormal

Ian Heller, founder and senior partner at Distribution Strategy Group, was the keynote speaker at this year’s conference. The topic of discussion was “Distribution will shift again, but not back to normal.”

He looked at how online companies such as Amazon will impact the wholesaler market. One person surveyed said, “Wholesale customers want manufacturers to keep the same distribution channel and get angry if a manufacturer considers selling through other channels, however, manufacturers need to consider all channels to get their product to market.” They also noted that it is not sustainable, and manufacturers will go where the customers are.

When manufacturers were asked whether or not they were open to the idea of selling through Amazon Business, there was an obvious three-way tie (yes, no, and not sure). “Many feel that the traditional wholesales model was already at risk, the COVID-19 situation only served to escalate things.”

He advised manufacturers to invest in distributors that are technology fast followers, surround end-customers with services, and work on a marketplace strategy. For distributors, they should upgrade IT systems (particularly eCommerce and artificial intelligence), develop a strategy to build services, and develop a marketplace strategy.

In terms of service development, companies should stop bundling, but rather should charge for each service and make sure customers meet a bar.

The 89th annual business conference will take place at the Algonquin Resort in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick from June 27-29, 2021. For more information, contact Nancy Barden at 519-855-6474, or visit the CIPH website (www.ciph.com).

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