Back in Boston, LBM Expo looks ahead

Technology, new practices, and labor savers showcased in New England.

BY Andy Carlo

BOSTON – As the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association (NRLA) celebrates its 125th anniversary, the organization embraced some of its rich history at the 2019 edition of LBM Expo in Boston.

But the NRLA also has an eye on the future as technology continues to transform how sales, operations, and projects are completed in the LBM industry.

“Experience the Future” is the theme of this year’s Expo, running Feb. 6-8 at the Hynes Convention Center. The Expo returned to Boston after holding court in Providence, R.I. for several years.

The show is featuring multiple sessions dedicated to the latest tech trends including creating a virtual showroom, using virtual reality to build skills and increase safety, design software, and how new functions can help builder customers.

“For our business to survive, we have to look forward, and this show is helping us look ahead,” Dick Tarr, vice president of Lapointe Lumber – based in Augusta, Maine – told HBSDealer.

Tarr said he was particularly impressed by a seminar discussing the key elements to creating a virtual showroom. The seminar didn’t focus on gadgets. Instead, it boiled it down to the essential elements in a virtual showroom that will help dealers close more deals while eliminating mistakes during the design process.

Roughly 200 vendors representing building products, hardware, tools, tech, and machinery are on hand this year with about 3,000 attendees expected.

Attendees this year include the next generation of the industry with 130 students from a collection of regional colleges, according to NRLA Director of Communications Rob Totaro. “We think that’s a pretty big deal this year,” he said.

Among the diverse spectrum of exhibitors is DMSi, the Omaha, Neb.-based software and ERP provider. DMSi sales representative Jordan Lynch – who made the trip from Omaha – said Expo remains a strong focal point for meeting with clients.

“We have quite a few customers here and this show is a key to maintaining an industry presence,” Lynch said, while noting that several new apps from DMSi were being discussed at the show.

Jose DeJesus, from Big Apple Crane Certifiers, and Jonathan McCurdy, CEO of GlobalSim Inc., brought a virtual forklift training simulator to the Expo. The simulator is being used to instruct hundreds of operators across the country. It was open to attendees looking to get a taste of warehouse and yard operations.

FastenMaster brought a sampling of its Cortex deck plugs for composite and wood-alternative decking products along with a new Lateral Tension System. The latter allows deck builders to transfer the lateral forces on an exterior deck when attached to the wood frame of a structure. While code compliant, the system is also fast.

“It cuts down on labor, and labor savings is where builders want to be at this point,” said Derek Cossette, a field service representative for FastenMaster.

Harkening back to a time when some of the biggest entertainers were featured at LBM Expo, including Bob Hope, comedian Jay Leno will close out the show on Feb. 7.

Despite the test of time and the coming and going of products and best practices, or a tether to the past in regard to entertainment, Tarr said key elements of the LBM industry continue to remain steady.

“The basics are still important,” he said. “We still have to service our customers and take care of the personal relationships we have with them.”

“You have to understand your customers,” Tarr said.

And LBM Expo remains a place to meet and greet those customers, in addition to preparing the next generation.



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