Exploring the Future of the Industry





NAED has convened a group of committed leaders to explore the future of the industry. Known as the Futures Group, its mission is to support NAED’s strategic plan by investigating emerging opportunities and threats in our industry. The Futures Group will fulfill its mission by curating discussions and creating content about the future of electrical distribution. Visit this page and subscribe to our email list below to stay informed about upcoming discussions and how you can participate.

The Futures Group looks at the future through the lens of major societal and economic trends:

Technological    •    Demographic    •     Political    •     Channel

The Futures Group endeavors to learn about the impact of emerging trends not only on distributors, but on our supplier and customer partners.

Each month, the Futures Group will host what we call Office Hours (see below). These are one-hour Zoom-based discussions with thought leaders where you can participate. Office Hours are open to NAED members and the public at no cost.

For more information about the purpose of the Futures Group and to get connected, click here.




February 16, 2023
1:00 - 2:00 PM CT

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(click image below for more info)

Click here to read the latest article.

Can blockchain-enabled “smart contracts” bring visibility, accountability, and efficiency to construction projects? Blockchain is a technology that enables a record of transactions from origin to finish, across all parties and intermediaries, with data added as helpful for any purpose and offering radical accountability and transparency. For the construction industry, that means making the terms of a contract visible to anyone, and as the project is completed, performance is added to the record. Moreover, the contracts are “self-executing” which could revolutionize cash flow and risk management. While this may seem difficult to imagine today, it is the kind of radical thinking that could bring badly needed innovation to the construction industry.

Join us for an explanation of smart contracts, blockchain, and the future of doing business in the construction industry with construction law expert, Trent Cotney. We will explore how the construction industry may modernize for the digital age, fend off disruption, and better manage the adversarial nature of doing business that holds back gains in customer satisfaction and industry productivity.



March 16, 2023
1:00 - 2:00 PM CT

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Where's my stuff? This is the eternal question asked by customers. And given the ongoing supply chain crisis, the answer is often not what the customer wants to hear.

Looking ahead there are more critical questions on the horizon that every distributor must explore:

  • Will digital tools, data, and analytics empower buyers to exert more power and extract more value from suppliers?
  • Will solutions for visibility to price, location, and condition of purchases change how procurement operates?
  • Will procurement professionals source knowledge to run their business in addition to products?
  • Is the Chief Procurement Officer role on the rise, signaling a more strategic and influential role for procurement?
  • Will startups and disrupters embrace the future and flank distributors?

Join us to explore these questions and many more as we explore the future of procurement, thinking beyond today to what may happen in the future. Bring your ideas and experiences, and we'll tackle these questions together as we help distributors master the future of procurement.




April 20, 2023
1:00 - 2:00 PM CT

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When making plans to build the right talent in their organizations, many distributors think first about the need to become a digital company competing on data, analytics, and artificial intelligence. Digital commerce is a top priority. But is this view misguided? Can distributors compete on talent by aligning their companies with enabling the needs and aspirations of the ultimate users, members of the skilled trades?

Our society has noticed that contractors, technicians, truckers, and more are in short supply. Skilled workers are the core of the middle class and sometimes struggle to generate and earn wealth for their personal needs and to power our economy. Digital trends are sometimes disintermediating their roles and, at all times, transforming their job.

How can distributors take the lead and enable the future of skilled workers? Can we work with local colleges to provide work experiences and a ready pool of talent? Can distributors work with suppliers to train workers for a digital future? Can a hyper-focus on skilled workers as our primary customer build a servant culture and identify innovation opportunities?

Join us for a first-hand look at the troubles and opportunities faced by skilled trades and a robust discussion about what that means for the future of electrical distribution.



May 18, 2023
1:00 - 2:00 PM CT

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June 8, 2023
1:00 - 2:00 PM CT

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This meeting was held January 12, 2023.  

Ed Orlet led an engaging discussion with Saravanan Kesavan, Professor of Operations at the Kenan Flager School of Business at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and Liberty Advisors Group’s Chad Smith, Founding Partner and CEO, Scott Albrecht, Chief Technology Officer, RJ Deaton, and Brad Holtzman, on thinking about the hardest decisions you need to make for your business, the quality of the data you currently have, and if solutions like AI or machine learning can help you find solutions to those problems.


This meeting was held in December, 2022. Click the image to the right for more information. 


The Federal Government has plans to invest $369 billion in clean energy programs over the next decade. At least $20 billion will be spent promoting electric vehicle adoption. Many of our key suppliers are making sizable bets on the Electric Vehicle Supply Infrastructure (EVSI) market. What are the opportunities for distributors?

Building on a conversation with Global Geopolitical Strategist Peter Zeihan, NAED’s Ed Orlet and the Network for Business Innovation’s Mark Dancer had an open industry discussion on the EVSI market and what it means for distributors. Watch this short video for an overview of what would be included in the discussion.

Watch this video and/or download presentations (1, 2) from the meeting.

Here are two articles from Mark Dancer that helped facilitate the discussion:

→Powering the future of business
→A new business model for a new age



This meeting was held November 10, 2022. Click the image to the right for more information. 

Building on our conversation with DigiKey’s Eric Wendt, Ed Orlet and Mark Dancer opened dialog on how we can compete with and/or leverage marketplaces to offer the next generation of our customers the purchasing experience they expect.

Here are two articles from Mark Dancer, Distribution Futurist and advisor to the NAED Futures Group, that helped facilitate the discussion:

→Platforms, networks, and the future of distribution
→Digital Platforms - Your newest opportunity



This meeting has ended. Click here for an overview

Building on our discussion with United Electric Supply CEO George Vorwick, we dug deeper into how supplier strategies are evolving and how distributors need to evolve to maximize the value they provide downstream and upstream.

Here are two articles from Mark Dancer, Distribution Futurist and advisor to the NAED Futures Group, that were pertinent to the discussion:

→Creating a value chain for the digital age    
→Manufacturer channel strategies for the digital age






What we're about and how to get connected!

Every distributor knows that it’s hard to work on the future of your business when you are running your business. Under the direction of the NAED Futures Group, task forces work for every member’s benefit.

Current task forces are exploring how supplier go-to-market strategies may evolve as manufacturers adopt eCommerce/ digital technologies and emerging market developments, starting with a look at artificial intelligence (AI).






Futures Group members include:

Paul Kennedy, CEO, Dakota Supply Group
John Harman, CEO, Kendall Electric
John Kerkhove, President, Horizon Solutions
Franklin "Sully" Sullivan, EVP Electrification, ABB
Bill Waltz, President & CEO, Atkore
Darrell Smith, President, IAC Supply Solutions
Steve Blazer, President, Blazer Electric Supply Company
Scott Teerlinck, President & CEO, Crescent Electric Supply Company
David Rosenstein, President & CEO, Connexion