No matter what role you play in manufacturing these days, one thing’s for sure: The Internet has changed the way we do business. Just look at our roles surrounding next month’s IMTS 2004.
If you’re attending the show in Chicago next month, the steps you’ll take to prepare for it are much different than those taken to prepare for IMTS 1994. Odds are, you’ll use a combination of Web sites—search engines, IMTSNET (www.IMTSNET.org), manufacturing research sites (such as MMS Online or GlobalSpec) and suppliers’ sites—to compare, research and build your short lists. You will almost certainly use those resources to revisit suppliers or technologies after the show, as well. And you may use e-mail or other online methods to solicit or share advice.
As for exhibitors and suppliers, they’ve found themselves embroiled in change—if for no other reason than that your online behaviors and options have changed so dramatically. It isn’t easy anticipating and responding to the sort of changes the Internet brings to manufacturing research, and suppliers are rushing to keep up with your appetite for information online.
But how well do manufacturing Web sites serve your needs these days—not just around events like IMTS or other trade shows, but throughout the year? What Web sites have delivered when you needed them most? How often have you gone online looking for information to support your business’ needs, only to come up short or empty-handed? And what can you do about it?
Along with the other important efforts you have planned for IMTS, why not use it as an opportunity to elevate the dialogue in our industry? Take some time—just a minute—to talk to each of the companies you meet at IMTS about their Web sites. Let them know what you like about their sites, or what you don’t. Talk to the representatives and suppliers you see there about the information on manufacturing-based Web sites that serve you best. Ask them if there’s more information on their sites about whatever it is you’re discussing at the time. If you’re feeling especially generous, tell them about something you found on one of their competitor’s sites that you’ve found particularly helpful.
Manufacturing sure won’t be saved or slain by the Internet alone. But the Internet is mighty important, in that it greases the skids of communications and, when used properly, empowers us to research, learn and contact each other more efficiently. And that’s pretty darned important.
Aside from this column, how often do you get unsolicited feedback about your own site? If you’re like most people, the answer is “not very often.”
It’s the same for suppliers. They need to hear what they need to do to support you. And if they never hear it from you, then you have no room to complain when you can’t find what you’re looking for.