As I write this, I’ve just returned from IMTS 2022 and the step counter on my smart watch is getting a much needed reprieve.
I hadn’t been to a trade show in three years – or to an IMTS in four – and the impact was jarring. In this case, it wasn’t just the strangeness of putting on dress clothes and jamming into a crowded indoor space – lost relics of business operation from pre-pandemic days – but it was also the excitement of an expo hall full of technology that, in some cases, was making its world premier.
The floors of McCormick Place were truly abuzz with excitement as manufacturers, big and small, got the opportunity to talk shop about their newest wares. As media covering the industry, we spend most of our time listening to features and benefits of this leading-edge technology but, inevitably, these industrial manufacturers tend to ask us the same questions: “What are you hearing right now about the industry?”
My answers this year focused on two critical areas as they relate to the technology and equipment we saw on display:
- The workforce. In my job, I don’t go a single day without hearing business operators in every area of the supply chain bemoan the talent strain. It’s clear that equipment manufacturers are responding to this challenge – as they have been for years – by developing and fine-tuning features that make their products easier to use and also provide more feedback on key areas like OEE and maintenance requirements.
- Automation. Robots and co-bots were everywhere at this year’s IMTS, and I saw everything from battle bots and robot bartenders to a Fanuc lifting a 2-ton Corvette (not sure why… but, man, was it cool!). As the pandemic forced the hands of many businesses who were slow-playing digital transformation to take a serious look, investments in automation and robotics have skyrocketed. In fact, over the next decade the compound annual growth rate of the industrial robotics market is expected to eclipse 10 percent, bringing the overall industry to a $55 billion estimated valuation by 2032.
While I’m flattered that these industry stakeholders ask for my insights, it’s clear that they already know what's happening around them. The emphasis these companies are taking with product development that responds to key critical issues like supply chain visibility, ease of use and – of course – efficiency are so well aligned with what the market needs right now, all their prospective customers need to do is look. And we did that for you – and will bring more wrap-up coverage on IMTS in the coming weeks in both print and digital channels. But if you weren’t at the show, I’d encourage you to take the time to dig up more highlights online. After you’re done Googling “IMTS jet suit flyover” (you won’t regret it) then dive deeper into the machining centers, IT, additive manufacturing, robots and more that can and will have a direct impact on manufacturing operations for those who are willing and able to make the decision and, then, the investment.
The industry is ready to respond to the challenges facing manufacturers, and now it’s up to industrial businesses to take a leap of faith and try out the new and improved opportunities. Will you be one of them?