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IMTS 2010 Is Retired Exec’s 24th Show

Albert Albrecht holds his recent book about the machine tool industry in the United States.

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Albert Albrecht holds his recent book about the machine tool industry in the United States. The setting is the Gardner Publications booth in the West Hall.


Albert Albrecht, who retired in 1990 after a long career in the machine tool building industry, returned to IMTS 2010, making this the 24th such show he has attended. His first was the 1955 show at the International Amphitheater at the Stockyards, when he was a young engineer with Monarch Machine Tool Company. That show was sponsored by the NMTBA (National Machine Tool Builders’ Association), the organization now known as AMT--the Association For Manufacturing Technology. He recalls that the exhibit halls were not air conditioned. There was no carpet in the aisles. Machine tools were all painted gray and few had any guarding. The show lasted two full weeks.

At IMTS, Albrecht visited Modern Machine Shop’s booth and answered some questions about IMTS 2010, which is a very different show from the one he attended in 1955. His answers reveal his insights and personal opinions about the companies that manufacture machine tools as well as about the companies that use them.

What motivated you to attend IMTS 2010?
IMTS 2010 is timely as only through manufacturing, productive machine tools and new technology can the United States create wealth, create jobs, reduce our deficit and fully recover from the current economic recession. The machine tools and technology can provide the productivity advantage U.S. manufacturing needs to compete in global markets.

What has impressed you at IMTS 2010?
First, the number of automated machine tools designed for unattended, round the clock operation—like the Fuji and Mazak in-line gantry loaded lathes. I am also impressed with the five-axis multi-tasking machining centers such as the Mazak Integrex machines. However, there is still room for standard CNC lathes and machining centers such as the DMG Ecoline and Haas [Automation] 2010 series of machines. They are affordable and allow the small shop to “reshore” plain vanilla parts that have gone off-shore.

What else did you observe at IMTS 2010?
I observed a lot of targeting of specific markets such as the Mazak Orbitec for the valve industry and the Gleason gear cutting machines for the wind industry. However, I find it difficult to believe there is room for all 125 exhibitors of CNC lathes and 134 exhibitors of machining centers—not everyone will come out a winner. In terms of new technology, the Kennametal through-hole inserts represent a significant advancement in cutting tool technology. I would like to see the press builders back at IMTS.

You wrote a book, The American Machine Tool Industry. One of the themes of this book was your concern about the decline in the number of U.S. machine tool builders. How are you feeling about this topic today?
I am still concerned with the continued increase of machines tool types that are only available as imported products. The United States has become almost totally dependent on overseas sources of CNC inverted spindle lathes, Swiss-type CNC lathes, gear cutting machines, horizontal boring machines and other types. I would like to see machine tool companies in this country competing in global markets for all kinds of machine tools.

What do you see for the future of the machine tool industry?
Domestic machine tool shipments for 2009 were less than $2 billion; and for 2010, [shipments] are likely to be $2.2 to 2.3 billion—far short of the $10 to 20 billion needed for the United States to again regain its position as a leader in machine tool production along with China, Germany and Japan. Can the industry ever recover to where it was at the end of the 20th century? Probably not, at least not in my lifetime. However, if the current administration [in Washington] takes seriously the six “Manufacturing Mandates” proposed by Douglas Woods, president of AMT and responds to them, there is hope for U.S. manufacturing, including the building of machine tools here.

Will you attend IMTS 2012?
Yes, God willing! IMTS is the most comprehensive and complete manufacturing show in North America and compares well with other international shows such as EMO.

Note: Al Albrecht was formerly the vice president of Textron’s machine tool group (Waterbury Farrel—Jones & Lamson) and co-owner of NATCO. He resides in Richmond, Indiana and can be contacted at albertalbrecht@frontier.com.