It's an exciting time to be in the HVACR distribution industry. The recent HARDI 2007 Annual Fall Conference made that apparent. Legislative talk, steel issues, green product standards and the future economy were some of the many items spotlighted and discussed during the busy four-day conference.

Nearly 1,400 industry executives packed the Orlando World Center Marriott conference rooms to listen and to learn from business experts. Adam Fein of Pembroke Consulting opened up the conference with his thought-provoking keynote address based on his NAW book, Facing the Forces of Change®Lead the Way in the Supply Chain. Fein gave attendees an illuminating glimpse into the future for HVACR wholesale distributors and their trading partners.

Sunday was host to more than 20 committee and product-focused council meetings. A forum was given for members to work with their peers holding similar business interests. These intense committee and council sessions are the lifeblood of the association. Some highlights include:

The Distribution/Logistics Committee went through an extensive review of lean warehouse design, the importance of shipping terms and who “owns products in transit,” and developing a HazMat security action plan — the latter a mostly unknown requirement to HVACR distributors.

The Education Committee experienced a full agenda of topics including the introduction of a new course, Wholesaling 101 for HVACR Distributor Personnel; new “getting started” tools for incorporating the Counter Recognition Program in individual companies; and encouraging greater support for SkillsUSA competition at the state and national levels.

The Plan & Spec Committee reported on the program plans for another HARDI “rep” session during the New York AHR EXPO®. Designed to meet the business and marketing needs of Plan & Spec representatives, the focus at the January show and meetings will be on the green movement in the commercial market.

The Management Methods Committee unveiled its long awaited Profitability Assessment Tool during a special education track by its “inventor,” Dr. Al Bates. This unique “smart” spreadsheet can assist distributors in working with their individual customers to improve profitability.

A special meeting of steel interests highlighted the trend for unethical and fraudulent practices regarding misrepresenting galvanized steel coatings to contractors. Installing ductwork that does not meet galvanizing code requirements could impose great hardship on contractors who could receive the order to remove ductwork at great expense. The steel interests plan to meet regularly during future HARDI conferences.

In a report from the Future Studies Committee, Chairperson Arthur Franklin noted his Committee endorses the recommendation that HARDI form a Green Committee as a logical next step following HARDI's recent joining the U.S. Green Building Council. HARDI's Board of Directors will vote on the recommendation soon.

An impressive docket of speakers and sessions throughout Monday and Tuesday covered issues such as selling value; building green; refrigerants and the new imperatives; hydronics challenges and opportunities; planning for change; protecting your vital business systems; negotiations; keeping up with the rules of change in HVACR distribution; and measuring customer profitability.

Not to be overlooked is the four-hour Conference Booth Program that was held Tuesday morning. Distributors found more than 250 booths this year, giving them ample opportunity to cultivate the invaluable quality relationships with their suppliers that the association fosters. After the close of the booth program, the Industry Executive Forum provided a pragmatic panel discussion that focused on the issues faced by each of the wholesale distribution affinity groups represented by the HARDI councils. (See article, page 30.)

A grand celebration wrapped up a successful conference Tuesday evening. The black-tie-optional dinner and dance sandwiched the passing of the gavel from 2007 President Mark Faessler, Progress Supply Inc., to 2008 President Randy Boyd, AC Supply Co. Boyd comfortably took his post with an inspirational speech thanking his family and the guides who helped him get to where he is today, noting that one of the keys to his success is that no matter how hard he's worked, no matter how tired he is and when he feels like he can't work any more, he never stops. Words of advice given to the young Boyd from a wiser mentor.

You can be sure that attendees at the 2007 conference did not stop during the busy and productive four days. This Orlando conference proved that it is the support of the great membership-leaders that make HARDI a success for all of the HVACR Distribution industry.

Be sure not to miss the 2008 HARDI Annual Fall Conference, Oct. 25-28, 2008, at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, AZ. Details will be available through HARDI's website at www.hardinet.org.

Look for more committee and council meeting summaries on HARDI's website at www.HARDInet.org.