Plan Your Time—And Don't

Give IMTS a little more of your time than you might be imagining right now.

Do you have time for IMTS?

Some companies that used to send large delegations to the show will send smaller groups this year—perhaps just one or two attendees who have a long list of exhibitors to see on behalf of the rest of the shop. Indeed, certain features of the show were designed with these very focused attendees in mind. Pavilions save on walking time by grouping related exhibitors together, and the online show planner creates an efficient, customized agenda when there are lots of exhibitors to see.

And yet, there is a danger of doing IMTS too well.

Our industry doesn’t offer a lot of opportunities like this one—the chance to see so many products and so many people offering the potential to change a manufacturing shop for the better. The danger, if you stick just to what you know to look for, is that you don’t know what you might miss.

The last several years have seen more questions than usual about the future of American manufacturing. In the more challenging competitive environment, some shops have responded by going lean. Streamlining inventories and reducing setup times have allowed them get more work from their available capital. But other shops have responded differently, redistributing responsibilities among fewer employees to get more from their available people. The price of this latter approach comes when employees who have influence over the strategy and direction of the plant or company are forced to shunt aside all but the most urgent parts of their work. If there is any cause for concern about American manufacturing, it is to be found here—not in the loss of any particular work to distant competitors, but in the loss of the time, energy and optimism needed to imagine and innovate, and to find the way forward to better opportunities ahead.

In that spirit, let me offer one small, simple suggestion for how to handle the show this year: Give it some extra time.

Maybe just give it an extra half-day.

Use that time to walk the aisles without any particular purpose in mind. Wander into booths for no good reason except that something in them caught your eye.

That agenda you’ve created is an important document. Hold on to it and follow it. But then, once you can look up from that list, what you will find is IMTS.

The show is huge. It’s so big, it can hold any number of valuable experts and ideas that are far removed from your established plan. Finding those resources may be the best use of your time at the show.