A Major Service Change For
Key Data Vendor
The history of Trade Service –
which dates back to the 1930s – is about data; key facts and
valuable numbers that can make or break a business. While the world
entered “the information economy” in perhaps the 1990s, this company
seemingly had it scoped out decades earlier.
In 2009, it took new steps to bring
electrical contractors more information, in even-more-attractive
formats and services, than ever before. Thanks to the company’s
TRA-SER SX and Supplier Xchange products, it has a firm grip on
helping its customers get the information they want – faster,
better, and easier.
“Back in 2007, we decided to take
our TRA-SER platform and move it beyond the CDs we were sending,”
recalled Tod Moore, Vice President of sales. “We launched TRA-SER
SX, which supplies the same information via the Internet, in January
2009. And we also offer Supplier Xchange, which is the way we
connect our contractors with their distributor partners.
“Now, contractors can get
information from us electronically, and we can help them get faster
information from their trading partners – so they can, quickly and
easily, get more accurate prices in their bids.”
Essentially, TRA-SER SX took the
company from shipping CDs (with updated pricing data) to subscribing
contractors to providing that same information computer-to-computer
via the Internet. Result: Updating pricing databases is faster and
easier for subscribing contractors. Supplier Xchange, an
accompanying feature within the product, allows contractors
preparing bids to get prices directly from one or more of their
All this is relevant at this moment
not just because Trade Service is speaking at the McCormick Systems
User’s Conference. Beyond that important mid-March appearance, the
data vendor promises that more is coming – and that it will add more
value for contractors as well.
with the change
McCormick Systems “now has a
tighter interface with our products than ever before,” claimed John
Henry, Director of Business Development for Trade Service. “One
thing McCormick did was to leverage the relationship we’ve
established with NECA."
“One thing we do differently now –
which McCormick has put to work for its customers – involves NECA’s
Manual of Labor Units. It’s available for full view inside of
TRA-SER (through a separate subscription from NECA), and we’ve
tagged the individual units. McCormick has put that to its
customers’ advantage by pulling those labor units into its own
database. Now, the contractor who subscribes to TRA-SER SX and is a
McCormick user has an on-going way of tracking those labor rates."
“That’s a tremendous gain for the
contractor, in terms of time and ease-of-use. Before, the McCormick
user had to sit down with the Manual and figure out what had
Additionally, McCormick’s “hot
link” between the product database each user of its system has in
the computer and Trade Service’s repository of 2 million product
items can come in handy. “If a McCormick user is doing an estimate
and looking for an item that’s not in the McCormick database, they
can now instantly query TRA-SER SX, and electronically pull it right
into McCormick.” explained Henry.
Trade Service tracks use of the SX
service, which is in its infancy; roughly 3,000 contractors are
using it; there are 2,700 distributor locations involved as well. In
October 2009, $121 million worth of bids were prepared using SX, a
figure that rose to $171 million this past January, according to
“What we’re seeing is that the
adoption rate is increasing by 100 to 200 contractor customers a
month,” said Moore. “Within 12 months of launch, it is gaining a lot
“Our advantage – the ‘secret sauce’
that makes SX work for the contractors – is the product database we
maintain. When a contractor is estimating and develops the list of
materials to be used in that job (for example, 100 items), he sends
that list out to one or more distributors. He expects to get prices
for as many of those items as possible back. For those that come
back without prices, there’s manual work involved."
“SX is typically providing an 80%
to 90% match right now, which is better than services that were out
there previously, and it’s entirely thanks to our database and our
ability to automatically suggest viable substitutes for missing
items by tapping into our database of over 200,000 product
alternates. By working with the distributors and getting price files
in here, and matching them up with our database, we already had in
place what is necessary to make such a pricing match-up really
Moore and Henry said the Internet
hook-up between the company and its contractor subscribers, upon
which TRA-SER SX and Supplier Xchange capitalize, opens additional
new vistas. “We see tremendous opportunities to develop and offer
new products and new modules to the contractors,” Moore revealed.
“We can build them right off of TRA-SER SX. We’re working on it now
and, while we can’t be specific, there will be new releases coming
later in 2010.”
An example, perhaps? “Last year, we
released a product called Trade Leads,” Henry offered. “It’s a
feature within TRA-SER SX. A contractor can now get daily lead
information on government-type projects in his area. We partnered
with a respected source to funnel that information, electronically,
via the Internet, to our customers.”
Pointing to what’s ahead, Moore
adds: “Also, in the very near future, TRA-SER SX will provide
contractors the means to electronically produce and communicate
project submittals and even help streamline their procurement
process. That’s what we’re trying to do with TRA-SER SX on the
Internet: provide the user with vital information tools they can use
in their daily jobs, all in one spot.”
That “one spot” is a company that
began on its mission of providing data on paper in 1931 (and still
does disseminate electrical product information on paper, strangely
enough). Obviously, the electrical industry’s information future is,
while exciting and fresh, still tightly linked with its past.
McCormick System's CAD Estimating works
with the latest verison of AutoCad 2010
Health Care: Something To Think About
Not suitable for medical use - electrical safety testing under
. . . is one heck of a looooong article on the
IAEI website. Among other quotes:
1. Can computer and
non-certified equipment in hospitals kill patients?
2. What is leakage current and how
does it directly affect the human body?
3. Why is certain equipment not suitable for medical use?
Not counting the 17 references, the article is 5,650 words long (I
kid you not). And yet: If you go anywhere near healthcare
installations, or if you think you might ever be in a hospital, you
certainly should read through this.
I am NOT paid by IAEI. To give you a flavor for what you would miss
if you do not hit that link above and spend some time with this,
here's the amazingly horrible-to-think-about lead on the piece:
- - - - -
You’re on the operating table, the surgery is almost over. The
procedure has gone well. The doctors and nurses are walking in
liquid on the floor covered with antiseptic, your blood, and other
As your doctor is making the final repairs, a nurse is at the
computer typing in some data; then she turns to assist the doctor,
steadying herself with one hand on the computer monitor.
As she touches the doctor, the faulty PC sends its stray current
through both of them and directly into your heart. They feel almost
nothing, but you are especially vulnerable and in a few seconds,
it’s too late, the damage has been done.
. . . and while we're on the subject
of medical-slash-electrical, CSE magazine posted a piece, 1,448
words + an illo -- Selective coordination of breakers in hospitals.
The first paragraph here:
Imagine you are in intensive care in
a hospital and your breathing is being assisted by an electrically
operated ventilator that is quietly humming next to your bed.
Suddenly the humming ceases because the ventilator has stopped
working, and you begin struggling for air.
The ventilator begins again for a few seconds—and then stops
This frightening situation was reality for a number of patients at
one hospital. This article describes a hospital power outage and
discusses what could have been done to prevent it.
. . . which might lead you to ask, WHY THE HECK ARE ALL OF THESE
STRANGERS TRYING TO SCARE THE DICKENS OUT OF ME? Is it Halloween or
|The EC Biz In
"One of the greatest opportunities
currently for electrical contractors to gain new business is to
become familiar with the new technologies that conserve power in
both the industrial and domestic sectors . . . "
. . . sound familiar? It's from the
director of the Electrical Contractors Association of South Africa
An interesting piece: "When the recession ends, the electrical
contractors industry will still be faced with serious skills
shortages." I believe that's going to happen here in the U.S., too.
CHRIS GREAGER National director of the Electrical Contractors Association of South Africa
What's Green -- And What Ain't
When you hold yourself up for
praise, you also harvest a slew of rotten vegetables thrown in your
direction. That's what has happened with the USGBC's LEED for Homes
program, in an article -- Green home award winners flunk walkability test --
from USA Today.
The article quotes the Treehugger blog extensively. You may or might
not empathize with the greenies, but I think what follows is not
about sustainability, or attacking USGBC, etc. -- it is, instead,
simple common sense:
think that, if we're going to highlight not just certified
projects but award winners deemed to be the very best, we should
select more of them in high-performing (or, jeez, just better
than average) sites?
is that the added environmental benefit of the residences'
laudable green features will be offset by the environmental
damage caused by the sites' automobile dependence, poor
environment for walking, and relative distance from jobs, shops
result is that the public, the building industry, and policy
makers will continue to be misled about how best to achieve true
environmental performance in our built environment.
"Walkability" refers to the idea
that if you have to drive everywhere to do whatever (including,
even, exercise), your house ain't green.