Industry trends, technology innovations dominate WTS19 education

This article was published in the April 2019 edition of NTEA News.

Work Truck Show 2019 education addressed a variety of key topics in the commercial vehicle community. Experts covered workforce development, lean techniques, advanced technology development and deployment, industry and economic forecasts, truck fleet risk mitigation, and more.

This year’s program began with the special session — Lean 101: Straightforward Approach to Lean Implementation for Truck Equipment Upfitters — followed by a series of concurrent sessions. Conference & Trade Show Package attendees could choose from any of the concurrent sessions, allowing them to customize their schedules based on the most relevant topics.

Lean 101
Due to popular demand, this special session continues to be a feature of the Show’s educational lineup. It addresses how to get shop productivity gains of 20 percent or more without adding personnel or equipment and shutting down current operations. Doug Hanawalt and Ed Hlava, productivity improvement specialists from Purdue Manufacturing Extension Partnership, conducted this workshop to help business owners and managers take shop productivity to a new level through workplace organization and streamlining custom jobs.

Attendees participated in a hands-on upfit exercise modeling shop activity and improvement. They were challenged to consider lean thinking as a culture, identifying how to successfully navigate issues specific to truck equipment distributors and upfitters. Other topics of conversation ranged from impacting areas of control versus influence to aligning and engaging employees, targeting waste and developing manageable action plans.

The Toyota Kata Journey — Daily Practice for Scientific Thinking, Mindset and Culture
This special session overviewed Toyota Kata — techniques concentrated on developing scientific thinking skills and mindsets and modifying an organization’s culture through a process of daily practice coached by line managers. Presenters explained Improvement Kata (IK) and Coaching Kata (CK), which make the process transferable beyond Toyota to any company.

Kata are structured routines practiced deliberately, so their pattern becomes a habit and leaves you with new skills on which to build. Practicing IK/CK does not displace current improvement methods — it builds foundational skills to make you better at any method used.

In this session, Toyota Kata coaches discussed research findings foundational in the Toyota Kata book series, and local Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers and a manufacturing client shared their Toyota Kata journey.

Participants learned how individuals, teams and organizations develop new skills and mindsets; a four-step pattern for establishing target conditions and working scientifically through obstacles; and a pattern for managers to follow in teaching IK in daily work, so it becomes part of an organization’s culture.

Certification and Weight Management Workshops
Engineers from NTEA’s technical services department hosted a two-part workshop on proper vehicle selection and compliance when adding bodies and equipment to chassis.

Part 1 addressed assessment of axle and vehicle weights versus gross axle weight ratings and gross vehicle weight rating, along with Federal Bridge Law implications. Using NTEA’s Vehicle Center of Gravity and Axle Weight Calculator, attendees learned how online tools make the job easier.

In Part 2, held later the same day, participants learned about U.S. and Canada certification processes, including use of body builder information and incomplete vehicle documents. Speakers discussed how weight and center of gravity changes can affect certification, sharing implications to F/CMVSS, how to perform key calculations and methods for developing compliance documentation.

Work Truck Industry Overview and Outlook
In a joint presentation, Steve Latin-Kasper (NTEA director of market data and research) and Andrej Divis (IHS-Markit director of MHCV forecasting) delivered economic information to help optimize business planning processes and provided a North American chassis sales forecast. Attendees learned about work truck industry trends and how they are affected by U.S. and global economic cycles.

Five Essentials for Profit Improvement
Al Bates, principal of Distribution Performance Project, shared five actions distributors can take to generate higher levels of profitability and free tools that can help with implementation. Topics included setting realistic profit and sales targets, focusing on factors that drive profit, and controlling gross margin and expenses.

Brand Like Amazon
Building great customer experiences doesn’t have to cost a lot of money — it requires an intense focus on details and an obsession with delighting customers. Bryan Eisenberg, entrepreneur, author and speaker, shared why companies need to examine their actions and whether they measure what they value most. Attendees learned why Amazon dominates in business and how leveraging four pillars — customer centricity, continuous optimization, creating a culture of innovation and promoting corporate agility — can help companies thrive.

Are You Ready? The Critical Role of Fleets Before, During and After a Disaster
During this session, attendees gained insights from fleet managers who planned for and lived through disasters. Speakers overviewed their experiences and discussed lessons learned from preparation through execution to post-event.

As a Distributor, is ERP for Me?
Truck equipment distributors face unique challenges in serving customers while trying to run a complex upfitting operation as efficiently as possible. Many are using software for quoting, workflow management and inventory control, but these enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems can fall short on communicating with each other and may actually hinder efficiency. During this session, two truck equipment distributors shared their experiences, lessons learned, and why they believe ERP is the right path to follow and necessary in optimizing their businesses.

Using Simulators for High-Quality Shop Training
During this session, representatives from OTC Daihen Inc., Lincoln Electric and VRSim highlighted virtual and augmented reality tools for training workers. Presenters went in-depth about how these simulations and visual experiences can have shop employees painting, welding and programming a robot in real time.

Purdue Road School
As part of the 105th Purdue Road School Transportation Conference and Expo, a select number of classes were held at Indiana Convention Center in conjunction with The Work Truck Show. Purdue Road School brings together federal, state and local agencies, elected officials, and professionals from industry, consulting and academia to collaborate and reflect on diverse transportation topics.

Programming addressed

  • Indiana Code and Indiana Administrative Code applied to the practice of engineering, including pending rule changes.
  • Ethics for professional engineers.
  • Panel discussion on what’s current in platooning for Class 8 trucks, including expected impacts on fleets, drivers and transportation systems.

Chassis Update Sessions
Fifteen leading OEMs conducted sessions on new products, technical changes and design improvements. Participating chassis manufacturers included

  • Chevrolet Commercial Vehicles and GMC
  • Ford Commercial Vehicles
  • Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation
  • Freightliner Trucks
  • Hino Trucks
  • International Truck
  • Isuzu Commercial Truck of America Inc.
  • Kenworth Truck Company
  • Mack Trucks Inc.
  • Mercedes-Benz Vans
  • Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America Inc.
  • Nissan Commercial Vehicles
  • Peterbilt Motors Company
  • Ram Commercial
  • Western Star Trucks


See a full recap of Work Truck Week at