WTS20 conference highlights how technology and best practices drive business success

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

Commercial truck manufacturers, upfitters, distributors and body builders of all sizes can learn how to improve manufacturing efficiency and business results at Manufacturer and Distributor Innovation Conference, held in conjunction with The Work Truck Show® 2020.

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

Paul Akers, founder and president of FastCap LLC, will deliver the keynote address, kicking off a full day of training about how technology, best practices and lean thinking can power business success.

“Akers has real-world, practical experience using lean manufacturing principles to transform a company he started in his garage into a global operation,” said Doyle Sumrall, NTEA managing director. “He will share how the power of lean thinking can be successfully applied to various aspects of life and business to achieve continuous improvement and innovation.”

Akers is founder and president of FastCap, a product development firm specializing in woodworking tools and hardware for the professional builder. In 2000, he began using lean manufacturing principles to quickly take his small start-up company into one that now has distribution in more than 40 countries. FastCap launches 20–30 innovative products per year.

In 2013, Akers was invited to do a TEDx talk on innovation, and in 2017, was selected as No. 3 Individual Thought Leaders & Influencers in The Global State of Operational Excellence, Critical Challenges & Future Trends. He hosts a weekly podcast where he teaches about the power of innovation and lean thinking, and wrote three books — 2 Second Lean, Lean Health and Lean Travel.

Conference highlights
Following Akers’ keynote, conference attendees can participate in a variety of general sessions. Each will include time for questions and group discussion.

Selecting an ERP System to Add Value to Your Work Truck Operation
During this session, representatives from NTEA member companies will share their experiences choosing and using an ERP system, including identifying needs and adding value to their organizations. Software industry experts also will discuss selection strategies. Presenters include Dave Colton, senior customer service representative, Spokane Computer; Calvin Geddings, general manager, Lee Transport Equipment Inc.; Jeff Messer, president/owner, Messer Truck Equipment; and Kenny Nau, director of sales, Pluss Corporation.

Building and Validating Work-Ready Welders for Your Shop
Attendees will learn about a new welder development and certification program specifically designed for the work truck industry. Presenters David Ehrlich, director of education, NTEA; Rob Myers, plant manager, Switch-N-Go; and Dr. Jason Scales, business manager, education, Lincoln Electric, will discuss the tools needed to train and qualify a work-ready welder.

Managing Organizational Change
Presenters Travis Eby, president, M.H. EBY Inc.; Paul Kokalis, president, Fontaine Modification; and Ben Winter, director of business development, Transfer Flow, will share real-world examples and best practices to effectively communicate and implement organizational change. 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 building an effective management development program.

Standing Out in a Competitive Commercial Vehicle Market
The separation between good and great companies in the work truck industry often involves how well a business executes its specific approach to market. During this session, NTEA members will share how they define and leverage their unique value for customers and industry partners. Adam Keane, executive vice president, Allied Body Works Inc.; Kyle Stipe, engineering supervisor, Auto Truck Group; and Dave Zelis, head of sales and marketing, Buyers Products, will lead the discussion.

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 worktruckshow.com/innovationconference for details.