Viewpoints: Think About IMTS 2020 Before You Attend IMTS 2014
By Scott Walker
Mitsui Seiki USA Inc.
Franklin Lakes, NJ
The International Manufacturing Technology Show is the manufacturing world’s “big box” superstore. For those attending, knowing your objectives in advance is wise. Before you prepare your IMTS 2014 “must see” list, I suggest asking yourself and your team: “What do we want to be working on five years from now? What types of parts? What industries? What technologies do we want in place by then? What do we want our factory floor to look like? How will we manage all the data?” In other words, what do you want your core competencies to be by the time IMTS 2020 rolls around? The answers will give you solid clues as to what you need to accomplish at IMTS 2014.
It may be that you are content with the status quo. You are in a solid, yet competitive niche. Your customers are satisfied. Your margins are tight, but okay, and the business outlook is positive for years to come. But, some of your equipment is tired and you come to IMTS to compare replacements. If you are in this category of show visitor, you have certain requirements and will want to preview all the machine tool builders that offer similar lines, narrow them down to a manageable list, and go shopping. IMTS is a great place to do that. You and your team will likely exit McCormick Place knowing exactly what you will purchase. Your parts will be made better, and your margins will improve with fresh machinery and more advanced controls. Good deal.
Alternatively, if after pondering the questions above, you decide you need to look for an equipment supplier to help your company grow into a new direction, then your IMTS goals will be different than moving from booth to booth comparing features, specs, and prices. Attend all the conferences and presentations that are relevant to your interests. Ask questions of the builders you’ve selected to visit, such as their experience in the parts and industries you want to be in, along with any contacts that may be able to help you make an entry.
For example, right now there are opportunities in aerospace blade machining that will require hundreds of new-generation machines to make parts for the new fuel-efficient jet engines over the next several years. Similarly, 10 years ago we forecasted the increased need for cost-effective machining approaches for titanium structural components for aerospace. That arena has flourished and will continue to, along with emerging knowledge in machining Ti Aluminite.
You can learn a lot at IMTS about not only how to propel your company into new terrain, but also about the developing trends and future requirements in that landscape. As there will likely be a learning curve with the latest technology you’ll need to attract new work, be sure to ask the builders about training and after-sale support.
Another reaction can surface after asking those questions about your company’s future: Frustration. You know exactly where you want to go and where you want to be by IMTS 2020, but the road map is drawn on an Etch-a-Sketch. Perhaps you’ve been noodling with a new part design, struggling with a new process, or conducting R&D on a new material. Nothing is gelling, and there isn’t a machine on earth yet that can make that part, perform that process, or cut that material. Yet.
Builders who design and build custom manufacturing equipment as we do, relish that word and welcome inventive dialogue that sparks our imaginations and leads to the ultimate answer. Unfortunately, people with these types of conundrums rarely come to IMTS. If you fall into this category, reconsider. IMTS is a sensible venue to meet with a variety of experts and compare experience and knowledge, often revealed in the questions they ask to further articulate the challenge. A conversation at IMTS could result in innovative technology solutions that drive advanced manufacturing techniques and methodologies. Some could be widely accepted by IMTS 2020. The High Speed Electro Erosion (HSEE) process could be one, for instance.
In these days of e-this and e-that, it’s refreshing there is still an institution in place to have a real discussion, not virtual, among bright people. Let’s find out what we can discover, what we can fathom, what we can solve—together—whether it’s discerning the ideal replacement machine or developing a manufacturing system that unravels a mystery. Come to IMTS 2014. ME
This article was first published in the August 2014 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.
Published Date : 8/1/2014