MRO Magazine

Industry Event: New Orleans Venue Helps Regenerate PTDA

Another successful annual convention has been organized by the Power Transmission Distributors Association (PTDA), with about 700 delegates gathering in New Orleans Oct. 16-18, 2003, for the event.The...

November 1, 2003 | By Bill Roebuck, Editor

Another successful annual convention has been organized by the Power Transmission Distributors Association (PTDA), with about 700 delegates gathering in New Orleans Oct. 16-18, 2003, for the event.

The theme of the conference, “Doing Business in Turbulent Times,” was reflected throughout various events at the conference, the planning of which was chaired by Ray Harrington of Ruland Manufacturing Co. Inc. Highlights included a session prefaced by excerpts from the movie, The Perfect Storm, with Harrington arriving on stage dressed in rain gear and carrying an albatross on his shoulders.

“I don’t know about you, but I really do feel that coming to the PTDA Convention this year is like coming into safe harbour after being lost at sea,” Harrington told the delegates. “As all of us know, a number of underlying factors have come together to create a ‘perfect storm’ in the power transmission and motion control industry.

“Our traditional customers are disappearing, whether they are moving production offshore or going out of business altogether. Those who are left are demanding lower prices and higher service levels, as well as increased proof of why they should do business with us,” he continued, in this state-of-the-industry commentary.


“All of us are trying to figure out how we can cut costs and prop up margins so we can stay profitable. At the same time, we’re facing business partners who want to know what we’ve done for them lately. In short, we’re all trying to figure out how we can steer a path out of this mess and identify who can help us paddle in the right direction.”

The “who,” of course, was to be the speakers and panelists brought to the convention sessions to offer support and advice. “Our association is more than ready to throw us a life preserver and help tow us to land,” said Harrington.

After his introduction, he took a moment to recognize the former chair of PTDA’s marketing committee, Dave Doray of U.S. Tsubaki, who had passed away in June after a series of strokes. “During his tenure as chair in 2002 and 2003, Dave was instrumental in overseeing the association’s advocacy campaign investigation and the committee’s research on PTDA’s name and logo. I had the personal honor of working with him on the marketing committee and can assure you that he will be sorely missed, both professionally and personally.”

Keynote speaker Nido Qubein, chairman of the Great Harvest Bread Company, was next at the podium. His topic was “Why should our customers do business with us?”

To help answer that question, Qubein shared his experiences in selling one of the ultimate commodities: bread. He came to the United States as a teenager with $50 and unable to speak English. Today, he is a multimillionaire business entrepreneur with over 200 retail outlets in North America.

Next up were Barbara Ross of Garlock Sealing Technologies (the outgoing Manufacturer Council chair), and Carlos Ingram of Kaman Industrial Technologies (the outgoing president of PTDA). Dressed in black mourning clothes, they spoke from a stage that was decorated with a coffin. Their conversation reflected the plight of the PT industry.

“Today, we are here to mourn the passing of the old way of doing business, to bear witness and honour the best of the old model, and to celebrate our industry and rejoice in our future,” said Ross. The pair talked about the challenges and opportunities for the industry.

“The old business model may be dead,” said Ingram, “but the best of it lives on, in quality products, outstanding service and strong distributor-manufacturer relationships.”

However, the pair concluded, the industry is ready to keep the best and implement a new model to ensure that it succeeds in the future. PTDA also is positioning itself to ensure the association succeeds in the future as well, they noted. With that, members of the newly elected board were introduced.

Don Latham, president of Canadian Bearings, Ltd., Mississauga, Ont., was elected president of PTDA. John Neal, vice-president of marketing for Root Neal & Co., Buffalo, N.Y., was named first vice-president. Andrew Nations, president of Bearings & Drives Inc., Macon, Ga., is second vice-president; Jeffrey Pickelman, CEO of Northern Industrial Supply Inc., Saginaw, Mich., is treasurer.

James Lamb, vice-president marketing and sales for Drives Inc., Fulton, Ill., assumed the duties of PTDA’s Manufacturer Council chair, and William Demmel, director sales for Martin Sprocket & Gear Inc., Arlington, Tex., became Manufacturer Council vice-chair.

“We see our role as not just setting a strategy for 2004, but — even more importantly — helping to define a path that will keep our association successful long into the future,” said Latham.

“We need to come up with time- and cost-effective ways for more members — and more people at each member company — to extract even more value from their membership, while we remain committed to making our existing programs better than ever,” he added.

One example he cited was PTDA’s Canadian Conference, which has more than doubled in size in two years. “It’s allowed us to dig more deeply into member’s organizations,” said Latham. “Almost 80 per cent of those who attended would not be likely candidates to attend the annual convention, based on their job responsibilities.”

“Don and I believe that keeping PTDA relevant today, and into the future, requires three things,” said Lamb. They are: “Addressing long-standing, contentious issues; actively monitoring trends that impact our industry; and increasing member participation in every aspect of our association.”

Over the next year, PTDA will be kicking off a campaign to better explain the association’s benefits to members and why they should become even more involved, Lamb noted.

PTDA staff next announced the Warren Pike Award for lifetime achievement in the power transmission/motion control industry. David J. Witwer, general manager of Minarik-Midwest, Strongsville, Ohio, was named the 14th recipient of the award.

Named for PTDA’s co-founder and first president, the Warren Pike Award was established in 1984 to honor individuals who have demonstrated outstanding, continuous, long-term support of PTDA and the PT/MC industry.

Witwer has been active in PTDA since 1992. His accomplishments and contributions span virtually all of the association’s operations and interests. As the general manager of Reserve Motion Control Systems, an independent distributor in the Cleveland area, Witwer served on PTDA’s board of directors from 1995 to 1998 and was the association’s president in 1997. He has served continuously on the PTDA Educational & Scholastic Foundation Board of Trustees since 1997, as foundation president in 1999 and as its vice-president in 2000 and 2003.

Witwer also has helped advance PTDA and PT/MC industry causes through participation in many of the association’s committees. His commitment to the association remained even after Reserve Motion Control was acquired by Minarik in 2001. (Minarik is a manufacturer and distributor in the high-tech motion control and automation industry.) Witwer continues to serve on the association’s marketing committee and recently was re-elected president of the foundation board for 2004-2005.

“Dave Witwer truly deserves PTDA’s Warren Pike Award,” said Mary Sue Lyon, PTDA executive vice-president. “He personifies the core values of PTDA through his unfailing efforts to establish community among members, his encouragement of frank and open dialogue on issues in the industry and efforts to build mutual trust among members.”

Founded in 1960, PTDA is an U.S.-based trade association representing 222 power transmission/motion control (PT/MC) distributor firms with almost 3,200 locations throughout North America and 14 other countries, as well as 188 manufacturers that supply the PT/MC industry. PTDA is a member-driven organization dedicated to advancing distribution and strengthening members to be successful, profitable and competitive in a changing market environment.


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