About this time of year the  advice starts rolling out – have a plan so you don’t miss anything. Make a  checklist of key contacts.  Map your show. Make sure to stop at So and So’s booth for the free give-aways. Etc.  Etc. Etc.
This year, I’ll not exhort you to go to IMTS with a plan of exhibitors to visit.  I’ll not ask you to make a list of the key people that you need to connect with. And will you really have room in you bag for whatever it is that So and So  is giving away this time?
Instead, I’d like to issue you a challenge. I’m asking you to think up a theme for your visit, an idea that you would like to discover the means of achieving while at IMTS.
Several IMTS’s ago, I had just such a theme in mind. My theme was, “What can I find  here at IMTS that will help us keep manufacturing jobs here in the U.S.? That will help our talent operate at their ‘Highest and Best Use?’
At that show, I found the PAWS Workholding System, and relearned the importance of knowing my multiplication tables.
Why hold (and machine) just one part, when I can hold and machine say, 16 at once?

They never told me about this when I was learning my times tables...
They never told me about this when I was learning my times tables…

Why indeed?

  • 60% increase in parts per shift
  • 50% reduction in Operator Load and Unload Time
  • 50% reduction in Operator Tasks/ shift
  • Reduced impact on operator of repetitive motion operations (Seriously, 10 hours a day of hand clamping?)

By using an automatic clamping system and multiple part holding fixtures, the operator is able to work on higher value added tasks while the machine runs  multiple parts. And because the clamping and pressure is more consistent, so is your process.  This also frees up your higher skilled individuals  to work on other things,  allowing a lower skilled individual to load and unload the operation, while increasing consistency of workholding accuracy and force applied.
Now, you might not need a reminder about  how the times tables can work in your favor by loading 16 parts at once, I get that.
And maybe your equipment only does machine one piece at a time.
But, my challenge to you remains-

  • Don’t go to IMTS looking for what you already know.
  • Don’t go just to speak with the people that you already know.
  • Go to find something that will make a marked difference in your quality, productivity, or ability to use your talent more effectively.

Instead, ahead of time, ask yourself what would be a delightful thing to discover that could really move the needle in your shop operations and quality. While at IMTS keep your eyes open, and ask EVERYBODY if they have seen what it is that you are hoping to discover.
Yes, of course you need to see your stalwart suppliers.
But I ask you, are they the ones that will give you that unexpected new insight to reduce your operations time or tasks by 50-90%?
(I’m guessing that they have already given you their best advice and counsel.)
Or will it be something new, unexpected, and unanticipated?
By all means, make your plans of what booths to visit and who to talk to. 
That’s why most folks go to shows like IMTS.
But the REALLY BIG PAYOFF will come if you find that unanticipated, as yet undiscovered technology that will yield incredible benefits for your operations.
Success at a show like IMTS is not about making a plan- that’s a given. In my mind, it is about discovering your next surprising insight into doing what you do better- with fewer inputs and more consistently.
Think differently this trip. Discovery mode rather than checklist mode. Prepare by asking yourself “What can I find here that will…?”
And if you must have a checklist, well, try this checklist for checklists from  Projectcheck.org
You can see the PAWS workholding system at this year’s IMTS  at Booth W-2138

Here are some photos of the most surprising thing I saw at IMTS in Chicago last week- SOLD SIGNS on machines!
This bodes well for PMPA members, and the North American Precision Machining Industry.

First "Sold Sign" I saw- Midaco

REM SALES said "Sold on first day of show."

Sold - Zoller

Both machines in this photo wear "Sold" signs- Index Corporation

PMPA Tech Member Hardinge showed me this machine "SOLD"

ZPS America sold their 8 Spindle before the show...

Paws Workholding

AccuStream Inc sold this Waterjet Machine

Kern "SOLD" in big red letters no less!

Schaudt-Sold this CNC Precision Grinder

The folks at DMG Mori Seki Smiled when I asked about "SOLD" Signs but graciously opened a mcahine for me to see precision machining "Writ Large."

Hexagon Metrology

We didn’t have a lot of time to walk the entire show, but this sampling of “SOLD” signs is a leading indicator for optimism for our  precision machining industry here in North America.
Why are YOU optimistic about a Manufacturing Recovery Here in North America?