Tech Trends Intersect Human Connections at NRLA LBM Expo
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There is something different – a deeper connection – that comes with meeting in person.
That connection made the NRLA LBM Expo in Rhode Island a refreshing opportunity to engage, finally in person, with so many of our partners in this business. Kudos to the NRLA team that seamlessly put on the Expo in these uncertain times for group events.
From discussions with dozens of attendees about lumber buying and technology, here are four takeaways that surfaced during the show for me.
– Last year was a difficult year for managing commodity price risk. In Spring 2021, with commodity prices sky high and long delivery times, many lumberyards got caught with high priced lumber coming at them as prices fell. With price volatility sure to continue in 2022, closely managing this risk will be essential.
– Several owners talked about working capital. One walked into our booth and pointed to “Reduce Working Capital” on our display and said “Help me do that.” Some are looking to invest to meet growing demand, and that expansion requires capital. Whether it is expansion or better utilization of assets, the less capital tied up in inventory, the more that is available for those other needs.
– I heard a vocal expression of organizational leaders of a need for more visibility to the business, whether that relates to operational metrics, understanding capital commitments to inventory, or seeing data to better understand market conditions and volatility. Old school buying methods via telephone, note pads, and spreadsheets limit that visibility for organizational leadership, while buyers using digital solutions allow for much greater clarity throughout the organization.
– While the LBM Expo’s focus is building materials and related products, there was also a terrific representation of technology at the show. The days of a single technology vendor providing a one-size-fits-all solution for the entire business appear to be shifting to an approach where operators will have multiple tools that address specific areas of need.
It was great to attend the Expo, have interactive conversations with friends, customers, and partners in the industry, and learn more about the key issues affecting the industry. At Yesler, we look forward to a return to these kinds of events in 2022 and to continuing, invigorating dialog.