Well Worth a Look

Turning Point

Those of us in manufacturing tend to mark time in 2-year increments based around IMTS. Attending this show creates mile markers by which we see the ebb and flow of our industry.

Obviously, the advancement of technologies that debut in Chicago is a major draw. Since my first show in 1980, there has been much to benchmark, some of which has come to fruition and become standard procedures for many shops and some that just didn’t catch on. However, it’s always interesting.

This edition promises to be equally revealing. Manufacturing is experiencing resurgence in this country that is long overdue. Finally, it seems that the need to make things is being recognized as critical to the nation’s economic health.

In spite of speed bumps put in the path of expanding our industries by arbitrary regulations, financial uncertainty and the big unknown of health care costs, our manufacturing base is doing well. There is an inherent strength that we know has always been there, but is finally finding a voice in the national discussion.

The products, processes and services on display at McCormick Place are keys to keeping this hard-earned momentum going. Shops of all stripes will find relevant technologies among the 15,000 new machine tools, controls, computers, software, components and systems on display and designed to help improve efficiency and competitiveness.

There is a buzz about this year’s show that has been building since the last edition. With the general business climate for manufacturing positive and the U.S. in a position as a preeminent global producer, IMTS 2014 promises to be among the best shows ever.

This year’s theme, “Come Together—Leave Inspired,” reflects what I sense is unity of manufacturers under a collective interest in working together.

One of the directions that many shops have taken in the last few years as response to the speed bumps is to look at and implement automation on the shop floor. Today, this is a much more inclusive branch of manufacturing that goes beyond material handing to include programming automation with CAD/CAM, office automation with shop control software, data collection protocols and sensing technologies, to name a few.

Toward that end, the IMTS sponsor, The Association For Manufacturing Technology (AMT) is hosting a show within a show—the Industrial Automation North America (IANA) conference and trade show—(for the second time) during IMTS. A focus for this year is to highlight automation technologies, in particular, those with a mobile component.

Another co-located event added this year is Motion, Drive & Automation North America (MDA NA), which showcases innovation in power transmission, motion control and fluid technology, with an emphasis on small gear processing, bearings and motors. These co-located shows and conferences reflect an ongoing recognition that the breadth of manufacturing is continuously expanding and that our International Manufacturing Technology Show should represent this growth.  

Back in 1980 when I first visited IMTS, it was pretty much a machine tool show. In fact, it was called the International Machine Tool Show. The emphasis on the machine tool has not changed in the ensuing years, but what has been added is the recognition of the tools needed to consistently make more complex and accurate workpieces. 

Manufacturing is constantly evolving in ways that can seem unimaginable only a few years ago. The blending of reliable and powerful electronics with mechanical devices of unprecedented accuracy, performance and flexibility makes this, in my opinion, the most interesting time in metalworking manufacturing we’ve seen to date.

Find a way to visit IMTS in Chicago and see for yourself. It’s certainly a trade show, but it’s also a celebration of where we’ve been and more important, is a place that points the direction to where we’re going.

One of the beauties of manufacturing is that there are many ways to solve a given problem. The technology is available to everyone—it’s democratic. However, the way technology is applied individually is often what separates successful businesses.

Americans are among the most innovative and free people on earth. For metalworking manufacturers, there is no better place to be this September than visiting IMTS to take a look at the future.