Many of you might have an unforgettable memory of your grandfather taking you to a ballgame or fishing. And while this might seem as though I am making this up given what I do, one of my fondest memories of my grandfather is going to IMTS with him back in 1980. He ran a company in upstate New York, and I was working an apprenticeship there. Having grown up around the machinery on his shop floor, it simply made sense to go to Chicago for what is often simply referred to as “The Show.”
I’d never been to a trade show before then, and as I walked up and down the aisles with my grandfather, I was amazed at the extent of the equipment on display.
But “walking up and down the aisles” sounds as though he was simply browsing, which was far from the case. At almost every booth he would stop and ask someone something about what they had on display – whether it was the equipment they were exhibiting or simply a fixture (that they were using, not selling) on the machine. He was always interested in gaining more information that he might be able to use to improve his operations.
In addition to learning, he was also actively buying. He had a stack of P.O.s in his jacket pocket.
When he’d leave an IMTS, he would have (1) an encyclopedic knowledge of developments in manufacturing and (2) receipts for new equipment that would be shipped to his factory.
My grandfather’s inquisitiveness stuck with me, so whenever I went to IMTS on my own, I would always look beyond whatever type of machine I was there to assess so that I could try to figure out ways to do things better.
Over the years I have gone to IMTS as a visitor, as an exhibitor, and as an AMT official. But my perspective was set by my grandfather and his curiosity.
One of the questions people sometimes ask me is whether a trade show like IMTS still has relevance for visitors or exhibitors.
While I obviously have a bias here, my experience gives me a good understanding about what it takes for someone to go to IMTS.
Some people argue that there is an array of alternatives to IMTS for a visitor, whether it is viewing and sourcing online or attending a smaller show, be it a regional expo or a vertical show dedicated to a particular technology. While there are plusses to things like that, the big lift that one gets at IMTS is access to tens of thousands of people as well as to an array of equipment. Not only is it possible to meet people deliberately (e.g., an appointment) but also coincidentally (i.e., you are in a booth asking about something while someone from some other company is there, interested in the same thing).
What’s more, per my grandfather, seeing much more than what you think you’re there to see (you might be thinking of a metal removal machine – but then see additive equipment that might provide an answer) allows you to come up with new ideas, new approaches, new alternatives. This is particularly germane today with the burgeoning digitalization of industry and the dynamic forces that are put upon all of us as a result of the near-shoring, on-shoring, and re-shoring efforts that are occurring to address supply chain weaknesses.
For exhibitors, it is the ability to get in front of more people at one time in one place than is possible anywhere else in 2022 – people who haven’t had the opportunity to be at an IMTS since 2018. I know that many companies are evolving their positions, propositions, and products; IMTS gives them the platform to present that to a massive, engaged audience.
Certainly, I will be at The Show this year. I hope you will, too. And while my grandfather is gone, I know that his approach is something that I and many others he encountered over the years will bring with us to Chicago.