SME Leads Return of In-Person Manufacturing Events by Convening North American Manufacturing Community for 9 Events in 63 Days December 14, 2021 by SME Communications Nearly 55,000 of North America’s small-to-large manufacturers were engaged and educated (SOUTHFIELD, Mich., Dec. 14, 2021) — SME, the professional association committed to advancing manufacturing professionals, academia and communities, recently completed the safe and successful production of nine in-person manufacturing events in North America across a 63-day period from September to November. The events engaged nearly 55,000 manufacturing professionals with over 2,000 technology solution providers demonstrating equipment and presenting ideas in more than 1.5 million square feet of exhibits. September kicked off with three of SME’s nine events all occurring the week of Sept. 13. Leading the comeback was the co-sponsored FABTECH event that re-opened the in-person event experience to thousands of attendees. Held alongside FABTECH in Chicago’s McCormick Place was SME’s RAPID + TCT event. Both market leaders, FABTECH, North America’s largest metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing event, along with SME’s North American flagship event in additive manufacturing, RAPID + TCT, safely resumed the dynamic, in-person discovery and learning experience that manufacturing technology has come to expect when looking to source and secure the latest technology and education. Both events boasted busy exhibit halls along with more than a dozen keynotes and thought leadership panels and conference programs. Steve Prahalis, Chief Operating Officer, SME Two of the nine events included manufacturing technology shows in Canada ― CMTS in Toronto and WMTS in Edmonton, Alberta. October saw SME produce four Manufacturing Technology Series (MT Series) regional U.S. events focused on small-and-medium manufacturers (SMMs), the first of which, HOUSTEX, launched in Houston. From there, additional MT Series events were held in West Springfield, Massachusetts (EASTEC), Greenville, South Carolina (SOUTHTEC) and Long Beach, California (WESTEC). The MT Series is co-sponsored by AMT (The Association for Manufacturing Technology). According to SME’s Chief Operating Officer Steve Prahalis, SMMs account for more than 95% of the manufacturing performed in North America each year. “Convening the industry is crucial to strengthening North America’s manufacturing base through SME’s four pillars of commerce, education, networking and community,” said Prahalis. “Each regional event draws together key decision makers, major machine tool, tooling and technology suppliers, and thought leaders from a broad spectrum of manufacturing disciplines. These SMMs, which typically employ 20 to 50 people, attend these regional events to access the knowledge and sense of community that helps them compete in the ever-intensifying world of smart manufacturing.” Manufacturing Technology Series Critical for SMMs Prahalis said that in 2021, the MT Series brought together more than 19,000 attendees and almost 1,000 exhibitors in approximately a half-a-million square feet of space across four strategically located cities to talk about issues critical to small shops with finite resources. Issues such as digital transformation to smart manufacturing, workforce development and the worker shortage as well as transitioning to the post-COVID “new normal” were all hot topics for business owners and their teams. Prahalis went on to say that, as a nonprofit organization, SME was happy to get out to the regions the organization has traditionally served for over 57 years. Future of North American Manufacturing: Workforce Dependent A strong suit of SME’s in-person events is connecting up-and-coming workers ― typically of high school age ― with companies that need increasingly well-educated workers. According to Prahalis, as technology in factories continues to advance, a strong need for new workers with solid STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills who can step into careers with minimal postsecondary training has emerged. To help satisfy this need, he said SME conducts Student Summits at most of its in-person events to give future workers a taste of designing and manufacturing a product to performance specifications. 2021 SME Student Summit participants in action “In 2021, our Student Summits connected about 900 students from across the U.S. with over 170 judges and more than 180 student-friendly exhibitors to show our youth how they can use technology to design and manufacture products,” Prahalis said. “We worked with students in small groups to help them design, build and operate autonomous vehicles. Top teams received STEM-related prizes.” Health & Safety Strategy Essential to Events’ Success Paramount to returning to in-person events was ensuring that they were produced with strict adherence to all applicable health and safety measures. SME continuously monitored city protocols for COVID assessments and venue and vaccination requirements. In addition, SME also took a proactive stance to communicate regularly with all stakeholders on various city-by-city protocols and restrictions. Toronto and Long Beach required proof of vaccination, while many other cities, including Chicago for the 30,000 people that attended RAPID + TCT and FABTECH, where masks were mandated throughout the city and McCormick Place. To learn more about SME events and its 2022 event lineup, visit sme.org/events. About SMESME connects manufacturing professionals, academia and communities, sharing knowledge and resources to build inspired, educated and prosperous manufacturers and enterprises. With nearly 90 years of experience and expertise in events, media, membership, training and development, and also through the SME Education Foundation, SME is committed to promoting manufacturing technology, developing a skilled workforce and attracting future generations to advance manufacturing. 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