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NWPCA Annual Meeting: Shared Vision United Goals
Today change would be a good single word to describe both the pallet industry and the NWPCA. Networking at association meetings continues to be one of the most popular characteristics.
By By Dr. Ed Brindley, Publisher
Date Posted: 6/1/2005
This year the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) held its annual meeting on February 19-22 in Tampa, Florida. Since I attended my first NWPCA meeting in 1978, this is just the second time the association has held its annual meeting in a big city hotel that is not a resort. I mention this only because it made be think about the focus that the NWPCA is placing on professionalism and making money for its members. While visiting resort locations has been a standard part of past annual meetings, the most important issue is the meeting, particularly its networking and programming value.
Networking and Social Interaction
Probably due at least partly to improved business conditions, this year’s meeting drew a strong attendance. Most long standing annual meeting attendees would agree that networking opportunities with both old friends and new ones is the most important aspect of NWPCA meetings. This year was no exception. People gather together around a meal, huddle in the hall, speak with suppliers about their products and services, participate in educational sessions with questions, and indulge in intense conversations over numerous subjects of interest.
It seems that just about every year there is at least one central topic that serves as a conversation catalyst. This year the most common topic of discussion was probably the association’s desire to expand its PDS program with a pallet and container drawing program, to integrate the two concepts into one big program for a better marketing tool to use with customers. Gruppo 36, a young Italian software company, illustrated its emerging pallet drawing program. This is just one example of what the NWPCA could do with upgrading the graphical presentation abilities of PDS. The NWPCA is studying its drawing software options and how it might interact with the existing PDS program. Stay alert for a future decision concerning major upgrades to PDS.
Close to four dozen exhibitors interacted with attendees in an active exhibit hall, where breakfasts, lunches, and breaks complemented an exhibitor lounge. Bill McCauley of John Rock, Inc. entertained the crowd with an energized auction to raise over $10,000 for the Pallet Foundation. Contributions to The Foundation came from about two dozen suppliers and industry members to support research, educational, and marketing efforts for the overall pallet industry.
After the opening business meeting, Larry Kogan, president of Sound Science Business Strategies, discussed international issues, such as trade barriers, and how environmental concerns affect European regulations. He focused on how international thinking, particularly European, affects the world and its markets, even though their real intention may be disguised as issues are developed and discussed.
A panel of three end users was one of the most popular events. This year’s panel included management people from three companies whose pallet needs vary considerably. Every need from highly specialized pallets and containers to commodity GMAs, both new and used were represented. The panelists’ concerns varied from standardization to partnering with pallet suppliers and developing management and networking solutions.
The final general session of the meeting featured a discussion from panelists Stan Bowes on the E-PAL Board, Belinda Junkin of the Canadian Pallet Council, Steve Mazza of S&B Pallet Co., and Elton Potts of CHEP USA. The systems these panelists represented spanned the spectrum from pallets owned by a pallet company to those owned by the users and those owned and managed by a professional pallet management company.
Two concurrent session sequences covered a variety of topics. Attendees could mix and match the sessions they wanted to hear. A discussion of the phytosanitary international packaging ISPM-15 regulations was one of the biggest issues being discussed this year. Very few issues have captured the attention of our industry much more than this heat treating concept. It has become clear to many in our industry that this heat treating issue is one that just will not go away. This year it has swept in like a tornado. Many pallet companies have welcomed the need for treated pallets because it has provided a value added opportunity like none our industry has seen since PDS first came on the scene.
Another topic that has been under close scrutiny the last few years is safety and interacting with OSHA. The NWPCA has taken a major industry leadership role here by bringing in Adele Abrams, a legal labor expert, to keep members abreast of safety options and represent the industry in such issues as bandsaw dismantling machines. Adele has developed an association safety program and manual that many have found to be extremely valuable. The NWPCA/OSHA/NIOSH Alliance, a significant step by the association that benefits the overall industry as well as association members, was another concurrent session topic.
Keith McCoy from the National Association of Manufacturers discussed legislation that is affecting the transportation industry and trucking issues.
Future Pallet Events
After the annual meeting, the NWPCA held the first of what will be a series of regional pallet meetings. This Dallas meeting, held on April 8-10, is the first regional meeting that the association has held in many years. Reports indicate that the thirty or so people who attended this Dallas meeting exhibited a high energy level. I was not surprised because I have seen this kind of enthusiasm at meetings in the past when people with a shared background meet for the first time.
In addition, the association is looking forward to its Federal Legislative Fly-in on September 13-14 in Washington D.C. The association has held several successful legislative days the past few years. Any industry member who has never had an opportunity to visit with his Washington representatives should consider attending this function. My experience with these legislative events has been very positive. For more information on NWPCA events, call 703/519-6104.
The NWPCA has a series of CDs from the sessions at last February’s meeting. For ordering information, call 703/519-6104.