We all pretty much know that the recently concluded Eastec Show in Springfield, Massachusetts, is billed as a machine tool technology show. Indeed it is that. Five buildings stuffed with new machines, tools and accessories all looking for a nice new home in a metalworking shop.
I've covered this show for more years than I care to recall. I found the 2000 edition of Eastec to be a bit different than previous exhibitions. It was so different that I'm close to recommending to show sponsor SME that it may be necessary to categorize this annual get together as a "dot-com" show rather than as a machine tool show—its historic focus.
It seemed that this was the breakout year for companies looking to do everything online, short of curl a chip. Actually, some of these net-based products are capable of letting you operate machine tools in your shop remotely from the comfort of your favorite chair at home. Why you'd want to do that remains a mystery, but it's very cool to be able to.
Several of the dot-coms are designed to help make purchasing new and used equipment a more pleasant experience. That means taking the sales person out of the transaction to some extent. The jury is still out as to whether this is a better or worse method of acquiring capital equipment. All of these new bid and buy companies point out quite vehemently that they aren't about taking distribution out of the process. Yeah, right.
Other neat new offerings, fresh with IPO money, include creating tools that help shops communicate better with all the various entities required to do business. Automating the paper trail among the shop, its customers and its various suppliers is a good goal. Various methods, including intranets, extranets and LANs, are touted as the framework for seamless integration of data collection and distribution for every activity involved in the business of metalcutting.
So why the proliferation of all these Internet-based companies? My take is that many of these enterprises are doing the commercial equivalent of cooking spaghetti. To check if the noodles were done, my mom always tossed one or two against a wall. If they stuck, dinner was served. Likewise, I think many of these new dot-coms are looking to see what the market is looking for. They are throwing their newly minted ideas against the metalworking wall in an effort to determine if they're fully cooked ideas or need more time in the pot. Time and the market will determine who will be around for dinner.