Cover Story: Experience Innovation, Get Challenged, Be Prepared

July 6, 2016 No Comments
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By Nancy Huddleston

toc_features50pxFor Minnesota manufacturers, the bi-annual International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago from September 12-17 is the place to go to see what’s new in terms of technology and new products, to network with their colleagues, and to bring home ideas that they can put to work in their businesses.

“This is the one time you’re in one place to see what’s new in the market,” said Mike Schuffenhauer, President of MultiSource Manufacturing, LLC, in Minnetonka. “You can get comfortable within your own four walls … and you think you have it all figured out. But this show gives you the time to take it all in and see what’s new and different.”

“When we went in ’04, our first year, the impression when we displayed products was, ‘holy cow, look at what’s available’,” said Brandon Anderson of Von Ruden Manufacturing, Inc., in Buffalo. “It really opened our eyes to see how many new and innovative products come out every year.”

Peter Eelman, Vice President of Exhibitions and Communications with The Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), said this year’s theme, “We are …” comes directly from the IMTS community. “Visitors and exhibitors have told us that their IMTS experiences have made them innovative, competitive, smarter, prepared, challenged, and focused.”

What’s in store this year?

Q: What is the one thing that no attendee should miss at IMTS 2016?

A: Start your visit to IMTS at the Emerging Technology Center (ETC). This year we are really excited for visitors to witness the expansion of additive manufacturing into the biomedical and housing industries, to explore the digital manufacturing systems and ‘smart’ control of factories, and to examine ever-more advanced and flexible automation and robotics.

The ETC will debut AMT’s exclusive manufacturing technology-specific beta search application, based on the association’s Tech Trends initiative. Built on the powerful analytics engine behind MTInsight, this application will search specific and obscure advancements within the industry to equip shops with industry intelligence to gain the competitive edge.

What drives us is looking at reinvesting into the company, new technologies, and trying to figure out where our next investment is going to be.
– Bryce Kleven,  Tooling Science, Maple Grove

Q: What kinds of emerging and disruptive technologies are featured in this year’s show?

A: Three of the industry’s top technology trends are the advancements in additive manufacturing, advancements in automation technology, as well as data integration on the shop floor. All of those will be in the spotlight at IMTS 2016. Visitors will see more hybrid machines that integrate additive manufacturing with traditional cutting processes, and integrated process automation for improving quality, saving time, and expediting production.


Likewise, advancements in software and ERP systems are helping many manufacturers gain a real competitive edge while also addressing critical needs. In the safety-critical aerospace, automotive, and medical industries, these technologies can track where a part went, when, and what happened to it. Shops are expanding their use of data and tracking technologies to monitor costs, materials, service, and customer buying routines.

Visitors will discover what the “smart factory” means for the entire economy, including how manufacturing operations are striving to act as a single, homogeneous network that incorporates machinery, automation, and integration components, and ERP systems. They also can learn how the connected factory will leverage the cloud to bring shop floor data to mobile devices, and even begin to envision how a facility can be set up so that order quantity is irrelevant. This means that in the future, manufacturers will be able to produce a one-off item with the same efficiency as a batch of 1,000, moving ever closer to the consumer demands for mass customization.

It provides us with the perfect opportunity to see new advances in products or software that we may not be exposed to otherwise. And there’s always the chance that you may happen upon that one special tool you’ve been looking for that will solve the “problem job” that’s been a constant thorn in your side.
– Mark Maas, Dotson Iron Castings, Mankato

Q: What types of sustainable ideas for the manufacturing industry will be featured at this year’s show?

A: Macro trends are pointing tv an increase in sustainable products for the manufacturing industry. Many will be unveiled at IMTS 2016. At the forefront are Bosch Rexroth, offering energy-efficient hydraulics, motors, drives, and feedback devices, as well as Festo Corporation, which has laboratories working on renewable energies, water/waste water treatment, e-mobility and resource-efficient production. Through CAD/CAM and monitoring software, Esprit/DP Technology, Autodesk, and Memex also are focused on sustainable and environmentally- friendly growth. Known worldwide for the ability to filter oil to one micron, Transor Filter System continues to provide filters that offer cleaner oil, reclaim valuable carbide, lower consumable cost, and extend equipment life. PRAB, Inc., Advanced Machine & Engineering, Hennig, Inc., and Lube USA, Inc. continue to develop innovative solutions for machine waste.

The reason that any one of us from IPM goes to IMTS is to see what the new machines and trends are in the industry. In a few days, you can see everything from all the major manufacturers along with the smaller ones. It is a very efficient way to see what is going on.
– Daniel Meyer, International Precision
Machining, Inc. (IPM), Waite Park


Q: What approaches will attendees at IMTS come away with to engage the next generation of manufacturing employees?

A: The U.S. manufacturing industry contributes $2.17 trillion to the U.S. GDP, employs more than 12.33 million skilled workers, is one of the highest paying industries in the United States and offers one of the most exciting, innovative, and vibrant places to begin and build a career. Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS 2016 is a cornerstone of AMT’s outreach strategy. Students, teachers, administrators, and parents are encouraged to attend the Smartforce Student Summit, a free, week-long event with nearly 50 interactive, hands-on exhibits and student challenges in 3D printing, robotics, design, and machine building. Details on the Smartforce Student Summit are available at

I network with other Minnesota companies and compare notes regarding finding qualified people in the area and anything new in terms of technology.
– Tom Jensen, Alexandria Industries, Alexandria

Q: How is manufacturing evolving in the face of changes in the economy, both in the U.S. and world?

A: AMT VP – Strategic Analytics Pat McGibbon says the economy has thrown a variety of curves at U.S. manufacturing. Currency manipulation by other countries has made foreign currencies weaker and the dollar stronger, contributing to relatively higher-priced U.S. products abroad compared to foreign competitors. Lower demand for commodities (i.e. copper, iron) and energy also have led to a decline in prices, which has helped the auto industry, but has hurt capital investments for energy exploration, mining, and agriculture equipment.

However, the United States has some solid advantages in favor of manufacturing: our innovative culture, strong education system, and diverse consumer base. Global manufacturers want to leverage these strengths which, in large part, has made the United States the largest recipient of foreign direct investment.


Other shifts in economics, consumer preferences, and technology also are having a strong impact on manufacturing. A huge part of that is data and the industry’s digital revolution. A recent Financial Times article noted that data added $2.3 trillion to the global economy, more than a third of the total trade of capital, services, data, and goods. This means the digital economy already has overtaken traditional manufacturing. It also means that utilizing and analyzing data is becoming manufacturing’s most important productivity tool.

Finally, manufacturers are also dealing with a vastly different cost structure than they were 20 or 30 years ago. Whereas labor was at one time a product’s most expensive part of its total cost, today logistics and shipping costs have grown significantly and are approaching labor’s percentage of total cost structure. The value of data and IP are continuing to grow as a larger percentage of cost structure as well.

We find that there is a lot of value to us at IMTS. We’ve gone about 10 times and this year is the first time that we will have a booth. At IMTS, we can make connections to our customers and do market research on different machines to learn more about the industry.
– Don Martin, Lion Precision, Saint Paul

Q: What is your forecast for manufacturing for the remainder of this year and into 2017?

A: McGibbon expects the market for manufacturing technology to remain flat through the summer, with an uptick in orders coming around September, just about the time IMTS 2016 opens. Overall, 2016 is expected to finish strong, but still lower than 2015. Most industry analysts anticipate a robust 2017 for manufacturing. pm_endmarkblue-e1320337140493

Nancy Huddleston is the editor and publications manager for the Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association. She can be reached at

Copyright © 2016 Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association. For permission to use or reprint this article please contact Nancy Huddleston, publications manager for Precision Manufacturing Journal.


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