Over April 15th and 16th , while so many of you were scrambling to get your taxes done before the deadline, I was in Seattle, Washington, for the Torque Converter Rebuilders Association’s (TCRA) annual seminar and industry event. Joined by ATRA Tech Specialist Mike Souza, we made our way to the Best Western Plus Executive Inn Hotel and Conference Center; the home venue for the event.
This was an important meeting for shops that rebuild torque converters, and there were people from all around the globe in attendance. We had representatives from Ireland, South America, Switzerland, Mexico, New Zealand, and Alaska.
One of the pervasive messages throughout the meeting was the importance of finding new transmission technicians for our industry. That message recognized the implied connection between our two industries; a connection that’s only been strengthened by our ongoing support of one another.
We got up early Friday morning, had a quick breakfast, and met downstairs in the hotel lobby. There, the whole group was whisked away in two busloads to the Boeing Everett assembly plant for a tour. The plant is the largest building in the world under one roof.
The tour began with a short video, detailing the history of Boeing. From there, we were treated to a firsthand look as they assembled 747s, 777s, and 787s. It was a fascinating process to watch, as the assembly teams took the wings, tail, fins, and engines, and began final assembly of these behemoths of the sky.
One thing we discovered was that only the 747 and 777 were made of aluminum; the 787 is constructed from carbon fiber, a material that’s lighter than aluminum but stronger than steel.
We also learned that the manufacturer no longer paints the entire planes; they just apply paint to areas where they want to stencil the airlines’ names and logos. The difference in weight is measurable, and using less paint saves them fuel.
We capped off Friday with a reception hosted by Sonnax — open bar, tasty hors d’oeuvres, and an evening of sparkling conversation. The general climate was one that echoed ATRA’s What’s Working message for this year: the need to stimulate more technicians to join our industry.
I was honored to kick things off bright and early Saturday morning. I took the opportunity to remind those in attendance of the importance of balance between work and everything else… the things that we are all working for, such as family and friends.
I was followed by what could only be described as a Who’s Who of transmission and torque converter industry experts and market specialists: Bob Warnke from Sonnax spoke about technical issues facing torque converter rebuilders.
TCRA Board Member Mike Cargill from Transtar discussed the future of torque converters, including the tech challenges facing the industry. And he presented the need for retooling, in part because of the diminishing size of today’s torque converters.
Bobby Mace from Transmission Digest presented statistics from the transmission industry, explaining which transmissions and converters are in the greatest demand today.
After Bobby we broke for lunch; a sumptuous buffet hosted by BorgWarner. It was a chance to receive feedback on the seminars we’d heard so far. Then it was back to the books:
John Parmenter spent some time looking at common transmission and converter issues.
ATRA’s Mike Souza went over some of the issues that transmission rebuilders often blame on the torque converter; problems that aren’t actually the converter’s fault.
Jeff Stuck reinforced the technical messages that we’d been hearing up till then, putting a point on those issues for the audience.
Then exiting TCRA president Brad Gilbert introduced Martin Brooks as the newly chosen president. Martin and TCRA Board Member Rafi Pilavjian led a group discussion on myriad topics facing the torque converter industry. This was everyone’s chance to be heard and help set the association’s agenda for the coming year.
There were coffee breaks during the seminar program courtesy of Transtar, Wolfpack and Transmission Specialties.
One of the more interesting aspects of the TCRA event was that the vendors set up their displays right in the seminar hall. Attendees could visit their booths during breaks or between speakers.
The vendors included Wolfpack Enterprises Automotive Cores, Sonnax, Raybestos, Transmission Specialties, and Tri-Components. All of the vendors gave brief presentations before breaks, and all of them provided door prizes that were awarded during the event. WIT provided door prizes but didn’t have a booth at the event.
Overall, it was a terrific weekend, filled with powerful insights and useful information. And, in the end, it was a weekend that helped reinforce the bonds between the torque converter and transmission repair industries: A successful result in itself.
And for the rest of you who couldn’t be there, here’s hoping you got your taxes finished on time.