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COVID Casualty: International Manufacturing Technology Show Cancelled for First Time Since World War II

In an example of the show’s theme — Digital Manufacturing. Implemented. — the owner of North America’s largest biannual metalworking trade show is developing a way for the manufacturing community to connect and learn through a comprehensive digital experience.

When the Association for Manufacturing Technology canceled September’s International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) on June 8, the nation’s largest convention center lost its largest show to the pandemic. AMT expects to bring the show back to Chicago’s McCormick Place on Sept. 12-17, 2022, as scheduled.


Opened in 1960, North America’s largest convention center has been home to the nation’s largest biannual metalworking trade show for many years. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, that tradition is being suspended for this year’s International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) at Chicago’s McCormick Place in mid-September.

In early April, with coronavirus deaths projected to peak in mid-May, Chicago’s health department commandeered the McCormick Place to build a 3,000-bed medical facility that’s being dismantled due to – thankfully – underuse.

So the convention center was available, but not exactly open for business. It’s owned by the city but managed by a private company. Both are bound by the requirements of Ill. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s five-phase reopening plan, which allows conventions in phase five only if a vaccine or effective treatment protocol for the virus has been found. As of early June, the city had just entered phase three.

“In light of these difficult and challenging circumstances, the show had to be canceled,” says Peter R. Eelman, vice president and CXO of the show’s owner and producer, AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology in McLean, Va. “While this saddens us, the health and safety of our exhibitors and audience remain our top priority. We do, however, realize that even though there’s no physical event this year, it’s our responsibility to provide the exhibitors and the audience with connections, networking opportunities, and technical knowledge.”

To accomplish those goals, AMT is launching two digital programs over the next several months:

  • IMTS Network, a live-stream platform that will launch Sept. 14 – 18, 2020, to share news, trends, and human-interest features on the people whose creativity and relationships drive innovation. Content will include “Outside the Shop” (casual videos on unconventional uses of technology) and Tech Peek (himsical short-form videos on emerging technologies).
  • IMTS Spark, an interactive networking and educational platform connecting registered visitors with software, equipment, and experts via webinars, podcasts, self-study curriculum, online chat rooms, and lunch-and-learn programs. AMT’s Emerging Technology Center will highlight developments not yet seen in manufacturing facilities. Coffee chats and happy hours will connect groups and provide solutions and resources for business-related obstacles.

Visitors who have registered for IMTS 2020 may receive a refund on their registration or transfer their registration fee to a tax-deductible donation to Miles For Manufacturing, which supports programs that prepare students for careers in manufacturing technology.

Exhibitors will receive direct communications regarding the show.

The show’s digital content already addresses what OEMs can do to address decades-long supply chain issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. The microsite – ReBuilding the Supply Chain – explains why the disruption occurred and how to re-engage with suppliers and trading partners for a more diverse, robust, and localized industrial base.

Virtually all Chicago McCormick Place June shows and many July and August shows had canceled or postponed by the time IMTS announced its decision on June 8. Roughly 130,000 attendees were expected to book almost 100,000 nights at local hotels. The convention center has lost its largest show to the pandemic and the city at least $247 million in revenue, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. AMT expects to bring the show back to Chicago on Sept. 12-17, 2022, as scheduled.

More details will be announced in IMTS publications later this week.

Founded in 1902, AMT provides business assistance, global support, and business intelligence systems and analysis. AMT advocates policies and programs that encourage research and innovation and the development of educational initiatives to create tomorrow’s Smartforce.


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