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FABTECH Is Live and In Person: Let’s Get Business Done

FABTECH 2021 returns to Chicago’s McCormick Place, September 13-16. As the excitement builds to make those invaluable in-person, business-to-business connections, machine shops are busy embracing the post-pandemic economy and the “next normal” as the nation reopens.

Posted: August 4, 2021

Autocam Medical, Kentwood, Mich., added CNC machinists throughout the pandemic, and continues to increase hiring at its facilities throughout the United States. The company is a global contract manufacturer of precision-machined components for the medical device industry.
SAF Metal Fabrication first expanded into its 100,000-square-foot Georgia facility in 2003. The company now has fabrication facilities in three states with a fourth state on the way this year, establishing a new facility in Texas.

Editor’s Forum

By Rachel Duran

Large scale in-person trade shows are coming back! For FABTECH attendees, the interest in returning to in-person events is extremely high — so much so that according to surveys conducted by Freeman, more than 90 percent of respondents stated in-person events are “essential” and “irreplaceable.” “Face-to-face experiences are the most valuable channels for commerce,” said Steve Prahalis, COO of SME, at a June 15 press conference announcing the return of FABTECH. “It is how we create meaningful connections.”

FABTECH is North America’s largest metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing event. It will be the first large-scale trade show taking place at McCormick Place following the national lockdown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, conference officials, partnering with the McCormick Place team, will follow Illinois’ state and Chicago’s local health and safety practices to create an advantageous event for all attendees.

This issue of Fabricating & Metalworking features our FABTECH 2021 Product Showcase. Research the newest and featured machinery and products that will be on display, broken down according to building location and process zone pavilion. For example, Lakeside Center Hall D (East Building) will feature the Metalform Pavilion, the Tube and Pipe Pavilion and the Finishing Pavilion.

“FABTECH is one the 10 largest trade shows in the United States,” stated Ed Youdell at the press conference. He is the president and CEO of Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International. It is the opportunity to “experience first-hand the world’s best technology and advanced manufacturing solutions,” Youdell said.

The Next Normal is Here

By implementing those advanced manufacturing solutions, job shops have been able to withstand the impacts of the nation’s lockdown in response to the pandemic, and they are embracing the excitement of the nation’s reopening and the next normal regarding the business climate. Companies have proven themselves to be resilient and able to adapt to the economic challenges thrown their way by the lockdown, and are well positioned to navigate today’s marketplace.

As we enter the post-pandemic economy, positive business indicators dominate the headlines regarding the manufacturing sector, even with supply chain and labor market challenges. Case in point, in early June, the Institute for Supply Management released its fourth round of dedicated research on the impacts of COVID-19 on businesses and their supply chains, where the respondents (64 percent) believe business will be better during the second half of 2021 compared to the first half of the year, and 66 percent report their organization feels better about business overall during the next 12 months. Respondents largely represent U.S. manufacturing (56 percent) and non-manufacturing (44 percent) organizations. Fabricated metal products, at 6 percent, is the third-largest manufacturing sector in the survey.

Highlights include:

  • Domestic manufacturing is operating at 87 percent of normal capacity.
  • With increasing confidence overall, 93 percent of firms report they expect to have sufficient inventory on hand at North American facilities in fourth quarter 2021 to support operations.

What’s more, the IHS Markit Flash U.S. Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index, released June 23, pointed to impressive growth of the U.S. economy, rounding off an unprecedented growth spurt over the second quarter. The index found that while both output growth and new orders have peaked in both manufacturing and services, it is attributed to capacity strengthens limiting companies’ abilities to handle demand rather than a cooling of the economy, noted Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

During the height of the pandemic, machine shops continued to hire, particularly companies providing essential products to support the nation’s response to the pandemic; and some companies are even moving forward with expansion plans for new locations.

For example, in response to its continued expansion during the pandemic, Autocam Medical increased its hiring throughout the United States. Autocam Medical is a global contract manufacturer of precision-machined drill bits, drivers, screws, plates, cutting tools and other complex, highly engineered surgical implants, instruments and handpieces, as well as other device components.

In addition to filling dozens of CNC machinist positions at Autocam Medical’s headquarters in Kentwood, Mich., the company also has plans to add CNC machinist positions at its Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Plymouth, Mass., locations as well.

For Southern Aluminum Finishing (SAF) in Atlanta, Ga., 75 years of experience in metal fabrication, distribution and finishing, as well as the ability to emerge from recessions and rebuild factories that burned to the ground, paved the way forward during the height of the pandemic. “We have had serious things that have tried to interrupt our business and through it all we have maintained,” said John McClatchey, vice president of sales and marketing at SAF.  “And we are proud of it. We let our employees and customers know that the stability and the durability is something that they can count on.”

SAF is the only metal service center in the country with anodizing and painting facilities, a full-time fabrication center, and a comprehensive stock of sheet and extrusions from a single source. The company offers a complete line of architectural panels, column covers and exterior building systems.

“I think a lot of people turned to us because they needed something that was a certainty in uncertainty,” McClatchey said. “And certainty is expensive. People are willing to pay for certainty. And they are willing to wait for certainty. If they know it is going to come — it may take a little bit longer — but they know it will be there.”

McClatchey added that SAF is bullish about how it will emerge from the pandemic. There is a pent-up demand for projects and SAF buys its aluminum months ahead. “So, we knew that there was going to be a bit of an aluminum shortage and I feel like we have been able to adjust our pricing and our flow of metal coming in to meet the demands of our customers,” McClatchey noted. “Coming out of the pandemic with this huge demand, that we are pretty much able to meet, we are expanding our geographic footprint.” SAF has five locations, including two in Georgia, and is about to establish its sixth location, this one in Texas. “It is really exciting,” McClatchey said. “It is like this rejoicing, ‘yes, we made it and let’s keep going.’”

McClatchey said he is grateful to share the story of how SAF navigated the pandemic. “Hopefully, when they read what I have had to say, it will make your readers feel a little sense of community. We were all in this together, and that things really are going to be okay.”

At Fabricating & Metalworking, we are excited to gather with our industrial community at FABTECH 2021 and return to face-to-face interactions. Come and visit us at booth A5170. Let’s grow together!

Calendar & Events
Greater Detroit Design-2-Part Show
June 14 - 15, 2023
Novi, MI
September 11 - 14, 2023
Chicago, IL
So. California Design-2-Part Show
September 13 - 14, 2023
Ontario, CA
New England Design-2-Part Show
September 27 - 28, 2023
Marlborough, MA
Wisconsin Manufacturing & Technology Show (WIMTS)
October 3 - 5, 2023
West Allis, WI
Motion + Power Technology Event (formerly Gear Expo)
October 17 - 19, 2023
Detroit, MI