Topics ranging from dealing with change to the coming era of RFID inventory tracking were addressed by 12 industry experts who spoke at PMI's “The Dynamics of Change And Emerging Technologies” conference Aug. 9-11.

Topics ranging from dealing with change to the coming era of RFID inventory tracking were addressed by 12 industry experts who spoke at a PMI conference last month. The Plumbing Manufacturers Institute devoted three days to a program zeroing in on “The Dynamics of Change And Emerging Technologies.” It was held in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates Aug. 9-11.

Barbara Higgens, PMI's executive director, welcomed attendees and introduced the two PMI committee co-chairs and forum moderators: Darold Vredburg, manager of business process sales and marketing for Elkay; and Joseph Dodd, manager of design, development and marketing systems for Moen. Presentation highlights included:

  • John Kabbes, a frequent PMI presenter, addressed the topic of Change Management. He stressed the importance of fully understanding the problem before attempting a solution.

    “Don't try to sell the solution,” he said. “The solution is usually obvious once the problem is understood.” He also spoke about Continuous Improvement, which means constant change, and discussed how it relates to attitude. “People want to know how much you care before they care about how much you know.”

  • Steve Caulkins, senior partner of CSC Consulting, discussed Trends in Warehousing Systems and recommended investigating systems that tie all warehouse processes together. He said most warehouses will be expected to use Radio Frequency Identification, and it's better to prepare for the future of RFID than have it be a high-cost modification later.

  • Patrick Yanahan, president of USA-Strategies, addressed RFID on a consumer level. The same type of “Wal-Mart” strategy can be envisioned for the plumbing industry, he said. RFIDs can contain much more information than a bar code label: the date it was made, the manufacturer, and from what machine it was processed.

    A supermarket in Germany is specified for products with RFID tags. A manager can “ping” the entire store in a matter of minutes, calculating the inventory. The technology is available, but how does it play into the plumbing industry? As one attendee suggested, “Retailers will most likely be the ones to drive this, depending on what kind of information they want on the RFID itself.” Asked where an RFID tag would be placed on a product, the attendee answered, “Probably located somewhere on the bottom of a faucet.”

  • Fred Ettinger from Motorola presented the history of communication through various technological artifacts. Examples included the original “brick” cell phone that weighs in at one pound and the latest version as light as 3.4 oz. “Seamless Mobility,” meaning it moves when you do, and “Fashionable Technology” (Motorola teaming with Oakley Sunglasses) were some of the terms introduced by Ettinger as he described the future of staying connected.

    Other speakers included Chuck Poirier and Chuck Davis, both of CSC Consulting, and Jim Kinney of World Commerce Services, who talked about the importance of technology within the supply chain. Sherry Budziak (.orgSource) and Kevin Ordonez (Avectra) gave a joint presentation on Knowledge Management and Client Relation Management. Dan Feely (Transforming Solutions) discussed Product Data Management and Software Vendor Evaluations. Matthew Gonnering from Widen Enterprises demonstrated his company's software to handle product images in real time.

    Nate Perryman, supervisor/merchandising operations in the Store Support Center at The Home Depot's headquarters in Atlanta, joined the two PMI co-chairs via conference call for a roundtable discussion on global data synchronization involving UCCnet, various Data Sync Partners and Data Pools. In June 2003, The Home Depot subscribed to the UCCnet Global Registry to improve supply chain efficiency and to help standardize the hardlines industry. Since then it has contacted suppliers regarding Global Data Synchronization involving UCCnet, various Data Sync Partners and Data Pools. For more information, visit: