Innovation Conference features real-world strategies from NTEA members, industry experts

This article was published in the February 2020 edition of NTEA News.

Manufacturer and Distributor Innovation Conference helps commercial truck upfitters, distributors, manufacturers and body builders learn how to enhance manufacturing processes and business results. Presenters will share real-world shop improvement strategies, including building a better team, maximizing productivity, and leveraging available technology and resources.

The conference is held in conjunction with The Work Truck Show® 2020 at Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. Work Truck Week runs March 3–6. Educational sessions, Green Truck Summit, and Manufacturer and Distributor Innovation Conference begin March 3. The exhibit hall is open March 4–6.

Session topics include

  • Applying lean principles in your shop
  • Selecting and using an ERP system
  • Welder development and certification
  • Effectively implementing company-wide changes
  • Defining value to customers and industry partners

Keynote address: Lean is Simple
Until you and your employees see waste in everything you do, you don’t understand lean. How will you know when your team gets it? When they use lean principles at home! Want to ensure failure? Overcomplicate it and sterilize lean with too many charts, graphs and work documents. Using lessons learned during 20 years of taking his manufacturing business from the garage to worldwide distribution, Paul Akers, president of FastCap LLC, will share 2-Second Lean techniques — demonstrating just how simple and fun it really is.

Selecting an ERP System to Add Value to Your Work Truck Operation
NTEA member companies will share their experiences in selecting and using an ERP system, including identifying needs and adding value to their organizations. In addition, software industry experts will provide strategies for approaching the selection process and choosing the right software. Presenters include Dave Colton, senior customer service representative at Spokane Computer; Calvin Geddings, general manager of Lee Transport Equipment Inc.; Jeff Messer, president/owner of Messer Truck Equipment; and Kenny Nau, director of sales at Pluss Corporation.

Building and Validating Work-Ready Welders for Your Shop
David Ehrlich, director of education for NTEA; Rob Myers, plant manager at Switch-N-Go; and Dr. Jason Scales, business manager, education at Lincoln Electric, will share details on a new welder development and certification program specifically designed for the work truck industry. Hear from NTEA members who participated on a national level to bring together all the tools needed to train and qualify a work-ready welder.

Managing Organizational Change
During this session, Travis Eby, president of M.H. EBY Inc.; Paul Kokalis, president of Fontaine Modification; and Ben Winter, director of business development at Transfer Flow, will offer real-world examples and best practices for effectively communicating and implementing organizational changes. Topics include developing a new state-of-the-art facility, relocating operations while considering staff, managing through a community disaster, transitioning business leadership, recruiting, and developing an effective management program.

Standing Out in a Competitive Commercial Vehicle Market
The work truck industry is composed of numerous companies that make high-quality products at competitive prices. As with most mature industries, the separation between good and great companies often involves how well the business executes its specific approach to market. Adam Keane, executive vice president of Allied Body Works Inc.; Kyle Stipe, engineering supervisor at Auto Truck Group; and Dave Zelis, head of sales & marketing for Buyers Products will reveal how they define and leverage their unique value for customers and industry partners.

Learn more
In addition to the full day of general sessions and reception on March 3, Manufacturer and Distributor Innovation Conference & Trade Show Package registrants can choose from dozens of concurrent sessions March 3–5 with topics such as workforce development, industry and economic outlooks, robotics, vehicle certification, OEM chassis updates, and more. Visit for details.