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Jim Lucy2012 770 5fb826948bc03

Everything New Under the Sun

Nov. 17, 2020
Here’s a glimpse of what the electrical market will look like when the COVID-19 gloom lifts.

A big part of the process for putting together EW’s Market Planning Guide each year is analyzing forecast data. I always come away from this endeavor feeling the pain of other prognosticators that also sweat out their assessments about the future, whether it be publishing other sales forecasts like EW’s, or forecasts for what’s going to happen with the weather, elections, sports or the stock market. In the end, all you can do is all you can do: give it your very best effort, trust your process, double check your math and hope like heck that what you publish ultimately reflects reality.

The fascinating part about forecasting is that other folks are doing all they can to publish a realistic forecast about the same topic, but they can come up with dramatically different results. As we discuss in this year’s Market Planning Guide, there’s no clearer example of this than the highly respected Consensus Construction Forecast published annually by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). It blends the forecasts of eight of the very best construction economists in the game for the most important types of construction activity. But more often than not some of these economists come up with different assessments of the market.

For example, AIA’s 2021 Consensus Construction Forecast for the all-important nonresidential construction category was a  -4.8% decline in 2021, but one panelist saw a decline of -1.4%, while another pegged the decline at -9.4%.

Aside from sales forecasts, what is the electrical market really going to look like in 2021? In my previous “Times and Trends” columns, I discussed how Zoom teleconferencing and working from home are here stay; the migration from cities to suburbs and more rural areas; and the potential for a rather steep decline in the need for office space in the urban core.

Beyond these trends, I see some other changes around the next bend. Despite the dramatic declines in business activity over the past year, the pace of new product development and maturation of new ideas for how to do business has not stopped. While I am not going to say any of the following new developments will impact our industry like Zoom teleconferencing, I will venture out on a limb a little bit and tell you the following products and new ideas might be worth exploring.

A new generation of robots. Robots? Yep. Industrial and automation distributors may see some new types of robots out on the factory floor. ABB has acquired Codian Robotics, a provider of delta robots, which are used primarily for “high-precision pick-and-place applications” such as in the food processing industry (See “Newswatch,” page 6, for more details). The ABB Robotics & Discrete Automation business unit has shipped over 400,000 robot solutions.

 Apparently, most robots are not designed to touch food, but the Codian robots reportedly don’t have those limitations. Sami Atiya, president of ABB Robotics & Discrete Automation,  said in a press release  that  an already  growing need for robots that ensure high hygienic standards was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The solar-battery storage solution. While many distributors may have already made a decision to pass or play with solar, the maturation of on-site battery storage technology is eliminating the problem of where to put the power solar panels produce if it’s not immediately needed by the facility, and you can’t feed it back onto the grid. Tesla is building out its PowerWall battery storage technology from its base in the home to utility-scale applications, and  Generac is now in the solar power storage market with its PWRcell.

Next-generation vendor-managed inventory (VMI).  Need an idea of what may be the next step in VMI? Check out Storeroom Logix’s take on  VMI, which combines the latest VMI software, labeling and on-site ordering tools with vending machines and  lockers to provide customers with a one-stop solution for inventory management.

EW’s editors hope you enjoy our 2021 Market Planning Guide and our picks for the markets and new ideas that  may provide your company with new sales opportunities in 2021.

About the Author

Jim Lucy | Editor-in-Chief of Electrical Wholesaling and Electrical Marketing

Jim Lucy has been wandering through the electrical market for more than 40 years, most of the time as an editor for Electrical Wholesaling and Electrical Marketing newsletter, and as a contributing writer for EC&M magazine During that time he and the editorial team for the publications have won numerous national awards for their coverage of the electrical business. He showed an early interest in electricity, when as a youth he had an idea for a hot dog cooker. Unfortunately, the first crude prototype malfunctioned and the arc nearly blew him out of his parents' basement.

Before becoming an editor for Electrical Wholesaling  and Electrical Marketing, he earned a BA degree in journalism and a MA in communications from Glassboro State College, Glassboro, NJ., which is formerly best known as the site of the 1967 summit meeting between President Lyndon Johnson and Russian Premier Aleksei Nikolayevich Kosygin, and now best known as the New Jersey state college that changed its name in 1992 to Rowan University because of a generous $100 million donation by N.J. zillionaire industrialist Henry Rowan. Jim is a Brooklyn-born Jersey Guy happily transplanted with his wife and three sons in the fertile plains of Kansas for the past 30 years. 

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