Rob Woodward, vice president and general manager of Pennsylvania Scale Company, explained that the main distinction between the SMA and the new ISWM Manufacturers Division lies in each entity’s area of focus. “SMA is legislative-focused, consisting of mainly larger manufacturers who deal with NCWM positions, issues and enforcement. ISWM is focused on the dealer/distributor marketing channel and has a broader membership including weights and measures officials, resellers of various types and also manufacturers, whose participation is focused on doing business and elevating the science of weighing among its members.” Rudolph Kolaci, president of Totalcomp Scales & Components, agreed that the “ISWM Manufacturers Division will be different from the SMA by satisfying the needs of the manufacturers other than the legal and technical issues that the SMA focuses on.” Woodward added that ISWM manufacturer members already support ISWM by providing hospitality, professional speakers, education, executive talent (as in leadership) and participation through exhibits and table top displays.
Considering ISWM’s reasoning for the new division, Woodward believes that as the industry has become more fragmented—both in range of products, how they are marketed and distribution schemes—many manufacturer members already do business in various capacities. He noted that one good example of this is load cell manufacturers who also sell load cells to OEM manufacturers, as well as dealer/distributor resellers. “As the result of my ISWM friendships, our company has been referred many times by others for items they could not provide—subsequently, we have produced hundreds of private label digital indicators at the OEM level for many others. In addition, we have sourced load cells, scoreboards, test weights, load cell simulators and many other items from fellow ISWM members.” In other words, these networking relationships provide niche opportunities for smaller manufacturers to do business.
Woodward definitely thinks this new Manufacturers Division will play a key role in the future of ISWM. He described how, in the past, ISWM was driven by the reseller dealer/distributor members to whom the suppliers sold products. But as routes to the market have become more fragmented (often driven by creatively destructive, online and catalog marketing schemes), so has ISWM members’ fortunes and commitments changed. “Our membership challenges have reflected these changes,” he added. George Williamson, IT of Greenville Scale and secretary treasurer for the Southeastern Division of ISWM, agreed, “The fact is, we rely on the manufacturers heavily in the weights and measures industry and having them in the ISWM gives us a channel to directly influence some of what they are making and planning.”
But Kolaci is a bit more tempered in his assessment. “The Manufacturers Division should not play a key role for ISWM. We have always focused on the dealer and we will continue to do so, but the Manufacturers Division will offer additional benefits that should keep the current manufacturer members.”
Both Woodward and Kolaci agree that today, the driver of ISWM is weighted more towards the suppliers with the following objectives:
• Marketing opportunities—due to the efficiency and effectiveness of group meetings vs. individual customer visits;
• Education—service schools and training (with the exception of a few larger manufacturers) are no longer economically feasible—so it is an efficient way for people to get hands-on experience with vendors products, build relationships and receive programming targeted toward education and professionalism;
• Networking relationships;
Executive development by participating in leadership roles;
• Anecdotal wisdom shared in a relaxed, social setting.
“As the manufacturers/producers become more vital to the future of ISWM, we may have specific input to the board that emphasizes our unique needs,” Woodward added.
Some in the scale industry have observed a significant decrease in independent scale dealers. Since this demographic that ISWM has historically focused on helping seems to be fading (and perhaps even disappearing), it would appear that manufacturers are becoming more of a priority for ISWM—and its new Manufacturers Division seems to validate this. Woodward offered an answer to this theory: “It is as simple as this—where there are people, manufacturers will participate. Every stakeholder benefits by a healthy and flourishing ISWM—so as long as there is an economic benefit (a business case) to participation, ISWM will be supported by producers looking for a channel to market their products.” He noted that this newly-invigorated division provides just one more aspect for members to participate. Similarly, Kolaci also thinks that dealer/distributor resellers will always be the primary focus of ISWM. “And in the end, all relationships are personal—you simply cannot develop connections from the security of your cave!”
Williamson disagrees because he personally has not seen the independent scale dealer fade or disappear. “Plus, nobody puts all of their eggs in one basket—so I have not found one manufacturer that has a complete solution for any and all situations that a scale distributor/dealer can find themselves in.”
Yet Woodward and Williamson do agree that that this new division of manufacturers may increase the attendance at the 2018 Conference and Expo. “The manufacturers can help bring in or influence their dealers and distributors to become more active with ISWM—so it can now be a conduit between the manufacturers and the dealers/distributors,” said Williamson. Woodward further explained, “We will be drawing in smaller manufacturers and new people from the larger ones who might not otherwise participate. As we get to know each other, we can tap into specific knowledge to help provide programming for future meetings.” In other words, by teaming up, smaller players can gain market and industry exposure they might otherwise never have. “The experience of participating is in itself, developing the next generation of leaders—anything that brings participation benefits all of us,” he added.
Finally, Woodward stated that in the next five to 10 years, the scale industry will experience a tremendous turnover of talent and wisdom through attrition and retirement. Because of this, there is a sense of urgency to educate and develop the next generation of leaders from all aspects of the business. “There are many issues unique to producers and many occasions to take advantage of business opportunities through my ISWM connections. The new focus of the Manufacturers Division will provide a new balance and platform for issues unique to producers.” Kolaci added, “The Manufacturers Division is a new, fresh step to improve the ISWM—we want to make it more relevant to all our members, not only the dealers.” All three agreed that ultimately, all business is relationship-oriented. “ISWM’s Manufacturers Division provides one more opportunity to grease the wheels of commerce in our small industry,” concluded Woodward.
For those of you whose interest has been roused, you can learn more about the ISWM organization by visiting their new website: www.iswm.org.
You can read more of Christopher’s work at www.cussat.com.