The Historical Journey of the
Industrial Supply Association

It all started in 1902…

The Industrial Supply Association (ISA) has a deep, rich history going back well over 100 years. Through numerous name changes, the association was formed to unite the industrial channel, improve business relations, and promote growth. This still holds true today. It all started in 1902…

The Southern Industrial Distributors Association (SIDA)

The Southern Industrial Distributors Association (SIDA) was organized in Charleston, SC, in 1902 by 19 companies as the Southern Supply & Machinery Dealers’ Association. The new association’s objectives were the promotion of more friendly business relations with both fellow distributors and manufacturers and the promotion of the commercial interests of the supply and machinery business in the South in every possible way.

The association’s first meeting was held in Charleston, SC in April 1902. An annual meeting was held annually every year thereafter.

National Industrial Distributors Association (NIDA) 

National Supply & Machinery Dealers’ Association was founded on February 15, 1905, in Cleveland, OH by 35 mill supply distributors, later renamed the National Industrial Distributors Association (NIDA). Patterned in great part after SIDA, two of the major reasons for forming the group included the need to improve business expertise in the growing industrial economy and improve relations with manufacturers.

The first annual meeting was held February 14 – 16, 1906, in Fortress Monroe, VA. Representatives from 39 of the 75 member-distributors attended, along with representatives from 24 member companies of ASMMA, who were non-member observers.

American Supply and Machinery Manufacturers’ Association (ASMMA)

The American Supply and Machinery Manufacturers’ Association was founded in Cleveland, Ohio on April 25, 1905. ASMMA’s first convention, held in Savannah, GA in 1905, was attended by 160 member companies. The association’s stated purpose was “to promote more cordial relations between the manufacturers of articles handled by the supply and machinery trade, and the members of any supply and machinery dealers’ association of the U.S., and as far as possible to establish the policy of distributing said articles to the users through the recognized channels of said dealers and jobbers.”

To enlist more manufacturers in ASMMA, the association began to market itself. One way to reach to new members was through an industry publication, Mill Supplies (now Industrial Distribution Magazine). It was formed in 1911. Full-page ads promoting ASMMA appealed to “the progressives in the making of machinery and general mill supplies.” In a rare display of cooperation, the three fledgling associations decided to hold a joint distributor/manufacturer convention. The first “Triple Mill”, as it was known, was held in Cincinnati in May 1907 and continued most years from 1907 through the late 1980s.

Industrial Distribution Association (I.D.A.)

The distributor groups, NIDA and SIDA, came to believe that the industry needed a new consolidated association to provide a unified voice for distributors with manufacturers and customers and to provide a faster response to a changing marketplace.

In addition, there were five separate conventions held by regional distributor associations competing for the same attendees and manufacturers’ attention. This model was simply no longer sustainable. From a practical standpoint, convention revenue was the engine that powered the associations. They hoped a combined distributor association could capture the best elements of the various regional conventions and with a larger combined convention budget feature marquee convention speakers such as Colin Powell and John Majors to further increase attendance.

The result was the merger of the two groups into the Industrial Distribution Association (I.D.A.), which began operating on September 1, 1988. The manufacturer’s group, ASMMA, continued as an independent association. Each association held an annual convention that was attended by both distributors and manufacturers; ASMMA, known as the Triple Mill, in the spring and I.D.A. took over the well-attended November convention that the Central States Industrial Distributors Association had previously hosted.

In the early 2000s, it was apparent that the financial stability of each group was threatened by changing marketplace demographics and the emerging use of new digital technologies. It appeared that the two associations were destined to pursue their own vision of how to best serve the industry, thereby competing for the membership dues and convention attendees necessary for future financial viability. As part of ASMMA’s strategy, it rebranded for a brief period as the Industrial Supply Manufacturers Association (ISMA).

Industrial Supply Association (ISA)

Realizing that a strategy of competing associations was not healthy for either the overall industry or the business interests of each member’s individual company, a small group of officers from each association began discussions to develop a shared path forward. It was agreed to view the challenge from a business perspective.

The objective was to determine what was best collectively for all member companies, both manufacturers and distributors, rather than each group taking the then-current territorial approach of what was best for just its own members.

Though these discussions were not quick, and certainly not without challenges, effective July 1, 2004, a new consolidated industry association, Industrial Supply Association (ISA) as it’s known today, was created. The organizational structure of ISA ensured an equal voice and representation for both Distributors and Manufacturers and included Independent Manufacturer’s Representatives (IMRs), in the governance process as well.

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