On Wednesday I went to IMTS. It was going to be a 16-hour marathon because we were taking folks out to dinner after the business day, and had a 30-mile drive each way in bumper-to-bumper Chicago traffic. Emily Halgrimson, my associate at Today’s Machining World, drove, which eased my apprehension about the day. But for somebody who has had a lot of health issues, at 71, a 16-hour day in the endless din of McCormick Place is a challenge to negotiate.
I framed it in my head before I left my house. “I get to do this,” I said to myself, and I really believed it, too, but I knew it would be exhausting, even if it was exciting and exhilarating at times.
This is the hard part of aging for me. I want to do IMTS. I almost have to go to see clients and stay current, but it is physically very demanding, even for much younger people. For the folks who draw the job of setting up the exhibits for the big displays it is a 3-4 week trial by fire. Complicated machines with a million things that can go wrong are shipped by flatbeds to McCormick Place where union guys do the unloading and placement. For some of the big players like Okuma, Mazak and Haas, budgets are in the multi-millions of dollars. There are always last minute snafus and virtually every company is running up to the deadline to prepare for IMTS.
Mickey Tajariol, who runs ZPS Corporation of Zlin, Czech Republic, told me their new machine the “Penta” a fascinating and innovative multi-spindle bar machine, was completed two days before it had to be loaded in a container.
At Hydromat, the rotary transfer machine builder in St. Louis, their new larger Eclipse CNC station prototype was still in need of a sheet metal protective cover a day before shipment to Chicago. Bruno Schmitter, who runs the company, gave his approval only after sitting and then bouncing on the painted cover himself and then checking for any dents. It passed the Schmitter test, and was shipped.
Mindy Mikami of Okuma in Charlotte had a major role in getting their massive exhibit to Chicago. How they not only got the enormous double column machining center reassembled in the front of aisle 8500 in the South Building is a McCormick Place Miracle. I invited Mindy out for ice cream or a drink on the Friday before the show to renew acquaintance, but she was working until later than I could stay in the city.
To me, the folks who work the show day after day, set it up and tear it down, are heroic. For the big builders particularly, IMTS is their main face to the public. It’s their chance to shine. It is a great chance to reconnect with customers and attract new potential buyers. It confirms their technical capability to a probing herd of potential doubters.
Big exhibitions like IMTS and EMO in Europe force the builders to continue to innovate. The Internet or even a showroom does not ratchet up the adrenaline like a competitive circus does. The feedback and questions during IMTS force changes in the prototypes when they are sent back to the factories. I think IMTS also fosters great camaraderie in the team and exposes the players who cannot or will not sacrifice for the group.
I believe everybody should do a few trade shows during their working career. And if you do not have the “privilege” of working a show, I strongly recommend that you walk IMTS or something similar for a couple of days, not just to appreciate the iron, but also the heroic foot soldiers who make it all come together.
Question: What’s your most memorable IMTS experience?