The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) takes place every 2 years whether the industry is on a roll or in a slump. Right now, things are generally looking pretty good, at least outside the auto industry. Machine tool sales, a key indicator of activity in the metalworking industry, are still strong. At the last IMTS, the upward trend was already apparent, but most exhibitors and attendees were still cautious, hesitant and uncertain. Few were ready to give in to a feeling of exuberance. Two years before that, in 2002—well, let’s not talk about it.
But we really should talk about it. As bad as the economy was then, there were strong and compelling reasons to take IMTS seriously. Plants and shops were regrouping. They had no choice. Evaluating the technology needed to reshape their operations was a dire necessity and an act of courage.
Here we are in better times and behold, plants and shops should still be regrouping. Reshaping operations with new technology is still a dire necessity and an act of courage. What has changed is the confidence that this effort and investment will not be in vain.
Exactly what we need to do is clear. We need to meet out global competitors head on and beat them at their own game. Drive labor costs to a minimum with automation and productivity enhancements. Concentrate on our strengths and leverage our best skills. Make the most of what we can do for domestic customers because we are nearby and share language, customs and ethics. Innovate everywhere.
We have opportunities in high-end, high value-added manufacturing such as medical and aerospace. We have opportunities in the middle, too, where our position in the supply chain is as important as sheer technical capability. This is the Golden Zone of lean manufacturing, especially for small, nimble job shops.
Let’s us also be aware that current conditions are changeable. This is the right time for thinking about ways to reduce energy costs, optimize floor space usage, diversify your customer base and bring in capability that adds value for customers. These initiatives will pay off when business starts to cool. Keep these needs in mind as you walk the show or browse these pages.
This issue (one of our biggest in a while) has lots of info and advice to prepare well for the show, including the advice to wear comfortable shoes. Wear a comfortable and confident outlook, too. Walk proudly. It’s where we belong.