years, members of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM)
and the Vacuum Cleaner Manufacturers Association (VCMA) cooperated on matters
of interest to both parties, such as regulations and government relations
and engineering and technical issues.
In the past, AHAM's membership
comprised manufacturers of major appliances, small electrics, and industry
suppliers, until recently, when the Association changed its bylaws
to allow manufacturers of floor care appliances to join it in a newly
created floor care division.
Joe McGuire, AHAM president,
told me that the reasons for expanding AHAM membership to include floor
care manufacturers are several. Many current AHAM members that also
produce floor care appliances, in addition to major or portable appliances,
initiated the change to AHAM's product scope, he said. "Up until
this year, we were not able to say that vacuum cleaners were part of
our product scope. The logic was questioned by many, including our
members, who thought that floor care was a natural fit under the AHAM
scope. As the list of regulatory and technical issues impacting appliance
makers has multiplied, a number of vacuum cleaner manufacturers urged
AHAM to extend its issue management services to these products.
There are great synergies
among current member manufacturers and floor care manufacturers, particularly
with budding energy and environmental requirements and safety standards.
As you know, the major appliance making associations in Canada, Europe,
and Mexico include vacuum cleaners."
This step is significant
for two reasons," Mr. McGuire said. "First, it offers an
important value proposition to manufacturers of floor care appliances.
AHAM's core services - technical standards work, legislative and regulatory
advocacy, market data, and communications will be available to assist
floor care members. And they can provide influence on emerging issues
such as indoor air quality, standby power, and product safety. Second,
this move is an important step in carrying out AHAM's strategic plan
to be the preferred association for the home appliance producing industry."
The move was not well received
by representatives of VCMA, which, since 1913, has represented manufacturers
of household electric floor care products. Its members account for
the vast majority of vacuum cleaner sales in North America. VCMA has
seen its share of changes within the past year: It hired Thomas & Associates
as its first professional manager in its history, created issues committees,
and redesigned and updated its web site.
When asked about the impact
that AHAM's new division may have on VCMA, Charles Stockinger of Thomas & Associates
told me, "I believe that it is fair to say that a number of our
members are most definitely not happy about the generally unexpected,
unwelcome, and hostile initiative launched by AHAM. A similar initiative
was thoroughly reviewed with VCMA's consent, by our Board, about 2
years ago during the management transition resulting from Cliff Wood's
retirement. [Mr. Wood previously was executive vice president of VCMA
before Thomas & Associates]. After careful deliberation, the Board
decisively turned AHAM down, largely because of the enormous increase
in cost such a move would mean in terms of a dues increase, while becoming
a relatively small subset of AHAM. AHAM also has relatively little
experience with this industry or its products, or the VCMA's programs
and activities, compared to current management, which is in a much
better position to focus undivided attention on the industry and VCMA's
When all is said and done,
he added, VCMA doesn't believe its members will be confused about which
association to belong. "The choice is pretty clear, and very much
the same as it was 2 years ago," he said.
VCMA amended its bylaws that resulted in three changes to membership. However,
Mr. Stockinger said the changes resulted from a year-long planning project
and analysis, and not from the AHAM initiative.
Companies are now eligible
for VCMA membership if they manufacture or market vacuum cleaners into
the North American market. Previously, Full members had to have manufacturing
facilities in North America. In addition, the requirement to manufacture "residential" vacuums
has been eliminated so that products intended for commercial use will
also be covered within the scope of VCMA. Lastly, an Associate member
category of industry suppliers has been established.
Bud Kirkpatrick, president
of H-P Products, Inc. and current VCMA president, said that the expansion
of VCMA will "allow VCMA to better address issues in the marketplace
and speak with a greater industry voice.
Traditional U.S. or North
American based manufacturing trade associations, which have been the
norm for many years, are responding to broader marketplace issues by
changes such as the ones recently made by VCMA. By interacting with
a broader manufacturing and marketing base and working more closely
with suppliers, the industry's ability to respond to various issues
and provide the greatest value to its membership will be greatly enhanced."
Mr. McGuire said he urges
all floor care manufacturers, whether involved in a trade group or
not, to consider the value represented in AHAM. The first AHAM floor
care division meeting will be held this month, in conjunction with
AHAM's annual meeting from April 6-8 in Washington, D.C., U.S. At that
time, Mr. McGuire said, floor care members and prospective members
will be presented the full plan for providing services to this new
division. Should the division want similar representation and services
as the major and portable appliance divisions, AHAM said it will be
ready to serve them. "We are dedicated, equipped to deliver, and
are prepared to act as the eyes and ears and voice of the entire home
appliance producing industry," he said.
While both Associations offer
many benefits to floor care manufacturers, such as technical and standards
programs, state and national regulatory monitoring, and interaction
with key executives in the industry and allied associations, the question
must be asked: Is there room for two trade associations representing
floor care manufacturers, and if not, which can best serve the floor
care manufacturing industry?