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The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) is one of the most extensive industrial trade shows in the world. It spotlights more than 2,000 exhibiting companies and draws in well over 100,000 registrants. IMTS inspires people all across the globe – and this year, IMTS Chicago did not disappoint. Given the range of tools, solutions and offerings, it’s difficult to focus on any one product or solution that caught my eye. Rather, in writing this blog, I felt compelled to share some inspirations that I think all of us — as manufacturers, engineers, machine tool operators, shop owners and the like – can learn from and appreciate.

For starters, the sheer breadth of manufacturing solutions is impressive.

Two days at IMTS hardly felt like enough time to scratch the surface of new products, inventions, services and innovations. You could talk to a dozen attendees and chances are, each of them would have a dozen different highlights and perspectives. In and of itself, the range of manufacturing solutions is staggering: there’s everything from multi-million-dollar machine tools that streamline core processes, to nifty little gadgets that help with daily tasks — say for example, pre-set torque bits for applying the correct torque to an insert screw. I’ll admit, I’m always impressed at how even the tiniest, most inexpensive gadgets can offer huge potential in improving day-to-day operations. But whether large or small, costly or inexpensive, innovative products can truly offer significant value to our capabilities as manufacturers – and IMTS served as a welcoming and refreshing reminder of this.

There’s no shortage of innovation in the industry – or its potential to drive profit.
As manufacturers, we’re always looking for ways to have our machines run faster, better and more efficiently. Downtime is a killer, and our success partly relies upon our ability to make more of the parts that we’re paid to make, faster. I looked at inventive solutions in everything from CNC machine tools, to work holding and cutting tools, to inspection equipment, just to name a few. One interesting innovation came from SMW Autoblock, a chuck manufacturer that was displaying its CCS Quick Switch Chuck System. This new system allows chuck changeover from one type of chuck to the next very rapidly, drastically reducing the change-out process from about 45 minutes to just under 5 minutes. Pretty incredible. Another great innovation came from Rigibore, a specialized tooling supplier that uses wireless technology to perform micron adjustment of its boring tools without the need for an operator’s intervention. Both examples seem to offer profound potential.

Like many other show attendees and business owners, I attended IMTS to learn about new technologies and innovations that can specifically help my company improve its manufacturing capabilities. And indeed, there were dozens of great products that I requested more information on; products that could potentially improve Steiner’s daily operations. But even for the tools that didn’t directly apply to our specific processes, it’s inspiring to see first-hand the potential impact these new innovations can have on profitability.

The best tool of all: active partnerships that help drive sales.
There’s no two ways about it: as manufacturers, increasing efficiency and productivity is always top of mind. But also at the top of the list is sales and market penetration. It’s easy to lose sight of this at IMTS, where there are products to dazzle you around every turn; internal solutions that help you streamline how you make your own products. But nowadays, when it comes to finding customers, well… that’s a different story all together. Toward the end of my two-day journey at IMTS, I ran into an old friend and colleague and we discussed the strong headwinds our companies are currently facing in this area. My friend mentioned I should talk to the folks at AMT (Association for Manufacturing Technology), and it proved to be the most valuable tip of all. Here’s what I learned:

More than a century old, AMT represents and promotes U.S.-based manufacturing technologies and its members; those who design, build, sell, and service the continuously evolving technology that lies at the heart of manufacturing. The association (which, by the way, runs the IMTS show) specializes in providing targeted business assistance, extensive global support, and business intelligence systems and analysis through a variety of member programs. For example, let’s say your company is trying to locate new customers in a very specific niche industry. AMT can leverage its resources and apply statistical analyses to help you pinpoint those customers, both inside and outside US borders, then help you market and sell to them. For small companies who may not have the resources to dedicate to customer acquisition, this partnership seems like a no-brainer — not to mention the low membership fee and pay-per-sale model.

All in all, IMTS is an important event for Steiner Technologies and the manufacturing industry as a whole. The learnings and takeaways mentioned here inspire us to continue to provide innovative solutions that help businesses build profitability, increase efficiency and reduce costly secondary operations and process time. If you would like to learn more about Steiner, or talk to us about developing an engineered tooling solution for your business, we’d love to hear from you.