The Show Must Go On

Turning Point

Metalworking’s great homecoming kicks off on September 13. This is the 28th edition of IMTS and in spite of the economic malaise we’ve all encountered since the last edition of this biennial show, all signs point to it being a good one.

According to AMT, the IMTS sponsor, more than 1,100 exhibitors are scheduled to come out of their bunkers to demonstrate what they’ve been working on for the last 2 years. As I review the product releases coming across my desk regarding new stuff that will be shown, attendees will not be disappointed.
 
IMTS is important for many reasons, but a fair question is why should you and/or your employees spend the money to visit Chicago and traipse around McCormick Place for a couple of days? At the top of my list is there is no better opportunity to see as eclectic a grouping of technology anywhere else.
 
Surviving the last 2 years has required sacrifice for many shops. That survival mode has also required many to take a long hard look at how business is done and search out any and every cost saving opportunity.
 
IMTS will showcase more than 15,000 new machine tools, controls, computers, software, systems and processes that have been developed and setup with the express purpose of increasing the productivity of metalworking operations. It’s an idea factory that happens to take the form of a trade show.
 
As our industry emerges from the recession, many of the surviving shops have found it necessary to expand their machine shops’ capabilities into processes and operations often outside their traditional comfort zone. This has been necessitated by the need to do more different kinds of work for fewer active customers. Again, IMTS fills the bill simply by virtue of its technological breadth.
 
At its core, ours is a relationship business. There are interpersonal linkages among vendors, customers and suppliers. For me, one the best aspects of attending IMTS is that I can hook up with colleagues and friends I have not seen in a while—sometimes since the last show.
 
In my business and yours, personal contacts are vital to doing my job. Through the years, establishing a network of knowledgeable, subjective professionals is one way to separate the sales person from the expert. Many of these relationships started on the show floor at McCormick Place and have lasted and grown through the years.
 
When I fist attended IMTS in 1980, it was a far different world. I often think of all the technologies that simply didn’t exist then. And as the time has rolled by, IMTS has been a sort of touch stone for when various new technologies emerged.
 
Some of them took and some didn’t, but still it’s often the concepts and ideas rather than the products that give birth to new technology that may result in something very different than the original prototype. But many of these new ideas and concepts first see the light of day at a given IMTS.
 
This year’s edition features several attractions beyond the product and services booths. For example, an Emerging Technology Center is once again exploring what many experts (who will be present) consider the next big thing in manufacturing technology. And you can experience it in 3D—Avatar meets manufacturing. There are five highlighted emerging technologies in the center: additive manufacturing; cloud computing; MT Connect; nanotechnology; and micromanufacturing. Some of these will hit, some may miss, but being exposed to new and nascent things is how manufacturing moves forward, and more often than not, IMTS is the carrier. 
 
Another cool display is a full scale model of the F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter. It’s being exhibited by Lockheed and promises to be a real show stopper. Who doesn’t like planes?
 
As it has for the past few shows, NIMS will host the Student Summit. Designed to enrich educators and students alike on careers in manufacturing, this organization is dedicated to helping pass manufacturing careers to a new, and sorely needed, next generation.
 
Think of a visit to this show as an investment where the ROI may be in the next booth you visit. The show must indeed go on with or without your company’s attendance but it will be better for both parties if you show up. 