There was a very positive mood among distributors and equipment suppliers at the opening of the 2018 Annual Convention organised by the Gases and Welding Distributors Association (GAWDA) here in Seattle, WA.

GAWDA-annual-2018-2

gasworld used the opportunity of the President’s Welcome Reception at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel on Sunday night to talk to distributors and equipment vendors.

Several distributors said they are experiencing double digit growth in revenues in 2018, which has been unexpected following five to six years of limited and inconsistent growth (see Baird/gasworld survey report).

Whether it is the “Trump Effect” being realised, or whether it is the uptick in the US economy overall, gas distributors are happy.

gasworld asked about the split between gas and welding equipment and gas distributors were seeing solid growth in both.

GAWDA-Annual-2018

GAWDA President Ned Lane addresses the 2018 Annual Convention

Ned Lane, current but outgoing President of GAWDA, welcomed delegates and said, along with his wife Jo Ann, he had been honoured to lead the organisation for the year. He named the officers for the past 2017/8 season, with Brad Peterson (Mississippi Welders) being the President Elect and who will take over from Wednesday, Abydee Butler Moore (Butler Gas Products), the First VP, Bob Ewing (Red Ball Oxygen Company Inc.), the Second VP, and that Mark Raimy and Bill Visintainer were First and Second Past Presidents respectfully. All attended a board meeting earlier on Sunday.

Lane was delighted to announce GAWDA members had raised $147,000 for the GAWDA Gives Back Program, to be split by the two charities chosen: Mary’s Place, that looks after homeless women, children and families in and around Seattle, and also Ronald McDonald House Seattle, which helps families with children in need.

Lane went on to say his plans for his tenure evolved after taking office to address some of the challenges GAWDA faces, such as raising a number of initiatives to strengthen the core (Head Office) of GAWDA, improving the internal processes and adding additional staff to enable this to happen.

Lane wanted to focus on membership value and implemented a continuous process in order to improve the value GAWDA provides its members. He was pleased to announce that membership had risen by a net amount to 291 gas distributor members (21 new) during the year. He recognised they had also lost 12 others and highlighted the challenge to find more members.

Monday morning’s session moved into the first of three guest speakers, the first being John Rossman, a former Amazon executive who presented an insight into the digital economy or the “Internet of Things”.

“Creating digital change” was Rossman’s theme and he spoke about how our industry needed to be aware of the need for change, explaining that digital has two attributes that every company needs to embrace – speed and agility. 

“If you leverage both you will become a digital organisation,” said Rossman.

Rossman reiterated Amazon had become the No.1 supply chain organisation in the world but has a programme for continuous improvement.

“Listen to your customer and optimise the relationship,” Rossman said.

Rossman showed how some of the things Amazon tried to introduce (beta tested) had not worked well enough, such as the Amazon Dash button. However, they continue to innovate and introduce new interfaces, like Amazon Echo, and are now looking at the “integrated experience” by working with industry and partners to improve customer service and experience.

The second speaker was Alex Chausovsky from ITR Economics, which are working with GAWDA Media to provide quarterly reports on the state of the US economy. He recognised that things were buoyant now and that the Industrial Production Index (IPI) for the US will be around 2.9% growth in 2018.

But Chausovsky cautioned that the leading indicators were not positive for 2019; he expects a small slowdown and recession to hit – predicting a -1.2% decline in IP. However, he saw a positive outlook for 2020 and 2021.

Chausovsky also said the current trade tensions between the US and China, as well as some other countries, are having a mixed impact on the US economy.

Steel output has increased with more jobs created, but now the US was staring at an average monthly level of 500,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs. This is bound to have an impact on the industry as a whole and this will also impact on the gas audience in the meeting.

The current US Government is threatening up to $600bn of trade tariffs – and the Chinese are responding by hitting specific areas of trade that will impact hard on some of the manufacturing sectors such as the automotive, airline and industrial machinery.

For planning purposes, Chausovsky advised to pay attention to the tariffs and trade situation, the strengthening of the US dollar, interest rates and inflation (already inflationary pressures – up 10% in logistics).

Chausovsky encouraged gas distributors to prepare for the right size of business in 2019 and then for expansion in 2020/21.

The conference continues and gasworld will provide an update on developments throughout the next few days.