A LOOK BACK, A LOOK AHEAD
A reflection on IMTS 2012, one of the best shows I’ve ever attended and I don’t exaggerate . . . and how it points to the future for CNC and its use at your shop.
The show is long over and our year is coming to a close. Before I start, I want to wish every one of you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday season. It is my privilege to write this column in the pages of Fabricating & Metalworking and I very much enjoyed meeting many of you that visited our booth during the IMTS trade show.
I’ve always thought that the machine shop world was filled with good, honest, hard-working people who really try to do it right, each and every day. When I meet you at trade shows or the onsite training classes I conduct or a service call, that assessment is confirmed.
OK, onto the show.
This was my umpteenth IMTS and it was really one of the best. The quality of the attendees in Chicago was excellent and I mean that in several ways. Not only were there key people from a lot of shops, both big and small, chip cutting and metal fabrication, but they were asking a lot of great questions. We talked to many people who were ready to buy machines and they wanted our take on the state of CNC technology.
Since CNC is now just as appropriate for the five-person tool and die shop or the 20-employee moldmaker or weld/fab shop as it is for the large production department of a major OEM, we were very excited to see all of these varied operations attend this year’s show. And it didn’t disappoint.
The numbers were great, the interest in our products was substantial and the main reason we heard people were coming to our booth was a recent or upcoming machine tool purchase. Many attendees at the show were researching various vendors, concluding a deal on a machine or evaluating the available technologies with an eye on purchasing new or upgrading old machine tools.
All of these activities point to more shops buying more multi-axis machine tools than ever before, which, in turn, opens more possibilities for us in the CNC world. While the big plants continue to do program buying directly from builders and controls/communications companies, the link to the job shop world – namely the machine tool dealers – are partnering with us and other vendors to bring more value to their customers.
This sort of partnership opens the door for varied technologies and manufacturing solutions from supplier teams that provide value in the form of information and ideas to make more parts, better parts of higher quality with fully validated quality assurance, all competitively priced. After all, isn’t that the reason your customers came to you, in the first place? You bet.
Your supplier base, including those of us in the controls world, can provide your shop with this high level of information in the webinars we do, the videos we offer, the free downloads (even apps for your phone) of product specifications and service manuals, and much more. I recommend that you use every bit of this tool kit, because your shop or production department needs this information to stay competitive today.
One side note in passing: I noticed that there were fewer gimmicks at the show. In bygone days, everybody wanted to have the pretty girls and the magicians at their booths. But nowadays, pretty girls are designing and running machine tools and the magicians are the folks at the CAD terminals and programming stations who make the machines sing every day at your shops. In metalworking, that’s the really impressive trick!
This year especially, the thing most attendees sought out was technology. The 13-axis machine tool, the mill/turn and turn/mill centers, the start-to-finish (literally) tubemaking machine, the advanced ECM technology that nothing can match in powertrain part production, the quick change tooling systems that cut downtime and save money . . . all of these, plus a lot more.
Those are the real treats in coming to IMTS. You can personally see the future of a massive industry as new insights are revealed during strolls down aisle after aisle. Longer ago than I care to admit, I had my first “wow, man” moment when I saw an automated machine tool in action, and it still gives me a thrill to see very complex parts quickly taking shape out of a simple block of steel.
I hope you also enjoyed such things at IMTS this year and that some of these will give your shop a very Happy New Year. Thanks for reading.
About the Author: Randy Pearson is the sales support manager for U.S. dealers and OEMs of Siemens Industry, Inc., Drives Technologies, Motion Control — Machine Tool Business, 390 Kent Avenue, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007, www.siemenscnc.com. A veteran of the machine tool industry, his interest is the training aspect on CNC machine tools, which he conducts through seminars and classes at votech schools and shops, and at Siemens training facilities. For questions or comments on this column, contact Randy at 847-640-1595 or firstname.lastname@example.org.