The mid-year business conference was held in conjunction with the combined regional meetings of the Southwestern and Western regions of HARDI. It was part of the association’s policy to rotate mid-year meetings among its eight regions.
The prep work for the fall conference meant sorting through a lot of topics, with those of most interest forming the basis for formal presentations at panel sessions and seminars in October, as well as continuing discussions in council and committee meetings at that time.
MEETINGSThe Refrigeration Systems Council was updated on the Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute’s proposed Refrigerant Management USA (RMUSA) program, which would place levies on refrigeration producers and importers and offer incentives to reclaim and/or destroy refrigerants facing phaseout.
Members were also updated on the HARDI Counter Certification Program, where it was reported that 250 individuals have thus far enrolled in an effort designed to improve the service that counter people provide to contractors and technicians.
The council weighed a number of topics for further discussion including new technologies in supermarket refrigeration especially related to variable-speed motors, the wide range of compressor choices in refrigeration, and refrigerant trends.
Those in attendance reviewed a survey concerning reclaim of R-22, which is believed currently to be below the pace needed to ensure adequate supplies in the future as production of virgin R-22 continues to be phased out.
The survey said that the four most preferred approaches were:
• Having contractors charge end users an environmental recovery fee;
• Certification by third parties to ensure that reclaim service providers are meeting ARI 700-2006 standards for purity;
• Loss of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification cards for one year for contracting companies that illegally vent R-22; and
• Increased enforcement by the EPA of illegal venting.
In each case, 70 percent or more of the respondents were in favor of the actions.
Those in attendance at that meeting said wholesalers need to join others in the industry in encouraging the use of equipment running on R-410A rather than that running on R-22. They said it was important that contractors take time to explain the R-410A option in new installations. Part of that equation included making end users aware of governmental and environmental issues that encourage the use of R-410A.
It was reported that HARDI is surveying its members on how many R-410A units they expect to sell in the next year, the need for meetings with equipment and component suppliers as well as homebuilders regarding this topic, the need for specialized technical and sales training for contractors, and any reorganization needed within warehouses to accommodate the new equipment.
One HARDI report projected R-410A equipment sales as a percentage of equipment sales. The medium for the first quarter of 2007 was shown to be about 7.5 percent, whereas that is expected to rise to close to 80 percent by the fourth quarter of 2009.
The council also said it would continue to monitor issues related to green buildings to see what impact such aspects as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) have on the wholesaling business especially in terms of new products and technologies.
Another issue dealt with private label products. The original topic was “Good or Bad for Business?” but the discussion made it clear that private labeling was and would continue to be a growing part of supply house operations.
NEWS FROM OTHER GROUPSOver at the Distribution/Logistic Committee, discussions focused on how to measure the productivity of employees, storage and delivery, dealing with large overseas shipments, forklift safety, and energy issues.
Attendees looked at benchmarks to help their businesses better compare themselves to organizations similar to theirs. In a survey of members, it was reported that in the course of a day, employees spend almost one-third of their time picking customer orders and another 20 percent of the time packing and verifying. About 17 percent of the time went to stocking merchandise on shelves.
The survey was designed as information to show on average what peers are doing and was not intended as a right or wrong analysis.
One of the newest components of HARDI also had a meeting. The Hydronics & Radiant Heat Council has been in the formation stage for the past year. Its focus on hot water and steam heat, as well as radiant heat, represents an expansion of the traditional base of HARDI wholesalers and is a reflection of the strong interest in that technology in the Northeast, Midwest, and Northwest. Those involved in the project said the council will focus on education and training for the installers of such equipment, as well as ways to market the technology to builders and end users. One added benefit, they said, is increasing HARDI membership.
Also, legislative issues were a topic of discussion in several council and committee meetings. Distributors said they are facing challenges dealing with legislation affecting their work forces, inventory practices and responsibilities, as well as their tax status. HARDI officials said they have started working closely with other major industry associations “to face these challenges as a unified force.”
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