The Next 50…
Have you ever looked at appliance advertisements from a half-century ago? Ads of the era for laundry appliances might have touted the time saved now that those doing the laundry didn’t have to make the trek to the laundromat. Refrigerator manufacturers boasted of their products’ capacity and balance of style with practical features. A dishwasher ad might focus on capacity and convenience.
If you didn’t know otherwise, you might think those messages came from products manufactured today. But those messages come from appliance advertisements run around 1967, the year that the American Home Laundry Manufacturers Association and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association’s consumer products division merged to form AHAM.
That was 50 years ago. AHAM’s roots, however, stretch back all the way to 1915, when 60 clothes washer manufacturers formed the American Washing Machine Manufacturers Association. The clothes washers of that era, many of which were marketed as major time-savers, resembled tubs, and clothes might have been put through a wringer before being hung out to dry. Gasoline-powered models were produced for homes without electricity. Electric refrigerators were just starting to hit the market.
It’s unlikely that many of those who worked in the industry 50 years ago, let alone more than a hundred, could have anticipated the innovations, challenges and opportunities that manufacturers would face today. The idea that a robot might take over housework was something that only came alive through cartoons and movies. Now, robots handle floor care in millions of homes and are starting to make their presence felt in other appliances. Cybersecurity, a serious consideration for both manufacturers and buyers of connected appliances, wasn’t something appliance manufacturers had to think about in the 1960s. The federal appliance efficiency standards program did not exist in 1967. Today, most major appliance categories have been through a number of rounds of federal efficiency standards, and AHAM is leading the charge to modernize the program.
The industry has come a long way since the days of gasoline-powered washers. It is an exciting time for manufacturers, who are coming off a strong year for factory shipments and, with the advent of features like voice control, connectivity and robotics, are on the brink of bringing the next wave of innovative appliances into homes. It’s also a time of uncertainty as we wait to learn what direction regulations will take under a new presidential administration and strive to find the always-elusive answers to the questions of which trends will emerge, what innovations will catch on with consumers, and how manufacturers’ business models will evolve.
One innovation the industry hasn’t managed (yet) is how to predict the future. But, we can tap into the industry’s vast expertise for an informed look into what’s possible and how we, as an industry, will adapt and thrive. That’s what we plan to do at AHAM’s 2017 annual meeting, “The Next 50...” As the theme suggests, we will bring together a broad range of industry experts to look at current and future industry challenges and speculate on the decades ahead. We’ll examine the immediate future by analyzing the developments of the first 100 days of the Trump administration, and reflect on what it might mean. We will give attendees the opportunity to participate in strategic discussions on cutting-edge issues like cybersecurity, counterfeiting and the circular economy. And we will vet and drill down the top strategic questions and potential priorities for AHAM and the industry in the coming years.
Meeting attendees will also have the chance to sit down with their members of Congress and discuss how legislation and regulation can help improve the climate for innovation in the years and decades ahead. I hope you will add your voice and expertise to the discussion and join us for The Next 50…, AHAM’s annual member meeting, April 30-May 2 in Washington, DC.