URG Conference 2010

Headline: “The Future Is Green At 2010 URG & Pinnacle Training Conference”


“Our future is green!” So exclaimed Michelle Alexander, executive director of the United Recyclers Group (URG), as she opened the 15th Annual URG & Pinnacle Training Conference.  Held April 16-17, 2010 at the Inverness Hotel in Denver, Colorado, the conference shattered the all time attendance record – by 45% – as 560 automotive recycling industry leaders and decision makers from across North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand gathered to learn from each other and the experts.
“Let me ask: What kinds of questions do you ask yourself every day?”  Michelle continued, asking “How can I be greener?  How can I be more profitable?  How can I use new technology to help me be more competitive?  These questions and many more got answered again and again in the 60 keynote and breakout sessions offered to attendees.
Michelle pointed out that “Automotive recycling has never made more sense – economic and environmental – than it does right now.  As you all know very well, what we do is ‘green’ by the very nature of what occurs when car parts are reused by the repair and collision industries.  But we haven’t promoted this fact to the public, and URG leadership thinks that by doing so it will increase demand for more recycled parts.”
A global flavor was given to the gathering by opening keynote speaker Peter Riddle, owner and managing director of Actual Systems, developers of Pinnacle software for auto recycling inventory and salvage yard management.  Thanks to a volcanic eruption in Iceland that grounded all flights out of Europe, Peter was not able to fly from his home in Scotland to Denver for the conference.  What to do?  He filmed a humorous video bemoaning the fact that he was missing his first URG & Pinnacle Training Conference ever.  He went on to introduce the nearly 30 Pinnacle staff present, and announced the opening of a new office in Australia.
“Some of the best (automotive recycling) operators in the world are sitting here in this room,” said keynote speaker Bill Stevens.  He ought to know, with one of the most impressive pedigrees in the industry himself.  A third generation recycler, he came to his current position at Counts Consulting from LKQ, where he ran the SE region, and prior to that he had worked for Greenleaf and Ron Sturgeon.
“This business is very complex,” said Bill Stevens. “We run call centers. We have ‘de-manufacturing’ centers. We run a full warehouse facility, and most of us are running a trucking company.  This is all very difficult to manage, and most people I know in this business are running as hard as they can, but the scenery isn’t changing.”  He went on to lay out a plan for success, the key word here being ‘plan.’
Recyclers came to the conference for a lot of different reasons.  New URG member Gary Mixon, general manager of Grassy Auto Parts (West Liberty, UT) said that “we just bought Pinnacle.  We’re here to learn how to use it better and improve our profitability.  It’s very interesting to meet other people from across the country doing the same thing we do and learn from their experiences and good ideas.”
The auto salvage industry is all about change, for reasons ranging from a changing environment (such as the green movement, a recovering economy, and a stricter regulatory environment) and other reasons internal to the industry (a relatively diminishing supply of salvage vehicles, a ‘changing of the guard’ among many yard owners and staff, and the aggressive implementation of new technology and services).  Change seemed to be on everyone’s mind at the URG Conference, from casual discussions during session breaks to the presentations in nearly every educational session.
“Our research shows that most people still think of salvage yards as junkyards,” says Mike French, president of Mike French & Co in his session on ‘go green marketing.’ “They often don’t want us in their communities.  Yet at the same time, we can see that the world is crazy about everything green!”  He showed his audience a number of things they can do in their own physical appearance, and their marketing.
Sitting in one of the 20 Pinnacle Pro or Pinnacle sessions offered to attendees often resembled college classrooms as rooms full of tech savvy recyclers listened, learned, and asked great questions.  In one packed session, for instance, Chris Attencio, Sales Manager, Actual Systems of America (Aurora, CO); and Don Davis, Sales Manager, Actual Systems of America (Aurora, CO) went online live to demonstrate some new features of Pinnacle Pro.  The energy in the room made it clear that Pinnacle Pro is taking hold and changing the automotive recycling industry.
A new idea from ‘Down Under’ came with a fresh look at the supply chain of the auto recycling industry.  Chris Daglis, managing director of APR Pty Ltd, which manages a supply chain of the leading dismantlers in Australia, encouraged his audience to realize that “we don’t sell parts.  Focusing on partnerships, not part sales, enhances the value proposition that we have to offer.”  His firm has partnered with Actual Systems to develop a quoting system using the Pinnacle interchange.
Another new business model for recyclers was presented by Joey Woodfin, founder and CEO of Everdrive (Midlothian, VA).  “The U.S. market for used parts is $20 billion per year,” he told his audience.  “Yet most people don’t know about us.  We are the most obscure major industry in America.”
“It’s amazing what you can learn when you analyze the data and see what is happening,” Joey continued.  He looked at actual data from his company’s sales online, and pointed out some surprisingly popular parts that might currently be getting recycled instead of pulled and sold.  “Digging deeper and understanding what is happening in the market can increase sales and profitability for most any recycler.”
In her role as conference chairwoman, Michelle Alexander offered thanks to everyone who attended, spoke, or exhibited or otherwise helped make this year’s URG & Pinnacle Training Conference such a record-breaking success.  “I especially want to thank my board of managers.  They make what we do possible.”
Mark Your Calendar for April, 14-17, 2010 for the 16th Annual URG & Pinnacle Training
Author: Richard Filley

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