What do you do if you can’t hold your trade event due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic? While most events have been cancelled and rescheduled for 2021, the Independent Welding Distributors Cooperative (IWDC) chose to hold its Sales and Purchasing Convention virtually online for its members.

The IWDC, a corporation focused on leveraging the strengths of its independent welding distributor members across North America, had been due to hold the event in Louisville, Kentucky on 9th-11th June, and to be attended by around 500 members.

But restrictions due to Covid-19 has meant most trade events this year from March have been cancelled. Rather than see its Sales and Purchasing Convention go the same way, the IWDC reinvented it into a three-day webinar series. Each day, six different gold sponsors presented a 30-minute segment to members watching online via Zoom.

Erica Janas, Director of Marketing at the IWDC, said at the start of day two, “What we are looking to do is drive content. As the first virtual event for our industry we’ve developed a platform from which learning from our vendors can happen real time from the comfort of your home office. In the coming year we will see the rollout of the Product Information Management System. I commit to you that with the implementation of these new tools at our location and yours, we can develop the Weldmark and PurityPlus brands more robustly and help you meet your market needs.”

Some of the sponsors used their time to go through a PowerPoint presentation, while others put together a video along with a short, live question-and-answer section at the end of it.

Superior Products, the first presentation of the event, produced an entertaining video based around a news bulletin to guide members through its latest product releases. Show specials were included in a ‘breaking news’ section of Superior Products’ presentation which also included a tour around the facility to check in with cleaning, assembly, testing and packaging.

Allyson Kostalnick, Sales and Marketing Manager at Superior Products was the news anchor during the presentation and she said during the Q&A section: “We did prioritise in April and May with our medical fittings. We are caught up and we are working hard on the industrial side. Any show orders we are expecting to ship out this week and next week.”

Surewerx/Jackson Safety outlined its new products which included the Maxview face shield, designed to have one of the largest viewing ranges in the industry.

Weldcoa’s presentation

Weldcoa’s presentation focused on carbon dioxide (CO2) system products it is offering for extraction applications. Bob Ranc, Director of Sales, led the presentation on Weldcoa’s capabilities in CO2 and supercritical CO2. The Illinois-based company can supply supercritical CO2 from bulk storage tanks up to approximately 6000 psi at fixed or variable flow rates, and it can supply high pressure CO2 in gas phase from bulk storage tanks up to approximately 1100 psi at fixed or variable flow rates. Typical applications include bulk tank to extraction equipment, controlled atmosphere packing for packaging and R&D and testing applications.

Growing industries in need of a large volume supply of CO2 to their equipment include essential oils and herbal distillates, CBD and cannabis, precious metals, machining and drilling, medical and pharmaceutical. Weldcoa also explained how it designed and installed a supercritical CO2 supply system for Stryker in Cork, Ireland.

Ranc said, “Weldcoa has developed equipment and controls to supply CO2 to our customers in a wide range of states from gas to liquid to supercritical. We meet our customers’ requirements by determining the best system design using a variety of equipment: bulk storage tanks, pumps, vaporisers, receivers, specially designed controls. As an UL certified facility, we perform all electrical production and automation development, and build and wire all of our own automated control panels in-house in order to provide consistent quality, fit and finish for our clients.”

Harris’ presentation

Harris Products Group’s Industrial Sales Manager Patrick Fagerquist ran through Harris’ extensive line of gas delivery systems for industrial and specialty gas applications. Ohio-based Harris can custom design manifolds for any application. Fagerquist also described some interesting recent trends and outlined Harris’ Covid-19 response, which included stocking its high-pressure oxygen panel.

“We still have 35 panels in stock just in case,” Fagerquist said.

Victor Gas Equipment, an ESAB brand, began with a Q&A section before a slick video of its power line-up. Billal Hammoud, President - Americas at ESAB, gave an interesting insight into how ESAB has been impacted by coronavirus.

He said, “You can see from results across the industry that the impact of Covid-19 was even felt across the first quarter. April wasn’t any better and hopefully it was the worst month. In the mountain states we don’t see the impact as big as some other areas like New York City and its surroundings. As well as Covid, there are some underlying economics that are working with Covid-19. For those of you that are close to the oil and gas industry, certainly the exploration part of it, that was slowing down with or without Covid-19. We are seeing a lot of automotive customers come back, it’s a question of how quickly they can ramp up. Other industries, there are some bright sparks, obviously anything related to healthcare and medical gases, that’s going quite well. We see strength in our pressure regulator business and anything related to oxygen and some bright sparks related to some alternative energies and related to government work.”

At the end of each day’s session there was a Member-led workshop, led by Distribution Centers, Taylor-Wharton and Weldmark by Norton.