In the last issue of GEARS, Jim Rodd, president of ATRA’s board of directors, predicted that this year’s Expo would be “the greatest Expo ever.” That’s not so surprising: Jim pretty much predicts every Expo will be the greatest ever.
What is interesting is that he’s usually right. And he definitely was on the money with this year’s prediction.
That’s not to suggest everything went off without a hitch. In fact, this year’s Expo began with a serious problem: Shortly before attendees were supposed to begin heading out to Las Vegas, Bally’s informed ATRA that they’d double-booked their meeting rooms. They had to move us to the meeting rooms in the Paris hotel.
It could have been worse: The two hotels are connected through a corridor of restaurants and shops, so it just meant a few extra steps. But the show booklets had already been printed and the app was already on line.
So the ATRA team jumped into action, reprinting the booklets and altering the app to include the new information. The change went so smoothly that, with the exception of walking a little farther, most folks at Expo probably didn’t even realize there’d been a mix-up.
This year, we made a few changes, beginning the seminar programs on Wednesday afternoon and ending the show on Saturday. This gave those in attendance a full day to make their way home to get back to work on Monday morning, bringing with them the latest information and knowledge to share with those who couldn’t make it to Vegas.
The seminars started at 4PM. On the technical side, Mike Brown covered GM’s AF50. Keith Clark followed at 5:15, going over solutions to today’s computer-programming problems.
The management seminars began with ATRA CEO Dennis Madden and GEARS Managing Editor Rodger Bland, presenting what they’d discovered during the latest What’s Working surveys. Many of the results were startling, and they opened a lot of people’s eyes.
Thursday began really early for some folks, with the golf tournament, see pages 36 and 37 for all of the golf events.
The Thursday tech seminars began bright and early at 8AM with Dan Marinucci discussing reference voltage testing tips. Mike Souza was next, covering the Mercedes 7G-DTC 7-speed dual clutch transmission. Then Randall Schroeder offered rebuild options for when “time is money.”
For management, Maryann Croce discussed ways to focus on solutions rather than problems. Then Thom Tschetter led a seminar with Mario Jauregui, who really set the room buzzing with a new way to look at business prices and profits.
After lunch, the tech seminars regrouped with Robert Bateman covering the differences between GM’s 10L90 and Ford’s 10R80. Steve Garrett offered ways to diagnose intermittent electrical problems, and Chris Horbach closed the day’s seminars with a look at friction materials.
On the management side, Thom Tschetter took the stage again, this time with John Braconnier, who discussed taking today’s shops paperless.
Friday was a big day, beginning at 7AM with the annual ATRA Member Meeting. ATRA Technical Director Lance Wiggins took the stage to present an in-depth look at the new VTS interactive training program. It was a big hit with those in attendance.
The seminars began at 8: In tech, John Parmenter offered tips and tricks on the bench, followed by Dirk Fuchs who discussed ZF’s Mechatronic.
In management, Danny Sanchez spoke about building a winning culture in your shop. He was followed by Maylan Newton, who brought the audience to their feet with his presentation, Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something!
The Friday seminars ended by noon and everyone made their way back to Bally’s Event Center for a sumptuous lunch, sponsored, as always, by Raybestos Powertrain. It began with a performance by Johnny Counterfeit, who thrilled the audience with his ability to sing songs while mimicking other performers.
Then ATRA introduced its VTS program to the entire group. If you weren’t there, make sure you visit the ATRA web site to learn about this exciting new program.
After lunch, everyone headed over to the opening of this year’s trade show, which went from 2PM to 7PM. The floor was abuzz as attendees made their way from one booth to the next. As the day wore on, a few folks had to leave a little early for the ATRA Chapter Planning Meeting.
At 7PM, the doors opened for the Transtar reception; always one of Expo’s highlights. This year, along with an open bar, amazing hors d’oeuvres, and a buffet to die for, those in attendance were serenaded by the members of the Rat Pack: Frank, Dino, Sammy… the whole gang was there. At least, it sounded like them.
For the final day, technical kicked off at 8AM with Scott Shotton discussing oxygen sensors and fuel trim, followed by Sean Boyle covering Honda transmissions. After a break for lunch, the program restarted with Eric Ziegler’s presentation on MAF sensors and fuel trim, followed by Reese Blalock, who closed out the tech seminars with ways to make the most out of your shop equipment.
Management began at 9AM with Larry Mercereau discussing ways to stand out from the competition. Then, after a long break for attendees to grab lunch and visit the trade show, management fired up one last time with Ron Hurst, who explained the importance of clear communication in your shop.
The trade show was open from 11AM until 4PM, while ATRA’s geriatric bunch met at 3PM for the annual Longtimer’s meeting.
And then everyone who’d remained through the end of the show got together for ATRA’s closing reception of pizza, freshly baked cookies, and a show of camaraderie and a touch of sadness as they said goodbye for another year.
But one thing was certain: Jim Rodd may well have been right when he predicted that this would be the best Expo ever. One can only wonder how we’ll beat it at next year’s Expo, being held from October 30 to November 2 at Cesar’s Palace. Mark your calendars today for what’s sure to be “the best Expo ever!”