IMTS exceeds expectations, attendance goals

Conference tops 100,000 visitors as new manufacturing concepts take center stage

October 29, 2012

The 2012 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September broke records and exceeded expectations, and it did by putting the technology on center stage.

When John Adamczyk, global manager of engineering services, at Chicago-based Littelfuse registered onsite on Saturday at IMTS, he became the event’s 100,000th attendee. That made the 2012 IMTS the most successful manufacturing show in the U.S. in more than a decade. Attendance at the 2012 show topped 2010 figures by almost 20%.

The 2012 event brought manufacturers from all over the world to Chicago’s McCormick Place for the biannual event. The four halls were filled with manufacturers looking for innovations in machine tools, electrical systems, robotics and new concepts such as collaborative manufacturing and additive manufacturing.

Attendees roamed the more than 1.2 million sq. ft. of exhibit space at IMTS, reviewing innovations in machine tools, CNC machines and laser cutters that have formed the core of IMTS for decades. With the Association for Manufacturing Technology’s expansion of IMTS to a more broad-based manufacturing show, the event also featured its first pavilion focused exclusively on automation.

The first Industrial Automation North America show, a collaborative effort between AMT and Hannover Messe, was a huge success. IANA expanded by 30% from the original plan due to huge demand, and AMT and Hannover Messe USA already have signed a deal to extend IANA through to the 2014 show, and likely beyond.

“Deutsche Messe as the organizer of Hannover Messe and AMT as the owner of IMTS combined have become a powerhouse in showcasing products and solutions for production automation in the manufacturing technology industry,” said Peter Eelman, IMTS vice president for exhibitions and communications. “The Industrial Automation North America component of IMTS has been fully embraced by the North American manufacturing community and we are pleased to move forward as partners.”

“We are very pleased to continue this successful partnership with AMT and IMTS. Our inaugural event this year sold out of exhibitor space,” said Larry Turner, Hannover Fairs USA CEO. 

Summit delivers high-level knowledge

A major component of the IANA event was the Global Automation and Manufacturing Summit, presented by CFE Media and sponsored by Beckhoff, Molex, SAP and Infor. It featured two days of content around the key issues in automation and manufacturing, including mobility, energy management, data security, integrating operator knowledge, technology improvements and workforce development.

The Summit also featured three keynotes from three distinct views of the manufacturing sector:

  • Billy Taylor, director of commercial manufacturing for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
  • Karen Kurek, national manufacturing and distribution practice leader, McGladrey LLC
  • Doug Woods, president and CEO of the Association for Manufacturing Technology 

Taylor opened the conference with a dynamic story of how he changed the culture at a Goodyear plant in Fayetteville, N.C. and delivered a dramatic improvement in tire production without an increase in staff or plant costs.

“I was not going to do it by myself,” Taylor said. “I was going to entitle and engage people to everyone in this plant will be a CEO. I work for you; you do not work for me.

“Entitlement,” he added, “is ‘I tell you.’ Engagement is ‘you tell me’.”

To do that, he had to change both the mindset of the team as well as their expectations of what the company was going to do for them. “We were looking for money instead of looking for innovation to drive our team,” said Taylor. “We kept wanting capital, but we weren’t even getting a return on our investment at the rate we should.”

By engaging at every level of the organization, measuring individual shift lines rather than total output, and by not just holding employees accountable for their performance but also celebrating their success when it was achieved, Taylor was able to reverse the fortunes in Fayetteville and achieve a dramatic increase in production. “We did not spend one extra dollar; in fact, we spent less. We gave our whole company 1 million more tires with no additional costs,” he said. “It’s about measuring what matters.”

Kurek presented McGladrey’s Manufacturing Economic Update, which had just been released by McGladrey at the show. Their study of manufacturing leaders found that tax, regulation and export issues were dominant concerns of manufacturing leaders, but that the costs of worker investment and training, health care costs and energy prices, as well as the continuing economic issues in Europe also were factors.

Kurek, who sits on the board of the National Association of Manufacturers, said that organization also is working on maintaining and improving the manufacturing environment.” It’s very important we make sure we have a strong manufacturing base,” she said. “There was start of renaissance in manufacturing. I believe we’re at a pivotal point right now where we have to keep the environment in the United States healthy enough to have our manufacturers continue to thrive.”

In fact, the study showed that almost 40% of manufacturers said they were thriving in the current conditions, although Kurek noted that manufacturing activity has softened in recent months. Still, one-quarter of survey respondents said they were looking to expand facilities and 18% wanted to make an acquisition, while just 4% were looking to close facilities.

Woods touched on many of the same themes in his presentation, emphasizing the need for greater emphasis on what AMT calls “smartforce development” to attract new workers to the industry, and to refine and streamline regulatory and tax issues. But he also focused on two of the more innovative areas at the show – collaborative manufacturing, which decentralizes the design and development of products, and additive manufacturing, which is essentially the use of laser printers and 3D drawings to produce finished products.

Pointing to his remote control device, Woods said, “If you would’ve been here 10-15 years ago and said ‘I’m going to make this part out of plastic and it’s going to look just like this, you’d have laughed at the person saying this. You can make this part now out of any 3D system.

“Come back in 10 years, I’m telling you that a metal part—a transmission component, a metal foil for a plane—is going to come out of an additive machine, with no machining, ready to go,” he said. “And the neat thing about it is you’re going to have multiple different components. You can have aluminum, titanium, magnesium fused together in an additive process.”

Woods touched on the global nature, and the innovative nature, of manufacturing when he called collaborative manufacturing, “leveraging the power that’s out there, without building a huge infrastructure with the power of lots of different the brains that are out there.” 

Students, innovation gets attention

In an effort to attracts and inspire young workers, the National Institute for Metalworking Skills opened its Student Skills Center at IMTS. It attracted more than 9,000 students from as far away as Texas, California and Florida and attracted some of the top manufacturers at the show, including Lincoln Electric, DMG/Mori Seki, Fanuc Robots, Sandvik Coromant, Mazak and Seco Tools.

The event featured demonstrations of additive manufacturing, welding simulators and interaction with young manufacturers from the sponsoring companies.

On the main floor, the connection between control systems and robots were on display in a few areas. Siemens and Kuka Robotics collaborated to integrate robotic workpiece handling with CNC machine. The CNC is programmed to allow the operator to jog the robot, command the gripper and simulate integrated actions with a machine tool. In operation, the KRC4 integrator and mxAutomation convert the robot language into the same commands used for multi-axis machine tool functions. One Profinet cable runs between the robot and the CNC.

Integration allows the machine tool’s automation sequence to run more efficiently, and perform changes on-the-fly to minimize machine downtime, without special knowledge of robot programming language. During the operation, all changes made can be visualized on the CNC screen, minimizing operator actions. 

Press releases from IMTS, AMT, Hannover Messe and NIMS and reports from Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering were used in this article.