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NAFA 2017 Institute & Expo: Key Highlights and Takeaways

In the past 30 years that I’ve been attending NAFA I&E, I’ve seen an evolution in the industry. In the old days, it was very much about the vehicles themselves and the newest features or maintenance best practices. Today, the focus is on data and analytics, but also on people and work/life balance. 

This year, I was hoping to find out more about what the fleet managers are hearing out there and to learn more about what they care about. And I think it goes without saying, networking and getting some face time with current customers and potential customers is the most valuable part of attending NAFA I&E. 

Favorite seminar this year

I like to attend the seminars and panel discussions that are offered at NAFA. It’s mostly the same themes and topics as we’ve always discussed in the industry, but every year there is a new and fresh take on them. I always get a kick out of that and it reinvigorates my passion for this industry and what I do. 

For example, my favorite seminar this year was ROI vs. COI – Identifying New Areas for Cost Reduction. This discussion was around the total cost of ownership, which is definitely nothing new, but this year it was really interesting to dive deeper into this angle of “cost of ignoring” (COI). Essentially, COI is about calculating the lost savings that could result when a fleet manager chooses not to make a preventative investment that would’ve improved operational efficiency. Safety policies and maintenance histories feed into this analysis, but telematics and GPS can also play a major role in this ROI vs. COI discussion, as they do with almost every topic these days.    

Data & Analytics

Data, data, and more data. There were many sessions focusing on how to use data to monitor fleet policies, driver compliance, fleet safety, and how to approach making significant decisions for your fleet – like fleet size and staffing. These are all the same topics and themes as previous years, but more than ever before, the common thread is how to use the right data and analytics to help support these policies and drive these decisions. Telematics and GPS technologies can gather all the data points to help you build a risk profile for your drivers and your fleet. And taking this a step further, these technologies can help you use predictive analysis to determine your fleet’s future risk profile. Mind-blowing stuff! 

Humans – the importance of work/life balance and working with millennials

Work smarter, not harder was a mantra that kept coming up at NAFA. This is obviously something that my customers care a lot about, so it was good for me to learn more about how fleet managers can leverage new technology to automate and implement more efficient processes to better use their time and better manage their fleets.  

Another humanistic theme that was prevalent this year was how to approach working with millennials and Generation Zers. These digital natives bring a different skillset, unique work style, and new ideas to their workplaces. They tend to care more about the bigger picture and work/life balance than they do about financial incentives. They take more of a holistic approach to their careers and yearn to make an impact and do something meaningful with their lives – both in the professional and personal senses. After 40 years in this industry, it’s been interesting for me to see the role of the fleet manager evolve with each generation. 

Looking forward to next year 

The more interaction with people, the better. As much as I enjoy sitting in the panel discussions and learning from experts and other suppliers, the most value I get out of attending NAFA is in the one-on-one interactions. It would be great if there was a more structured process or approach to organizing one-on-one meetings during the expo. This event draws thousands of people, so sometimes you can schedule to meet up ahead of time and other times it’s by chance that you run into someone you wanted to meet. If NAFA had a tool or a system where you could request and confirm some scheduled meetings before your arrival, you could plan your time a little better and it would be super valuable and efficient for everyone in attendance.

But until something like that becomes available, to get the most out of your NAFA expo experience, the advice I’d give would be to reach out to the suppliers, customers, managers, and OEMS you know that you want to connect with beforehand. Try to schedule in some time or arrange to attend a session together. There’s a lot to learn at the NAFA expo and the content serves as a natural conversation starter when approaching existing and potential customers alike.

See you at NAFA I&E 2018!

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