Too Big or Just Right?

The beauty of size is in the eye of the beholder.

Success is not a function of the size of your title, but the richness of your contribution.
— Robin S. Sharma

A lot of things in life are judged based on their size. Often, “the bigger, the better” is a natural response to a query about one’s desired size, whether we’re talking about houses, diamonds, party attendance numbers, or so many other objectives. “Super-size it” has become a gut reaction (in more ways than one) for many people. But a lot of factors can come into play when determining the ideal size for any given item. Like Goldilocks, finding the best fit may only be a matter of having good options from which to choose.

I just returned from lunch with a co-worker. As is the case with many restaurants, the small café down the street is known for its large portion sizes. Even though I brought a box of leftovers back to the office with me, I still feel like I’ve eaten my fair share for the rest of the week. I’m stuffed! I enjoy a delicious meal as much as the next person, but I don’t generally eat a lot in a single sitting. So was my meal from this restaurant too big? I think that answer depends more on value than quantity, and I believe I got my money’s worth because I received enough for two meals. So what seems like excess may actually bring additional benefits.

Now that it’s time for the biennial International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), some people may be considering the enormity of this event and debating whether or not the show is too big. Trade shows do come in various sizes, and with more than 2,000 exhibitors, this one is one of the largest industrial trade shows in the world. But there’s good reason for offering so much at one time in a single location.

The size of the show allows it to reach virtually every segment of the metalworking industry, giving exhibitors the opportunity to display all of the applicable machines and everything needed to run them efficiently and effectively. There’s something for everyone, and all it takes is a little bit of preparation to take advantage of and appreciate all that it has to offer.

Our Last Word column this month (page 80) was contributed by Al Youngwerth, who is able to provide two important perspectives on the benefits of attending IMTS. His first visit to the show, as a shop owner, was for the purpose of finding one specific type of equipment. The event introduced him, though, to other technologies that have helped his business thrive. This year, he is attending more as a vendor, marketing products that have developed from what he learned the first time through. It’s a cool story.

The show is certainly an opportunity to see all kinds of manufacturing technology, from the smallest to the largest. And this industry has some mighty large machines. But they all have their purpose. I recently visited a shop that has 10 Gnutti rotary transfer machines. While the commonly used analogy, “the size of a small house,” may be a bit of an exaggeration, these machines really are big. And while a large footprint is not usually a selling feature for a machine, the amount of space occupied by the other machines that each of these transfers has replaced is often considerably more. According to this particular shop’s management, each transfer machine is replacing at least four other machines, on average, and bringing improved production capabilities. Reducing setups, part handling and personnel requirements for machine tending are icing-on-the-cake benefits of this transition.

So again, the beauty of size is in the eye of the beholder. If the value is there—if all of the benefits that the additional size brings, or at least enough of them, can be put to good use—then perhaps bigger really is better. It’s not the size that makes it good, though, but how that size is applied for faster turnaround, better quality and increased profit.