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HRAI Survey Provides Insight Into Industry E-Business Direction

The results of the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) E-Business Member Survey conducted in June of 2002 were presented to the attendees at the 34th HRAI Annual Meeting in Mont Tremblant, Quebec last month. Research consultant David Lang of Lang Research reviewed the highlights of the survey with over 140 member delegates at a special plenary session.

The survey was mailed out to approximately 750 manufacturers, wholesalers, and contractors who were current members of HRAI. In total, 211 responded to the survey or 28%, which is considered a very good response rate for a survey of this kind, according to Lang. The 211 responses included 159 contractors, 15 wholesalers, and 37 manufacturers. The geographic location and size of business of the respondents also showed a good cross section of members from all parts of the country and from all categories of business size.

The survey covered attitudes towards e-business, current usage of computers and e-business solutions, the current use of e-business to communicate with suppliers and customers, and barriers to adopting e-business solutions.

Concerning member attitudes, the survey results indicated that the most important reasons for implementing e-business solutions were to "save time and money" and "communicate with suppliers and employees." Over 30% of respondents also strongly agreed that HRAI could play an important role in e-business for the industry. From an industry sector and company size standpoint, larger companies in the wholesaler and manufacturer sectors were logically more receptive to e-business solutions versus smaller companies and those in the contractor sector.

An overwhelming number of respondents (94%) use PC Windows operating systems in their businesses and over 80% have upgraded their operating system in the last two years. The most common business activities conducted on computer are accounting (ledger, accounts receivable/accounts payable, invoicing, payroll, inventory), customer database, and project management.

The most common e-business tools used are e-mail, Internet, and cell phones. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of respondents have a website and 20% of these sites are e-commerce enabled. The main business activities for which members use e-business services when communicating with suppliers and customers are obtaining product literature, sourcing potential suppliers, obtaining quotes, placing orders and shipment status (suppliers), and product promotion, obtaining customer leads, and providing quotes/contracts (customers).

When questioned about the barriers to adoption of e-business solutions for their company, the most prevalent barrier was lack of need followed by lack of knowledge, affording the capital expenditure, and not understanding the benefits of e-business solutions for the company. Of the members who noted "lack of need" in their survey response, 54% were contractors, 20% were wholesalers, and 46% were manufacturers. Of the members that noted "cannot afford capital expenditure," 23% were contractors, 40% were wholesalers, and 11% were manufacturers.

The HRAI E-Business Task Team will be meeting in October to review the results of the survey and continue with its objectives approved by the members at the 2002 National Assembly. Members who would like an electronic version of the complete survey results (in Microsoft PowerPoint) should contact Warren Heeley at 800-267-2231 or e-mail

Publication date: 10/28/2002

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