Over the next few months you will be hearing more about an exciting new product — EW Global, a quarterly digital publication that will run as a special section in a new digital edition of the magazine.

We are going global for two reasons. First, we believe our mission of providing distributors, reps and manufacturers with the information they need to run their businesses more profitably and sell more electrical supplies helps them whether they are in Bangor, Maine, or Ballymena, England.

Secondly, the volume of acquisition and expansion activity we are seeing outside of the United States has really picked up over the past few months. The U.S.-based national distributors — Consolidated Electrical Distributors (CED) Inc., Graybar Electric Co., and WESCO Distribution Inc. — have operated in Canada and beyond for years, and everyone knows how Sonepar and Rexel have expanded around the world through dozens of acquisitions. But some of these companies and others have really stepped it up recently.

These companies all look at North America as a distinct market. When they report their annual sales for EW's Top 200 listing, they now report their North American sales, and most don't break out sales for the United States or Canada. That's why for the first time ever this year we included Canadian distributors in our Top 200 listing.

On the manufacturing front, you don't need to look any further than ABB's recent acquisition of Thomas & Betts Corp., Memphis, Tenn., to see manufacturers that want to compete on a global scale will buy their way into this market to increase their presence.

Indeed, on both the manufacturing and distribution fronts, it seems size really does matter. Consider that in 2011, Rexel and Sonepar did combined sales of more than $35 billion in sales and had in total 61,000 employees in about 4,200 locations around the globe.

On the manufacturing side, many of the biggest European electrical companies dwarf their U.S. competitors in terms of total sales, although a big slice of their electrical sales is in turbines, large utility and other electrical products not sold through electrical distributors. Still, the numbers are impressive. For instance, Siemens AG does approximately $75.6 billion in its electrical/energy-related business; ABB does approximately $38 billion in electrical sales; Schneider Electric logged approximately $24.5 in 2011 revenues; and Philips Lighting had $28.2 billion in global revenues. And you can't forget about the moves now being made in to the LED market by humungous Pacific Rim industrial conglomerates like Sharp, Panasonic and Toshiba.

Of all U.S.-based electrical manufacturers, only a handful do more than a billion in sales. GE is a global electrical player on the same scale as the European companies mentioned earlier in the large-scale power, energy, renewable, and utility products markets, and also does several billion dollars in products sold through electrical distributors. Including its recent acquisition of Cooper Industries, Eaton has more than $12.6 billion in electrical sales and Emerson does approximately $12 billion in annual sales of industrial automation, network power and electrical construction projects. Other U.S. electrical manufacturers with more than a billion in sales include General Cable ($5.9 billion); Hubbell ($2.9 billion); Acuity Brands ($1.6 billion); and Belden ($1.6 billion). Thomas & Betts was also in the billion-dollar sales club before being acquired by ABB earlier this year.

When you look through the line cards of electrical distributors based outside the United States, you see the brand names of many of these U.S.-based manufacturers. As we build EW's global circulation base and reach through our new quarterly digital edition, we will be able to help them build their brands with these international distributors through advertising in our digital properties.

It's an exciting time at EW, and we are looking forward to this next chapter in our proud editorial history. Here's a shout out to our readers outside the United States who are already enjoying EW in print or on www.ewweb.com — if you have any ideas about additional editorial topics we should be covering in the new global edition, please e-mail me at jim.lucy@penton.com or give me a call at 913-967-1743.