Brian Papke, president of Mazak, gives the keynote presentation on the first day of Discover Mazak—Midwest.
These days, manufacturing equipment providers of all stripes often tout themselves as not just suppliers, but as partners. This may sound like marketing mumbo-jumbo, but in fact, it reflects an increasing understanding among OEMs that effective, efficient manufacturing requires more than just having the highest-quality machine tool, cutting tool, workholding device or other specific product. Rather, success depends on effective integration of all tools involved in the process.
It recently occurred to me that customer events—open houses, technology fairs and the like—represent one of the most striking, if not immediately obvious, manifestations of this philosophy. As an example, consider machine tool builder Mazak’s “Discover” series of events, one of which fellow MMS editor Emily Tudor and I attended last month.
Hosted at the company’s regional headquarters and technology center in Schaumburg, Illinois, “Discover Mazak-Midwest” offered insight into a great deal more than just machine tools. This was a veritable mini trade show, featuring products, demonstrations and on-hand experts from major suppliers of cutting tools, CAD/CAM software and more. Mazak, it seems, is a company that understands that such complex equipment as a turn-mill machine—complete with multiple spindles and turrets, simultaneous multi-axis machining capability, and perhaps even gear cutting, honing or other specialty attachments—doesn’t operate in isolation.
Likewise, the company understands that one customer isn’t necessarily like another. Mazak has eschewed the typical format of a lengthy series of classroom-style seminars that monopolize attendees’ time, regardless of whether the information presented is actually useful for a particular customer. Instead, attendees were given free reign to focus on areas that most interested them via small group discussions led by experts from Mazak and representatives of other suppliers there. Of course, classroom-style breakout sessions were still available for those who wished to attend. Topics included gear manufacturing, re-shoring, and training and education, among others.
Events like this demonstrate how the relationship between suppliers and customers has evolved—and they’re certainly worth attending. In addition to seeing demos of the latest equipment and taking advantage of networking opportunities, attendees can get real insight and real help with issues specific to their industry, shop or even application. That can be worth much more than the initial cost of a long drive or plane ticket.