Given the level of activity in the manufacturing sector, who can find time to take even a few days in Chicago to see a bunch of stuff that they could probably just punch into Google anyway? Thousands upon thousands of manufacturing professionals, that’s who—and any readers who are still on the fence about this year’s IMTS—The International Manufacturing Technology Show should have no doubt that some of their most formidable competitors are likely to attend.
In fact, the 2012 edition of IMTS is shaping up to be among the five largest ever, with organizers estimating that more than 82,000 people from 119 countries will pass through the four halls of Chicago’s McCormick Place September 10-15 to peruse offerings from more than 1,500 exhibitors. What all these folks have in common is an understanding that a Google search isn’t likely to point them to the next game-changing technology, nor is any electronic communication likely to prove an adequate replacement for face-to-face interaction with a potential supplier or customer. The theme of this year’s show, “Be There,” elegantly encapsulates this idea.
Of course, just showing up is literally the least you can do to take advantage of all IMTS has to offer. This special pre-IMTS issue of Modern Machine Shop can help make the most of your show experience. Most of this issue is devoted to covering a sampling of various products on display, so flip through and take a note of anything that might interest you. In this article, you’ll find a brief overview of resources for planning your trip and some particularly noteworthy aspects of the show, followed by a few pieces of advice from the MMS editorial staff.
Plotting a Course
is the best place to start planning for your trip. In addition to the basics—registration, parking, hotel information and so forth—you’ll find specialized resources for visitors and exhibitors, details about programs, speakers and events, and more. Be sure to sign up for the two free email newsletters
, which provide regular show and technology updates. The site also links to MyShow Planner
, an interactive, Web-based utility from Map Your Show (a unit of MMS publisher Gardner Business Media) that puts the entire floor plan, a personalized itinerary, exhibitor contact information, and more at the fingertips of anyone with web access or a compatible mobile device.
The abundance of Web-based resources notwithstanding, it can also be nice to have a floor plan, product directory, and list of exhibitors and booth numbers in a tangible format. The Directory of Exhibits, published by Gardner for IMTS organizer AMT—The Association For Manufacturing Technology, provides all that and more in a handy, digest-sized format that will be distributed free at various locations throughout McCormick Place. You’ll also find free copies of the ShowDaily, the official IMTS newspaper, which is produced live by the editors of this magazine and its sister publications to highlight day-to-day happenings on the show floor.
Perhaps the most notable new feature this year is the addition of the Industrial Automation North America (IANA)
Show, a result of a partnership between IMTS and German trade show organizer Deutsche Messe. The event, which will occupy its own pavilion in the Lakeside Center (East Building), will showcase production automation technology to complement IMTS’ focus on metalworking and precision manufacturing. Educational offerings are also more extensive than in past years, organizers say, with six separate conference programs offering hundreds of unique, industry-specific sessions. Another new attraction, IMTSEdu
, offers presentations and town-hall style discussions geared toward helping manufacturers make effective use of social media, among other topics. On the main concourse, the new AMT Manufacturing Stage
will host such industry VIPs as AMT President Doug Woods, Local Motors President and CEO Jay Woods and Harry Moser of the Reshoring Initiative.
Other show highlights might be more familiar to past attendees, but they are no less worthy of attention. True to its name, the Emerging Technology Center
will showcase potentially game-changing developments: additive manufacturing, collaborative manufacturing, the MTConnect open communication protocol and the MTInsight business intelligence system. As in previous years, thousands of bright-eyed students will attend the show as part of the National Institute for Metalworking Skills’ (NIMS) Student Skills Center
, while the IMTS Job Center
will provide opportunities to meet with recruiters for résumé writing tips, interview advice and career guidance. IMTSTV will broadcast various show-floor happenings and a daily briefing throughout McCormick Place and even in some hotels.
is the best place to find more detailed information, including times and locations, for all of these attractions and more.
Making the Most of IMTS
It would be an understatement to say that a show this large can be overwhelming. That said, the MMS editors like to think that we have accumulated a good bit of wisdom about making the show as rewarding as possible, given our decades of combined IMTS experience. We’ll leave you with a few tidbits to consider:
• Dress comfortably, because you’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Altogether, the four halls of McCormick Place occupy 1.2 million square feet of floor space, so take special care to consider function as well as style when selecting your footwear.
• Have a Plan. With so much to see and do, it’s all too easy to lose track of time. Use the resources detailed above to single out what interests you, and keep the rest to a minimum. Also, if your company sends multiple representatives to the show, divvy up the most important conference sessions, presentations and booth visits to maximize the value of everyone’s time.
• Act like a salesperson, because in an abstract sense, that’s what you are, even if you’re there looking for equipment to buy. While exhibitors should be enthusiastic and approachable, you’re competing with thousands of others for their time and attention, and you’ll need to “sell” them on the earnestness of your interest in their technology and the urgency of your need for it. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to develop a “pitch”—a well-rehearsed, concise run-down of who you are, why you’re there and what you need.
Also, keep in mind that just as you wouldn’t buy a piece of equipment without examining specifications and capabilities, exhibitors can’t help you without specific information about the problem you’d like to solve or application you’d like to try. Be ready to speak in those terms, and don’t be shy—there really is no such thing as a stupid question. It might also be a good idea to bring prints, drawings or even sample parts along with you.
• Be sociable. Take advantage of the networking opportunities inherent to the largest gathering of manufacturing professionals in the country. This extends beyond the show itself and beyond the engineers and other experts you’ll find displaying equipment and giving technical presentations. Fellow conference attendees, the person next to you in the lunch line, passengers on the shuttle bus, the group of folks sidled up to the hotel bar after-hours—all are potential sources of valuable insight, so be ready to “talk shop” morning, noon and night.
• Keep your eyes and mind open. Don’t get too distracted by large, flashy displays. The solution you’re looking for could very well be lurking in a small, nondescript booth off in a corner somewhere. Secondly, don’t assume there’s only one solution to any problem, even if you came to the show looking for something very specific. Perhaps it is time to add that first turn-mill, or maybe a part you’ve been cutting on an EDM might be better suited for an abrasive waterjet.
• Have fun. Whatever your goals for IMTS—developing new relationships, learning about new technologies, making something faster, better or easier—they likely all boil down to the same basic motive: improving your company’s bottom line. There’s no shame in that, as profit provides the primary drive for all businesses. That said, I’d be willing to bet that many of you would never have gotten into this field without some measure of personal interest in technology, enthusiasm about how things are made, or satisfaction in helping to fill an important role in our economy.
Let IMTS feed that passion. In fact, we’d recommend setting aside some time to indulge the wide-eyed kid inside by just wandering the aisles for a while, without a set purpose. That might seem to contradict some of the advice already given (and might not even be possible). Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that the world of manufacturing extends far beyond the walls of your shop, and there’s no better place than IMTS to get some perspective and take it all in.