Advanced manufacturing technology intersected with longstanding machining traditions at EASTEC 2019, held May 14-16 at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Mass. The event, produced by SME and AMT, has been a New England tradition for 35 years.
This year’s event featured 556 exhibits representing 740 companies and occupying 148,105 sq ft of exhibit space. The event featured 60 educational presentations, a Student Summit, and drew 13,405 visitors, a five percent increase over EASTEC 2017. The trade show welcome more than 50 first-time exhibitors.
Keynote speakers at EASTEC 2019 covered three core issues confronting U.S. manufacturing in the 21st century: sustaining innovation, maintaining profitability through economic cycles, and building a workforce equipped to succeed as well as their predecessors.
Inspiring innovation and sustainability
To be sure, not every company has the reach or resources of Stanley Black and Decker, based in New Britain, Conn. But the model of an innovation ecosystem presented by Marty Guay, vice president of business development, is a blueprint for staying ahead of and immersed in emerging technologies and markets. With 60,000 workers at 100 plants around the world, the company aims to make all those facilities Industry 4.0-compliant in four years. Leading that charge is SBD’s Manufactory 4.0 facility in Hartford, Conn., staffed by 50 people hired from outside the company to digitize and harmonize factory operations.
An expansive vision has built SBD from a $2 billion hand tool business in 2000 to a $14 billion business also encompassing engineered fasteners, building demolition, electronic security and health care.
“We’re not seeking to be one of the world’s industrial or manufacturing innovators, but—full stop—one of the world’s leading innovators,” Guay said. “We don’t call something … a breakthrough innovation unless it can generate $150 million a year in revenue.”
Navigating the economic outlook
A slowdown is coming for manufacturers in 2019, asserted Alan Beaulieu, president and principal of ITR Economics, Manchester, N.H. But that is a perfect opportunity for growth amid the historically bound peaks and troughs on the way. With recovery expected in the second half of 2020, Beaulieu urged businesses to “step into the slowdown,” identify operational bottlenecks and spend to rectify them.
“It’s an easy win for those who are aggressive” because between 2023-29 you’re “going to be really busy.”
Building a new-look workforce
With about two million manufacturing jobs expected to go unfilled in the next 10 years, closing the skills gap requires transferring a wealth of information from retiring workers to their successors. A panel of experts including David Dussault, CEO of P1 Holdings, explained that career development is key to attracting and retaining the next generation of manufacturers. Instilling an entrepreneurial mindset among young employees by quickly identifying and training them for roles with leadership responsibility EASTEC 2017elevates them from strictly mechanical roles.
“We want you to work directly with customers,” he said. “We want you to not only do the setups and programming but to build a business and understand what goes into developing new customers.”