Once the role of the fax machine diminished and the dialog between electrical contractors and their wholesalers went electronic, the associated “e” language used to communicate became, and continues to become, increasingly important. Simply put: efficient and accurate bid creation can only happen when both parties speak the same language.
With the rise in electronic communications, more and more wholesale distributors have begun populating their ERP systems, catalogs, and web stores with product data from IDEA’s Industry Data Warehouse (IDW), a database which houses product and pricing data in one place and one standardized electronic format. In fact, more than 4,200 distributor locations use the IDW today. IDEA is the eBusiness standards body of the electrical industry, founded though a partnership between the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) to ensure that all channel partners could transact business efficiently from the same product data playbook.
One of the challenges from the contractors’ side is the patchwork of product databases that come with most estimating software products. These software tools provide only a limited number of items and may not include the manufacturer lines required or desired for a given project. As a result, contractors may input their own data or import product data from sources not confirmed as accurate by their distributor and manufacturer trading partners. With inconsistencies or out-of-date descriptions, UPCs, part numbers, and spec sheets come mistakes that cost money and slow down the process.
To help solve this dilemma, IDEA has partnered with ElectricSmarts Network to make the manufacturer-authorized IDW data available from within the contractors’ estimating software. Esmarts’ NetPak serves as the exclusive “Rosetta Stone”, providing contractors access to 2.4 million products and related product information from the IDW, including images and data sheets. Contractors can search product data from their distributors’ websites through ElectricSmarts’ branded Content Packages and Smart eCat, or in the field with the Esmarts’ Mobile App. Esmarts’ NetPak also allows contractors to get manufacturer list prices and synchronize their project material lists with their preferred distributor partners. Most importantly, product information is available directly from within contractors’ estimating software, where projects are specified.
The IDEA – ElectricSmarts Network relationship is designed to bring the industry’s manufacturer-authorized product data to the contractor and other end users for the benefit of the entire channel. Esmarts’ NetPak, populated with data from the IDW, is the only source of product data that is authored and updated directly by the manufacturers themselves. And it’s the only product information that is endorsed by NEMA, who identified IDEA as the electrical industry’s preferred source for timely, synchronized manufacturer-supplied product data. Contractors now have a “gateway” that provides the ability to reach right into the IDW, grab their favorite manufacturer products on the fly, and add them to a bid or material list. This means that if manufacturers succeed in promoting the benefits of their products to the contractor, the manufacturer-authorized IDW product data is only a click away.
Having the same IDW product data reside in both the distributor’s and contractor’s database allows each to speak the same language. Retrieving product information and pricing and synchronizing the contractor’s needs to a distributor’s on-hand stock becomes quicker, smarter, and more efficient. Greater efficiency and speed results in accurate bids, increased sales, and more “cha-ching” for everybody. Yes, estimates do indeed go better when bid partners speak the same language. IDEA’s Industry Data Warehouse and The ElectricSmarts Network, with Esmarts’ NetPak, are making that happen.