10/21/2010 | 3 MINUTE READ

IMTS Reinforces Manufacturing Optimism

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Those in the manufacturing sector have been showing a great deal of optimism in the past few months, albeit cautious optimism, but optimism nonetheless. And if one wanted to confirm the spread of such positive manufacturing outlooks, there was no better place to do so than at IMTS 2010.

Show attendees were all buzzing about new projects they had in the pipelines, making investments in their shops, and, most reassuredly, were ready to purchase new technology. Based on customer and attendee feedback at the show, on sales, and on the types of projects in which our company is involved, it’s safe to say that shops are producing, and machines are again up and running.

What was most notable during the show was the investment climate. Show attendees weren’t just window shopping. They had specific products and technologies in mind and were ready to purchase.

The “recovery” appears to be nationwide and stemming from several industries such as automotive, construction equipment, aerospace, wind energy, and others. Some of the strongest manufacturing growth our company has seen has been with companies serving the automotive industry.

A simple explanation for this automotive upsurge is that the industry was definitely hurting 2 years ago, and basically up was the only direction it could go. As this positive growth path continues, the automotive industry and those who serve it are placing even more emphasis on flexible manufacturing systems and on standalone equipment concepts.

Today’s product lifecycles for the automotive industry, and all others for that matter, are extremely short and getting shorter. Quick retooling is more critical than ever, and getting the most production out of less equipment is key, especially because of a weak hiring climate in manufacturing.

While manufacturing optimism abounds, we are not seeing many aggressive recruitment efforts being made, and companies continue to maintain cautious hiring postures. Most are hesitant to call back or replace employees that they were forced to let go over the past 2 years. These shops fear that if the current growth in manufacturing is not sustained, they would once again find themselves in the painful situation of reducing the workforce.

Presently, and until conditions improve enough to bring on more employees, most shops are investing in new, productivity enhancing equipment and technologies to help meet the increase of incoming work. They are also actively seeking ways to increase the production of their existing resources.

To get the most out of new and existing equipment, many shops are forming partner-like relationships with their OEM supplier companies. At IMTS, exhibiting supplier companies presented their products and manufacturing technologies in industry-specific and application-oriented fashions to allow customers to quickly and precisely match the best product or technology to their specific intended application.

Today’s OEM suppliers are more in tune with their customers, the jobs they are working on, and what they need to be successful and productive. This acute awareness and understanding is critical to successful partnerships between OEM suppliers and customers.

Very few shops want to conduct business with suppliers that are unwilling to partner. Shops want to discuss projects with their suppliers, who, in turn, are expected to provide viable solutions and technologies for achieving desired manufacturing goals.

Nowhere else is this partnering evident than at the growing number of OEM supplier technology centers that work with shops to solve manufacturing problems, improve processes, train and offer overall support. These industry-focused technology centers help to further develop working partnerships into ones that are more productive and that extend beyond typical supplier/customer relationships.

Manufacturing will continue its steady climb and further fuel industry optimism. However, shops must still invest in new processes and technologies to maintain competitiveness. They need to think long term or face an uphill struggle to succeed.

Even with the optimism experienced at IMTS 2010, investing is a risky undertaking. The risks can be significantly reduced, though, if shops carefully think projects through and surround themselves with suppliers they really trust and that want to establish long-term partnerships for providing additional help and guidance.

Sandvik Coromant Co.