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A Glimpse Behind the Scenes of SIMTOS 2014

Senior Editor James D. Sawyer

For those of us who attend trade shows primarily in the US, a visit to SIMTOS (the Seoul International Machine Tool Show) at KINTEX in Goyang just outside of Korea’s capital is out of the ordinary. And it’s not just due to being in a foreign land and dealing with a foreign language. (While written Korean is indecipherable to those with no knowledge of its Hangul alphabet, most South Koreans are fairly if not fully conversant in English.)
Exterior of one of the SIMTOS halls
The big difference is that the show is split among 10 halls in four buildings and one must go outside a building and walk a greater or lesser distance to another. In the US EASTECH is the only industrial exhibition I know of with a similar layout—but on a smaller scale.

Another difference at SIMTOS is that the pecking order for display space is not based on seniority, at least not in main building, which houses Halls 1–5 and hosts the Metal Cutting & Die Mold Working / Parts, Materials & Motion Control displays. Here Korea’s Big Three machine tool builders—Hwacheon, Doosan Infracore and Hyundai WIA—rotate pride of place in the center of the building with every show. For SIMTOS 2014, the 16th iteration of the event, this spot was held by Doosan, which also happened to be my host in Korea.

Doosan had 31 machines on display, and Hyundai WIA was not far behind with 27. While I did notDoosan FM 200 5AX have a chance to total up the number of machines at the Hwacheon exhibit, its space was on par with its peers. Familiar names—FANUC, DMG Mori, Haas, Siemens, Mazak, Okuma and others—helped fill in the spaces around the Big Three, along with a plethora of other entities whose markets lie principally in Korea or other parts of Asia.

“The Korean machine tool manufacturing industry exports many things to China,” said Jin-Seon Kim, vice chairman of the Korean Machine Tool Manufacturers’ Association. “We’ve partnered in their growth, but their rate of growth has slowed in recent years.”

The Korean market had been decreasing until last year, when things began to turn around thanks in part to placing greater emphasis on serving the North American and European markets.

“This year the economy is improving,” Kim, said, “and our future is brighter than last year.” SIMTOS, he added, has 4.7% more Hyundai WIA displayexhibitors this year than it did when it was last held in 2012. “And in 2012 we had 100,000 attendees,” Kim said, adding that he expected that number to be exceeded this year as well.

While Korea is a major manufacturing site, he noted, it is also well known as an exporter of machine tools. “Korea exports about 50% of the machine tools it builds,” he said.
Surprisingly for such a manufacturing-oriented economy, Korea is experiencing its own version of the skills gap. The country, Kim said, is not seeing as many of its young people go into manufacturing as it did in the past.

“Many Koreans want their children to go into professions like medicine rather than engage in manufacturing,” he said. While there is some need for machine operators, Kim said, Korea has a far greater need for machine tool designers and engineers to create ever-more innovative machine tools given the level of competition among the world’s machine tool makers.

Published Date : 4/16/2014

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