NATM stages its convention and trade show in New Orleans for the first time since 1997 Shakzu/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock

NATM stages its convention and trade show in New Orleans for the first time since 1997

Gathering its members in a pre-Mardi Gras arena, trailer manufacturers association plans a New Orleans experience in multiple memorable ways

THE National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM) is taking its 2015 convention and trade show back to New Orleans.

It’s been so long since it’s been held there—18 years—that nobody on the current staff was even around then.

“We like to move the convention to different destinations,” says Allison Malstrom, NATM’s convention & special events director. “We haven’t been to New Orleans in a while, and we wanted to head back east after being in Las Vegas. As a bonus, the convention is one week before Mardi Gras, which we think, combined with an eastern destination, will be a draw for our members. The Ernest N Morial Convention Center has ample space for our trade show and the hotel (Hilton New Orleans Riverside) is located conveniently close to the convention center.”

Malstrom says that with this event, to be held February 11-13, NATM hopes to grow its technical forum, and thinks that the enhanced programming will be of interest to engineers and those that work in the technical side of the industry.

NATM wants to have more suppliers exhibiting and more trailer manufacturers in attendance.

Technical Forum

Duane K Miller, manager of engineering services for the Lincoln Electric Company, begins the 10 am technical forum on February 11 with several exciting topics, starting with “Fatigue of Welded Connections.”

Duane K Miller, Lincoln Electric Company

Following the Industry Update Luncheon, Miller will continue with his second workshop, “Listen to The Steel (Learning from Failures).”

A look at Miller’s two sessions:

•  “Fatigue of Welded Connections.”

Most mechanical engineering programs include little discussion on the general topic of fatigue, and typically contain no discussion on the fatigue of welded connections. This primer on the fatigue of welded connections will discuss the causes of fatigue and the key variables that affect the fatigue life of welded connections. The model presented in AISC Appendix 3, which is the same approach used in AWS standards such as D1.1 and D14.4, will be reviewed. The effect of steel strength, stress range, mean stress, stress ratio, and geometric presentations will be discussed with a practical focus on how to improve the fatigue life of welded trailers.

•  “Listen to the Steel (Learning From Failures).”

Failures are often times more instructive experiences than are successes. In this presentation, failures from a variety of industries are reviewed. The fundamental causes of the failures are discussed as well as the solutions that were implemented to overcome these problems. Each example represents the violation of a separate design principle, reinforcing basic principles of design of welded connections. Additionally, the lecture reviews basic principles of failure analysis, enabling the attendee to “listen to the steel.”

Miller is a recognized authority on the design and performance of welded connections. He is a popular speaker on the subject and has lectured around the world. Miller publishes frequently and on three occasions, has been awarded the Silver Quill Award of the American Welding Society (AWS) for the excellence of his published work. In 2001, he received the American Institute of Steel Construction’s TR Higgins Lectureship Award, which annually recognizes an outstanding lecturer and author whose technical papers are considered an outstanding contribution to the engineering literature.

In 2005, he received AISC’s Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2013, the George E Willis award from the AWS for his work in advancing welding internationally.

He has authored and co-authored chapters of many texts, including the AISC Design Guide on Welding and the Mark’s Handbook of Engineering, 11th Edition. He has appeared as a subject expert on the History Channel and Discovery Channel.

Miller earned a BS degree in welding engineering from LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas, an MS in materials engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from LeTourneau University in 1997. He is the immediate past Chair of the AWS D1 Structural Welding Code Committee. He was the first chair of the Seismic Welding Subcommittee and is a former co-chair of the AASHTO-AWS D1.5 Bridge Welding Code Committee, a current member of the AISC Specification Committee, a professional engineer, certified welding inspector, and qualified welder.

Help with hydraulics, SAE update

In addition, Pat Godwin Jr (The Godwin Group, Champion Hoist) and Patrick Chadwick (Bucher Hydraulics) will review hydraulic and design considerations when adding hydraulic components to trailers. Proper battery wire gauge, battery sizing, grounding, valving, pressures, and flows will be discussed, along with basic hydraulic cylinder design with an emphasis on thrust capacities, the various classifications of hoists with their efficiencies, and engineering challenges encountered in building the trailer frame/dump bed to suit specific hoist models.

By popular request, James Fait (chair, SAE Trailer Committee) will return to give an SAE overview and progress moving forward. The Trailer Committee develops SAE standards and Recommended Practices, and Fait will share with participants how they can learn more about the work being completed and how they can actively participate in committee work

To finalize the day, the last 15 minutes will review a Generic Interactive Tongue Weight Spreadsheet for you to acquire as an estimation tool figuring the trailer tongue weight.


The 1:30 workshop on February 11 will be “Introduction to Project Management: Tips and Techniques for Project Success,” presented by Lisa DiTullio. It’s designed to introduce participants to project management concepts and processes. It is a short course that instills industry standard practices balanced with practical, easy-to-adopt techniques. DiTullio’s philosophy is to introduce simple practices so project management is viewed as the work and not viewed as extra work.

By the end of this introductory session, participants will learn:

•  The value of project management practices.

•  Common project management terms and definitions.

•  The five phases of a project management lifecycle.

•  Stakeholder roles and responsibilities.

•  The principle deliverables of each phase in the project management lifecycle.

This session focuses on five primary project activities: project feasibility, project initiation, project planning, project execution, and project closing. The session provides participants with an introductory understanding of project management practices and also arms them for immediate action.

The 9:30 workshops on February 12 will provide two options for attendees:

•  “Charting the Course through Demographic Change,” by Ken Gronbach, president of KGC LLC.

Shifting populations change consumer and labor markets. How are you preparing for the impending talent shortage? What is your plan to harness the power of diversity? Who is your new customer and how will you reach them? What is your strategy regarding capital expenditures? Why is it so important to plan your work and work your plan? Gronbach will discuss all of these issues in this session

•  “Unlocking the Hidden Cost of Welding,” by Bill Pharmer of Airgas.

Keynote Speaker

The keynote speech for the Annual Membership Luncheon on February 12 will be given by Gronbach, author of the current bestselling book, The Age Curve: How To Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm.

Gronbach is an internationally respected demographer who has been able to forecast societal, commercial, economic, cultural, and political phenomena with uncanny accuracy. His unusual blend of marketing savvy and common-sense demography, based on 20 years of proprietary demographic study, set him apart.

He makes the science of shifting demography come alive with real-life examples that make it relevant to today’s culture, business climate and economy.

Ken Gronbach

Gronbach’s perspective is macro, a view from 30,000 feet, and oriented toward the big picture. He believes demographers are able to forecast markets, societal phenomena, and economics with uncanny accuracy because they count people—not money or things. For example, he says crime has been down in the United States for the last 20 years because the number of high-risk crime committers (men 15 to 30 years old) has been low and fully employed. This is because the fertility in the United States dipped sharply between 1965 and 1984, creating a deficit in the United States population of about nine million people. This shortage of young people in the labor force also drove labor costs up and manufacturing off shore.

Gronbach’s data demonstrates why the European Union, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa are all facing serious damaging individual demographic issues with no apparent remedy. He forecasts a large-scale exodus and brain drain from these countries and regions to the two continents of the Americas. This will drive the economy of the Americas to levels never seen before.

Gronbach shows how the United States housing market and Boomer retirement is being held hostage by big-bank foreclosures and why this logjam will soon correct and precipitate a restoration of the United States economy. Tens of millions of Baby Boomers will be able to sell their homes, access their home equity, and retire to a warmer climate. This will dramatically reduce US unemployment. It’s called “Housing’s Perfect Storm,” and according to Gronbach, the correction is imminent.

Gronbach speaks of the robust return of US small business in general and why big-box retailers like Wal-Mart are ill-suited for the new retail markets precipitated by shifting demography. Wal-Mart is a Baby Boomer-based business but, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the bloom is off the rose of Boomer consumption. The 20-year generation right behind the Boomers, Generation X, is too small to be able to deliver sales at Boomer levels. In order for Wal-Mart to chase the huge Generation Y, born 1985 to 2004, it would have to change its basic retail model and raise its prices, which is not likely.

Gronbach explores China’s furtive plan to control the world’s food production. China is currently spending heavily on agricultural research and development. Why? To feed its own population or to feed the world? Should United States’ agriculture industry be concerned? Can United States growers compete with Chinese labor? What role will Wal-Mart potentially play?

Gronbach talks about how manufacturing will return to the US with a vengeance because the US is the only industrialized nation with a huge young highly skilled workforce, Generation Y. The US is the only industrialized nation with above-replacement-level fertility of 2.2 children per couple. The European Union has experienced below-replacement-level fertility for decades and has crippled its labor force and internal consumer demand. China has “prevented” 400 million live births in the last three decades because of its ill-fated one-child-only policy and will not be able to feed itself in 10-15 years, let alone be a manufacturing force. Gronbach believes that demographically, China is very poorly positioned.

Gronbach reveals how credit unions and community banks in the United States have a unique window of opportunity right now to take market share from the too-big-to-fail banks. A sea of small entrepreneurial business starts are going to be the rule as the US economy turns around. Credit unions and small community banks are positioned correctly to meet small business needs. Generation Y will embrace credit unions for their true community stand and accessibility.

His first book, Common Census, the Counter-Intuitive Guide to Generational Marketing, was released in 2005. Ken’s 2011 book, Decades of Differences, Making it Work, is a comprehensive guide to coping with three generations in the workforce. He has a new book, Demography is Destiny, The Incredible Power of People, releasing early in 2015.

Gronbach built KGA Advertising, a $40 million consumer/retail advertising agency, from the ground up in the 1980s and 1990s. One of his clients, a fashion apparel retailer, grew from $10 million in annual sales to over $400 million on Gronbach’s watch.

He graduated from California State University at Long Beach and currently lives in Connecticut with his Baby Boomer wife and two Generation Y daughters.


The golf tournament, a four-person scramble, will be held February 10 with a noon shotgun start. The fee is $150 and lunch will be provided.

The tournament is at English Turn Golf and Country Club, an 18-hole championship course designed by Jack Nicklaus.

English Turn’s 43,000-square-foot clubhouse recalls the grandeur of one of Louisiana’s legendary plantation homes. It’s surrounded by verandas and an expanse of green lawns and flowering gardens.

Only eight miles from New Orleans’ central business district, English Turn Golf and Country Club is a tribute to the city’s timeless elegance.

Other highlights

•  NATM will hold its first-ever Young Professionals Reception at the Hilton Riverside on February 10. It’s part of a promotion, available to all Regular Members, in which an under-40 co-worker can attend free with the purchase of one full registration The NATM Convention Committee and board of directors is hoping that this reception will be a great networking opportunity for the association’s younger members to meet each other and the board of directors.

•  The Purchasing Agent Promotion is returning after debuting last year. This promotion allows purchasing agents for trailer manufacturers to attend the convention free, as long as another co-worker purchased a full registration.

•  The Spouse’s Event is returning. It will be on February 12 and features a tour of Mardi Gras World, including a glimpse of where the floats will be made and an opportunity for tour members to make their own Mardi Gras masks.

•  The Friday Night Gala will be at Desi Vega’s restaurant in the Lafayette Hotel. NATM has also purchased stand tickets so attendees can watch the Hermes, d’Etat, and Morpheus parades on February 13.

•  Exhibitors will have an opportunity to present product demonstrations on the trade show floor on February 12 and 13.

•  The Newcomer Orientation and Reception will be continued after a successful debut last year. The orientation provides new members an opportunity to learn more about their association and membership benefits.

•  Awards such as Outstanding Member, Young Professional, and the Green Award will be presented at the Awards Breakfast on February 12.

•  The Dexter Axle/Redneck Trailer Supplies President’s Reception on February 11 will feature the music of Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, ranked #29 on’s “Top 100 Reasons to Visit Louisiana.” Winner of “America’s Hottest Accordion,” Dwayne (Dopsie) Rubin plays a high-energy style of zydeco. ♦

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