Ten key sessions you won't want to miss

NO BUSINESS OWNER wants to take a step back — or even simply maintain the status quo. Everybody wants to move forward with a profitable business that has happy customers and productive employees.

How can it be accomplished?

Here is a look at 10 key sessions:

  • Hybrid Truck and Alternative Fuels Summit Tuesday, March 6, 10 am-4:30 pm

    The NTEA will kick off four days of hybrid awareness-building with this session. The Summit includes several information and training sessions covering a variety of alternative fuel and hybrid vehicle technology topics. Attendees will be updated on technology development and important considerations for deployment of alternative fuels and the hybridization of vehicles. Challenges and opportunities for integrating work truck components and controls with hybrid vehicles will be covered, as well as information on determining if attendees' current applications are appropriate for hybridization.

    Sessions will be led by esteemed hybrid and alternative fuel vehicle experts including: Bill Van Amburg, senior vice president, WestStart-CALSTART (Pasadena, California); Thomas Grothous and Andy O'Neil, College of Technologies deans, University of Northwestern Ohio (Lima, Ohio); Christopher Amos, commissioner of equipment services, City of St Louis (St. Louis, Missouri); Altec Industries Representatives; International Truck and Engine Corporation Representatives; Doyle Sumrall, director of strategic opportunities; Bob Raybuck, technical services director; and Bob Johnson, director of fleet relations, NTEA.

    Directly following the Summit, participants are invited to attend a networking reception and view the latest hybrid offering from International Truck and Engine Corporation from 4:30 pm-5:30 pm. The Summit and networking reception are sponsored by International Truck and Engine Corporation.

    “We are excited to offer this new dimension as part of The Work Truck Show and 43rd Annual NTEA Convention,” said Tom Rawson, NTEA convention chairman and CEO of RKI Inc. “As a Work Truck Show 2007 attendee, you have the opportunity to learn how design will be impacted to accommodate new vehicle technology.”

    In spring 2006, the NTEA was asked if it would be willing to facilitate the development and activities of a group of fleets interested in forming a light-duty hybrid truck group. The NTEA agreed and began contacting all NTEA fleet members, other key fleets, and several member companies that had expressed an interest in hybrid work trucks. The NTEA is currently working with 23 fleets that have come together to work toward integrating light-duty hybrid work trucks into their companies.

    A kick-off meeting was held in May in Memphis, Tennessee — attended by seven NTEA fleet members — to solidify a project statement and identify the fleets willing to participate. The group is beginning by measuring the performance of current trucks and establishing drive cycles that define the daily work activities of the trucks they feel have the best potential to take advantage of hybrid technology. WestStart-CALSTART's Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF), a user-driven program to assist commercialization of heavy-duty hybrid technologies, provided key data developed over the last five years of leading successful hybrid working groups.

    The group is currently gathering data on hybrid systems and identifying OEMs, hybrid system suppliers, and upfitters that can provide support and information. A meeting of group participants is planned in conjunction with The Work Truck Show 2007.

    “There are currently a significant number of alternative fuel and hybrid work truck initiatives throughout the US,” Johnson says. “Many of these projects are on the verge of being more than just tests: they are moving into viable, cost-effective work vehicles. The industry as a whole supports new technology and bringing potential fuel savings and environmentally sound technologies to market in the most effective way.”

  • Developing Working Relationships for a Competitive Advantage Tuesday, March 6, 1:30 pm-2:45 pm

    Robert Nadeau, managing principal of the Industrial Performance Group (Northfield, Illinois), believes that maintaining good distributor-manufacturer working relationships is harder than ever due to consolidation, private labeling, and relentless price pressure.

    “Competitive advantage does not stem from managing tangible assets like plants, equipment, inventory, and money, because everybody's pretty good at that,” he says. “Competitive advantage stems from intangibles like people, relationships, knowledge, and capabilities. I've been monitoring that for 15 years, and everybody loves to think about doing it, but their accounting systems are designed to measure the performance of tangible assets. They can tell you what their money is doing. They can tell you where the inventory is. They can tell you how productive their plants are. But they can't tell you the impact of a bad working relationship.”

    Nadeau can. For 14 months, his company surveyed 1502 sales people, a large percentage of them from the truck-equipment industry. He says that problems from a bad working relationship consume 11 weeks per year per sales person.

    “So in one financial quarter, each of the sales people is not selling,” he says. “They're either dealing with a problem or a mistake, looking for information, or waiting for someone to get back to them. That's a huge economic impact and does not show up on their radar screen because it doesn't show up on the balance sheet or income statement.”

    He says that in the health care industry, Fortune 500 manufacturing sales people get bombarded with e-mails from people in the “mother ship.”

    “Goofy stuff, like, ‘What did you think of the doughnuts at the cafeteria during Christmas?’” he says. “So we said, ‘What if we can reduce that by two hours per week just by having all the people inside the mother ship sending e-mails to the clearing house, and once a day one person looks at all the e-mails from people inside the company trying to get information to and from the reps?

    “That person reads through e-mails and sends each of the reps one e-mail a day that says, ‘This is what you need to know and this is what you need to do.' By doing so, we're freeing up two hours a week per rep. They have a field sales force of 225 reps. Multiply two hours by 225 by a 50-week work year, and it's 22,500 hours. These guys are no longer looking at their palm pilots. They can be talking to customers. It's the equivalent of hiring 20 fulltime sales people and not having to pay them.”

  • Truck Equipment Market Overview, Trends & Outlook Tuesday, March 6, 1:30 pm-2:45 pm

    Stephen Latin-Kasper, the NTEA's market data and research director, will take attendees through his annual presentation, where he will review current data on truck sales and end-use markets, forecast where the truck equipment market is headed and what role the US and international economies play in the short- and long-term, and review current NTEA statistical and forecasting information.

  • Communicating the Value of Your Product/Service Offerings Tuesday, March 6, 3 pm-4:15 pm

    Excess capacity combined with the every-day-low-pricing mindset that exists in most industry sectors has created customers that are more price-sensitive than ever.

    In this environment, you can no longer get by on the notion that you are a value-added supplier.

    This session is designed to offer an understanding of how a product/service offering creates measurable economic value — in terms of dollars and cents — for customers and teach how to quantify the economic value customers will receive from investing in an offering. How do you communicate this benefit to prospective customers?

    Nadeau says this session is based on a training session his company developed three years ago and teaches people how to quantify the value companies are adding for their customers.

    “Let's say there are 60 people in the room and I ask, ‘How many people believe you're adding value for your customers?’” he says. “I guarantee all will raise their hands. My second question: ‘How many of you are getting paid for that value you're adding?’ I guarantee maybe one or two people will raise their hands. The reason is, they don't know how to turn the value they're adding to customers into some type of measurable dollars-and-cents benefit to the customer. I'll take them through basics of value-based selling.”

  • Trailer Towing Considerations for Class 1-4 Trucks Tuesday, March 6, 3 pm-4:15 pm

    National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM) compliance specialists Greg Soden and Clint Lancaster say the use of trailers in conjunction with light (Class 1-4) commercial vehicles is growing at a rapid rate. In many cases, these trailers are used to transport relatively heavy loads, such as compact construction equipment. If the operator is not familiar with all aspects of trailer use, the result may be an overloaded or otherwise unsafe combination vehicle (truck and trailer).

    They'll review factors that must be considered when operating a combination vehicle, including towing vehicle ratings, hitch type, hitch ratings, trailer ratings, trailer weight distribution, safety equipment, and applicable regulations.

    Soden says braking specs are one of the biggest potential problems.

    “We're finding lot of consumers are not aware of them,” he says. “They think, ‘When I buy an F-150 with a tow package and plug in my trailer, I've got brakes.’ Well, no. They don't understand if you have to have a brake controller. They don't understand the requirements and how to adjust it and all the aspects of it.

    “It's a big potential problem, with the number of people getting into trailering who have never owned a trailer before in their life.”

  • YEN Technology Workshop: Avoiding Pitfalls of Inventory Management Tuesday, March 6, 3-4:15 pm

    Jeffrey Porter, VP of business development for RockySoft (Fort Collins, Colorado), says new technology isn't always the answer when it comes to inventory management. He'll explain how an inventory management system can be improved using existing technology.

    Also, NTEA members will give the pros and cons of inventory-management systems involving various types of technology and offer a better understanding of problems that can be avoided. An inventory management technology expert will be on hand to provide information on the latest tools available.

  • Getting the Facts on New Vehicle Certification & Labeling Requirements Wednesday, March 7, 8 am-9:15 am

    Bob Raybuck, the NTEA's technical services director, and Michael Kastner, the NTEA's government relations director, will be the presenters.

    They believe that for truck equipment distributors, manufacturers, truck dealers, and truck buyers, meeting or understanding complex federal regulations for certification is one of the most important aspects of the truck-equipment purchase. They'll talk about standards applicable to multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, and trailers of differing gross vehicle weight and gross combination weight ratings, the responsibilities and what to look for from suppliers regarding certification compliance and penalties, and facts on new labeling and certification requirements for incomplete, final-stage, and altered-stage vehicles.

  • Closing the Gap Program Overview Wednesday, March 7, 9:30 am-10:45 am

    Presented by Ryan Mathews, CEO of Black Monk Consulting (Eastpointe, Michigan) and James Carney, the NTEA's executive director, this session is a truncated version of the special session scheduled for 10 am-4:30 pm Tuesday.

    They'll discuss the important points that came out of the NTEA's extensive research of fleets and truck dealers, and what attendees can do to better understand their customers' needs. They'll help attendees examine their company's position in the marketplace, and how the NTEA's latest work truck industry resource, Closing the Gap: A Customer-based Approach to Competitive Differentiation, can help a company to stay competitive, profitable, and sustainable against competitive advantage.

  • A Functional Approach to Vocational Vehicle Designs & Specs Thursday, March 8, 9:30 am-10:45 am

    Robert Johnson, the NTEA's director of fleet relations, says vocational vehicles by definition are intended to perform or support a specific job or group of related jobs. Therefore, the functional requirements associated with the job, or group of related jobs, should be one of the primary factors driving the design of a vocational vehicle. However, a number of other factors must also be considered.

    This session presents an approach for optimizing the design and life-cycle costs of vocational vehicles, starting with the identification of the functional requirements of any given application and ending with the chassis specifications for the vehicles. This session also discusses the need for, and importance of, well-written specifications for vocational vehicles.

    “What I see with vocational fleets ordering new vehicles is that far too often, they start with the decision of what kind of truck they need and then try to figure out how to make it work for a job: ‘Everybody else is using an F-350, so I'll get myself an F-350,’” he says. “My position is that a vocational vehicle by definition supports a job or function. The first thing you need to do is identify the valid functional requirements of the job. ‘I want chrome wheels’ is not a valid requirement for the job.

    “Once you've identified your valid functional requirement, you need to determine how you're going to address them in terms of body and special equipment you need, determine the dimensions of those components, and the weight based upon performance requirements. Basically you need to design the vocational piece of the vehicle first. Once you've done that, you can determine what kind of chassis you need.

    “I go through the whole process step by step. Once we get to the chassis, then I go through process for spec'ing out the chassis, starting with payload requirements, axle, suspension, and frame requirements. It starts with the end requirements of the vehicle and finishes up with the chassis, which is just the opposite of the way most people do it.”

  • Mastering Critical Financial Success Factors with the SPEQ Plan Manual Thursday, March 8, 9:30 am-10:45 am

    Albert Bates, chairman and president of the Profit Planning Group (Boulder, Colorado), will explain how the NTEA's Sales, Productivity, Earnings, and Quality (SPEQ) Plan Manual can help a company and its employees better understand how sales, product costs, and expenses influence profit in your business. He'll address how financial success can be achieved by mastering certain strategic areas of an operation and by becoming more aware of five key factors — barriers to entry, de-commoditization, employee productivity, profit focus, and internal profit understanding to increase financial results.

“I'm going to talk about profitability from two perspectives,” he says. “The strategic perspective says that if you're just like everybody else in the world, you're not going to make any money. How do we differentiate ourselves so we're not just one more firm doing business the same way everybody else does business? And then once you have a market position, what do you have to look at operationally? How do I get the gross margin I ought to have? And how do I control expenses?

“The SPEQ Plan lays out in a fair amount of detail that issue. It does on the printed page what I'm going to do verbally in terms of how to attack these issues. The seminar is designed to say, ‘Here's what you should worry about.’ And the SPEQ Plan says, ‘Here's how you worry about it.'”

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