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Recycler Rendezvous: Another successful OARA Convention and Trade Show in the books

Toronto, Ontario ⁠— The members of the Ontario Automotive Recyclers Association (OARA) surely had a weekend to remember as the association hosted its 2022 Convention and Trade Show from March 29 through April 2, marking the first time the event had taken place since 2019.

Thanks to the pandemic, it had been nearly three years to the date since OARA members gathered for their annual Convention and Trade Show. The last event was hosted in March 2019, and pandemic restrictions forced the organization to cancel its 2020 and 2021 shows.

The event kicked off on March 29 with an OARA Board of Directors meeting and informal greetings in the evening, but the real festivities began Friday morning. Crowds gathered in the lobby to enjoy breakfast and pre-event conversation; it took organizers several tries to break up the impromptu breakfast networking session and move attendees into the conference room before educational sessions began.

“We need this now, and it’s fantastic to see everyone together again,” said Mary Poirier, owner of Valley Automotive and longtime OARA secretary.

“There are countless issues at the forefront of our industry that need to be addressed⁠,” she added, referring specifically to the Canadian government’s aggressive embarkment on vehicle electrification.

While vehicle electrification and the management of EV materials, specifically batteries, took up a large chunk of the conversation, Friday’s presentations focused on lessons learned during the pandemic⁠—and strategies to avoid mistakes in the post-pandemic era.

Steve Fletcher, executive director of OARA and managing director of the Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC) partnered with Greg Woodbeck, the co-owner of Woodbeck Auto Parts to deliver an opening talk on the state of the industry.

“What did you do to survive pandemic restrictions?” Woodbeck prompted the crowd. Some answers included slimming operations on a do-or-die mantra; shifting buying focus to new markets and reassessing inner operations on a near-daily basis.

The Profit Team Consulting trio⁠⁠—Lee Worman, Mike Kunkel and Rob Rainwater⁠—followed Fletcher and Woodbeck with a lively presentation titled Buy or Die.

The trio threatened reality to those who may be holding off buying in hopes scrap prices will soon fall.

“They’re not coming down,” said Kunkel.

The presentation was met with lively discussion from the crowd. Slides from the presentation can be acquired by contacting the Profit Team Consulting trio.

Profit Team’s Rainwater led a panel between Eric Wilbert of Wilbert’s Inc., in Williamson, N.Y.; Natalie Miller of Miller’s Auto Recycling in Fort Erie, Ont.; Dalbert Livingstone of Island Auto Supply and Corey Earl of Hotch’s Auto Parts in Bowmanville, Ont.

The panellists⁠—all of whom operate slightly different yards⁠—discussed their reactions to the pandemic and strategies they’ve taken to navigate operations in the post-pandemic era.

“We really narrowed in on our quality control [at Island Auto Supply],” explained Livingstone. “I’ve also put more of my focus on our U-Pull Yard and shifted more toward ‘street’ buys as opposed to auctions.”

Miller echoed Livingstone’s buying habits, admitting that, at the start of the pandemic her team took a step back from the buying market.

“Maybe it was a mistake, but we’ve fared fine regardless. Adding a second buyer to our team really helped us navigate shortages,” she said.

Next on the stage was special visitor Michael Kerwin, the senior vice president of business development for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), who informed OARA members of some benefits of being part of CFIB.

“OARA joined CFIB largely for the lobbyist and regulatory aspects,” Fletcher explained to the audience. “We’re very much looking forward to taking advantage of those opportunities.”

The Profit Team trio then took the stage again, this time narrowing in on profit and loss statements.

“How many of you skip right to the bottom of your P&L⁠ and ignore everything in between?” Kunkel asked the crowd.

“You should be looking at seven lines,” added Kunkel. “P&L is like a report card. You can’t chase results⁠—but you can chase your drivers.”

Just before lunch was served, Fletcher took the stage in place of an absent representative from the Ontario Ministry of Environment to deliver an update on the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR) for end-of-life vehicle waste disposal sites in Ontario.

As of September 2016, all activities related to end-of-life waste disposal sites were required to register in the EASR. According to the information received by Fletcher from the government organization, 102 EASR-related inspections occurred in 2021, with an average pass rate of 12 percent and an average failure rate of 60 percent. A further 27 percent of the inspections were labelled not applicable.

The excitement was palpable when the trade show opened in the afternoon. More than 35 exhibitors were set up on the floor and finding a space to stand without interrupting a conversation proved difficult.

The festivities continued well into the evening with dinner, a casino fundraiser supporting the OARA Employee Scholarship Program complete with a silent and prize auction. The fundraisers generated about $25,000, said Fletcher.

The second official day of the event kicked off Saturday morning with an OARA member breakfast and the association’s annual general meeting.

A new segment of the event, dubbed TECHtalks, debuted on Saturday morning. Hollander began the talks with a presentation on eBay integration, store setup and a question-and-answer with eBay Motors, while Car-Part.com engaged in discussion on its CPI+ for Checkmate and non-Checkmate yards and other Checkmate enhancements.

EZ Suite then took the mic to cover the latest developments to its software, followed by Buddy Automotive, which shared its recent updates.

Following the TECHtalks, Chris Daglis, managing director of PARTnered Solutions and founder and managing director of All Auto Recalls, to discuss the history of e-commerce.

The afternoon continued with sessions from Amanda Morrison of United Recyclers Group (URG), who delivered her thoughts on the ‘new 3Rs’: re-evaluating, re-thinking and re-inventing your business; Paul “Core Hunter” D’Adamo of RAS Cores, who discussed ways for recyclers to boost core and catalytic converter profitability; another presentation from Profit Team Consulting on the basics of sales management, with a focus on monitoring, measuring and growing and ‘Sales School’ with Profit Team Consulting, which delved deeper into the topics of the previous session.

“It was fantastic to see OARA members all in one place again,” said Fletcher. “The conversations were abuzz; the presentations were well-received, and everyone had a great time. It was a much-needed affair.”

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