The president's plenary speech on the second day of HARDI's first annual conference confirmed the tone that was already whirring among attendees. Heating, Airconditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI), which underwent its own transitions during the past year with the consolidation of Northamerican Heating, Refrigeration & Airconditioning Wholesalers (NHRAW) and Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Wholesalers International (ARWI), buzzed with ways to meet forthcoming transitions the HVACR industry is facing. Advances in technology, increasing needs for comfort systems and the ability to adapt traditional selling relationships to these changing ways were all presented as upcoming developments in the industry during the conference held at the San Francisco Marriott from Dec. 7-9, 2003.

These developments are coming at a time when the industry is changing at the most rapid pace it has seen in the past 10 years, said Doug Young, HARDI president. “Our position as the single voice for distribution in the HVACR industry allows us to stay ahead of that change.”

Kevin Price presented the HARDI Center for Advancing Technology (HARDICAT), a program for HVACR wholesalers that uses strategies the American Supply Association has already been using with PHCP wholesalers.

“The step that needs to be taken today is to move the entire process off of paper,” said Price, director of HARDICAT. He presented several ways of doing this, including an e-catalog that has manufacturers' information, such as spec sheets, product data and UPC bar codes, and an industry database that is intended to be a standard industry-wide resource for product information.

These strategies would keep HVACR wholesalers on top of the rapid pace of late in the industry. “Every task removed from the process that removes a staff person will save you money,” Price said.

The HVAC Systems and Equipment Council offered an outlook of the industry for five years from now from both manufacturing and dealers' standpoints. Richard Specht, a representative for the manufacturers and northeast regional sales manager at American Standard, reinforced the importance of keeping up with technological changes in the areas of product technology, such as SEER requirements and airflow enhancements. He also discussed logistics changes including Web-based systems links and more efficient shipping and warehousing dimensions due to rising housing costs.

Larry Taylor, of the dealers' side and president of Air Rite Air-Conditioning Co., discussed the transformation of the HVACR market. “HVACR users are becoming more sophisticated with their expectations,” he said. Consumers are becoming more involved in the selection of their systems and are placing increasing importance on health, comfort, efficiency and safety. Taylor said it is necessary for suppliers to maintain and stock newer systems, and contractors need to be trained for this.

Both Specht and Taylor emphasized the importance of the increasingly stringent codes and standards the industry faces. They pointed out the need to carry more insurance and to stay on top of the expectations to keep competitive in the market.

HARDI members had opportunities for relaxing and learning throughout the conference. Larry Winget, an edgy keynote speaker, pumped up the crowd with his in-your-face humor. He woke up the crowd with his motto on change, “Shut up, stop whining and get a life,” which he admits is a slogan not everyone likes. As a man who spends more days of the year on the road than at home, he built the conclusion of his speech around quirky signs he takes from various hotel rooms, bathrooms and corridors. In all, he pulled nine signs out of a bag and encouraged attendees to “lighten up and have more fun” to deter what he termed, “terminal professionalism.” Bruce Merrifield, a renowned industry consultant, presented strategy tools on how distributors can increase profit.

A well-attended conference booth program gave wholesalers and suppliers a chance to meet.

Larry Taylor, president of Air Rite Air-Conditioning Co., spoke from the dealers' perspective at the HVAC Systems and Equipment Council meeting.

Bruce Merrifield, a renowned consultant for distributors, presented profit-gaining strategy tools for HARDI conference attendees.