Biannual conference is a true sign of Partners in Progress

The sheet metal Funds were well represented at the Partners in Progress Conference held Feb. 25-26 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The biannual labor-management event brings together SMART (Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation) crafts persons and SMACNA (Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association) contractors in an effective cooperative effort to ensure an increasing market share and dominant role in the future of the industry. This year’s theme was “All In,” a rallying call and reminder of what it takes to accomplish these collaborative goals.

With this in mind, one of the Tuesday morning highlights was the “Opportunities to Expand Markets with Technology” session, presented by the International Training Institute (ITI) program director Mike Harris, and Ron McGuire, ITI field rep/BIM (Building Information Modelling) specialist, both of whom focused on the importance of staying abreast of technology trends, implementing the best solutions and quickly seizing upon opportunities for improvement as they become available.

Harris used a well-known quote from hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been,” to illustrate his point that the sheet metal industry, more than the other building trades, is impacted by advances in technology, and the time to embrace the benefits of innovations like robotic welding is now.

Similarly, McGuire lauded the advantages of robotic total stations, emphasizing the speed, accuracy, productivity and value afforded by the newest generation of equipment and related software applications from developers such as Autodesk, Bluebeam, PlanGrid, Stratus, eVolve MEP, DADO, Procore and more. Other topics of interest included 3D laser scanners, 3D printers and virtual reality lifts.

On Wednesday morning, Randy Krocka, Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust (SMOHIT) administrator; Mike McCullion, SMACNA director of market sectors and safety; and Phillip Ragain, partner and director of training and human performance for the RAD Group, anchored a presentation, Safety Trends, Compliance and Outlook.

The presenters looked at the big-picture question, “Why do some organizations significantly outperform others when it comes to safety or other critical performance metrics?” and concluded that organizational performance flows from how leaders view the people in the organization. The session was designed to empower attendees with a new view of human performance and equip them with a set of leadership practices that have been shown to improve performance, and consequently, safety, throughout their organizations.

All three facilitators agreed everyone has the same goal: to get workers home safe at the end of the day.

The third Funds-intensive session, “Architectural Sheet Metal — Our Time is Now,” featured Dan McCallum, ITI field training staff member and architectural specialist; Soph Davenberry, NEMIC chief technology officer; Mark Curtis, SMART international representative; and Dave Roche, secretary treasurer of the Roofing and Building Enclosure Council.

As one of the fastest evolving sectors of the sheet metal industry, with new products and systems rolling out almost daily, architectural employers and workers must stay ahead of the curve to thrive in the industry. This session discussed the history, vision, mission and initiatives of SMART’S Roofing and Building Enclosure Council, as well as NEMIC’s Building Envelope Installer Technician certification and the ITI’s product/project/system-specific mobile Strike Force Training, ensuring SMART members are ready to face the challenge of this rapidly growing sector.

With baby boomers retiring in record numbers, leaving 2 million fewer skilled members over the next decade, there will be a shortage of trained workers to fill an ever-increasing number of high-skill jobs, unless the sheet metal industry rises to meet the opportunity. A number of these high-ticket, high-tech architectural projects, such as the Las Vegas Convention Center, Tampa International Airport and Los Lunas Facebook Data Center, are already underway, in addition to many more in the pipeline. In the words of Tom Zahner of A. Zahner Company, “Everyone must be trained and competent in the modern techniques of construction.” And nowhere more so than in the field of architectural sheet metal.

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