What’s in store at FABTECH 2012?

The premier fabricating show in the hemisphere, in the premium centre for action – Las Vegas.

Comments Off November 7, 2012 at 8:52 am by

It’s a safe bet that FABTECH 2012, scheduled November 12 – 14, 2012 at the Las Vegas Convention Centre in the city of the same name, will be both enlightening and entertaining. The largest metal forming, fabricating, and welding exposition and conference in North America, this year’s edition of FABTECH features an appealing blend of exhibits, panel discussions, and educational sessions. The conference will offer high-minded ruminations on U.S. politics and the economy, a “state-of-the-manufacturing industry” panel discussion, and a look at the growing trend of reshoring.

“FABTECH 2012 is expected to be one of our largest shows to date. We expect greater participation from the west coast because the show’s in Vegas this year. We know we’ll have more than 25,000 participants, but it’s too early to tell about total numbers,” says John Catalano, FABTECH show co-manager.

“We’re in the neighbourhood of 1,200 exhibiting companies [in] over 445,000 square feet of space,” adds Mark Hoper, vice president expositions and media for the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA).

Based in Rockford, Illinois, the FMA represents 135,000 professionals in the metal forming and fabricating industry, and is a co-sponsor of FABTECH 2012. Other co-sponsors include the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), American Welding Society (AWS), Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) and Chemical Coaters Association International (CCAI).

An annual show held in a rotating cast of cities, FABTECH’s mission is to “bring buyers and sellers together in a convenient venue that facilitates business relationships, networking, education and the buying process,” states the conference website.

FABTECH Show entranceWhat’s in store?

Featured technologies include assembly, bending and forming, brazing and soldering, business services, coil processing, cutting, fastening and joining, hydroforming, inspection and testing, job shop/contract management, lasers, lubrication, maintenance and repair, material handling, metal suppliers, plate and structural fabricating, press brakes, punching, resistance welding, robotics, saws, stamping, thermal spraying, tool and die, tooling, tube and pipe fabricating and welding, welding consumables and welding machines.

Exhibitors will show off new products, processes and applications, hold live equipment demonstrations and try to drum up new business among attendees.

FABTECH 2012 has an expanded educational component, with over 50 new sessions. In total, attendees can select from over 100 sessions on an enormous variety of topics, from highly technical subjects to managerial issues.

“The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, Int’l, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Precision Metalforming Association, and Chemical Coaters Association International co-sponsor educational sessions on cutting, finishing, forming and fabricating, management, stamping, and tube and pipe. The education program features technical, operational, economic, and managerial sessions where participants will discover solutions to advance their career and their businesses. The American Welding Society presents a comprehensive lineup of welding education led by the industry’s top professionals. The AWS programs focus on best practices and new commercial developments in welding and thermal spray,” says Catalano.

There is no single keynote speaker this year. Instead, a series of special events will be held, including a workshop on “Lean Manufacturing for Managers”. This workshop offers an overview of lean methods, with an eye on tips on minimizing waste in manufacturing settings. The workshop also features an interactive class exercise in paper airplane building — mass production style versus lean style.

Election debriefing

Another special event likely to be highly popular consists of a post-election analysis (the election in question being the U.S. presidential race, to be decided in November).

“Seasoned Washington D.C. government relations experts will discuss how the presidential and congressional election results will impact U.S. manufacturing,” explains Catalano.

The panel will be moderated by Paul Nathanson, founding partner of the Policy Resolution Group. The event is free and open to all FABTECH attendees.

Regardless of how the elections go, the results will “eliminate some uncertainty that’s out there in the industry,” says Hoper.

Until the elections are decided, manufacturers will remain uncertain about “regulatory issues, tax issues … health care issues … and the direction [the U.S.] goes as a country,” he adds.

Another much anticipated special event consists of a roundtable with five manufacturing pundits speaking on the topic, “The State of the Industry: Manufacturers’ Executive Outlook”. The five experts are Rick Taylor, president and CEO of Jay Industries, Jerry B. Ward, vice-president of Metcam, Gregg Simpson, president and owner of Ohio Laser, Shivie Dhillon, owner and president of SunDial Powder Coatings and Patrick J. Thompson, president of Trans-Matic Manufacturing.

These five manufacturing executives will be led through an interactive question and answer session by Chris Kuehl, an economist with the FMA.

The State of the Industry discussion promises “insights from leaders representing job-shops, contract manufacturers and other service providers who are dealing with the same issues of supply, demand, labour and changing business sectors,” states FABTECH conference material.

This event is free and open for all conference attendees.

FABTECH is also addressing the issue of “reshoring” — that is, North American firms that have given up on offshoring, usually because of quality or pricing concerns and pulled foreign manufacturing operations back home. FABTECH estimates that reshoring has resulted in the creation of 50,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs over the past few years. It’s unclear how many manufacturing jobs reshoring has created in Canada.

“Reshoring” or “onshoring” are buzzwords in Washington, DC these days and attendees at FABTECH will see this first hand at the show. In addition to large U.S. manufacturers sending their representatives to FABTECH to find domestic suppliers, foreign manufacturers who are interested in sourcing products from the United States will also be attending the show. The Reshoring Initiative’s Harry Moser will present a session at FABTECH titled “To Offshore or Reshore? How to Objectively Decide!”,” says Catalano.

Moser, who has written extensively about reshoring and is the founder of the Reshoring Initiative, will be outlining “all the variables that somebody would need to have in mind whether or not to offshore or shore … he takes into account travel, shipping, just-in-time issues — all that kind of stuff,” adds Hoper.

The reshoring session is free and open to all FABTECH attendees.

FABTECH Show floorPractical advice

Also available are sessions on management issues (“A Practical Approach to Developing a Strategic Plan for the Job Shop”, “Developing a Winning Sales Force”, “Let’s All Play Nicely Together: Managing Boomers, Xers and Yers in Your Business”), cutting (“Overview of Laser Technology and Systems”), stamping (“New Tool Steels to Improve Die Life”), forming and fabricating (“Roll Forming Fundamentals”), Finishing (“Autodeposition & Powder Coating Hand-in-Hand”), tube and pipe (“Principles of Tube Fabrication”), etc.

A pair of FABTECH theatres will be the scene of new product presentations throughout the conference. Dozens of companies will make presentations in two theatres located on the exhibition floor. New products to be displayed include eco-friendly waterjet pump technology, a liquid electrostatic gun, welding automation systems, coil-fed laser blanking systems, the latest in lasers, etc. The new product demos are free for all FABTECH attendees.

FABTECH started in Cleveland, Ohio in 1981. Originally a small, regional show, the first FABTECH had 161 exhibitors and 42,925 square feet of conference space. The show moved to the Chicago area in 1983 and began to grow apace. FABTECH 1987 boasted 293 exhibitors working in 106,770 net square feet of conference space. Attendance topped 20,000 people for the first time in 1993. Fourteen years later, attendance reached over 30,000 people.

Along the way, FABTECH began picking up new co-sponsors and added events. In 2005, the American Welding Society joined forces with FABTECH. In 2008, the Metalform trade show came under the FABTECH umbrella. One year later, the Chemical Coaters Association International joined to sponsor a Finishing Pavilion and conference at FABTECH.

According to Catalano, FABTECH might grow yet again.

“We are focused on the Las Vegas show so there’s nothing to announce at this time, but we have been very pleased with FABTECH’s growth and are always looking for opportunities to expand,” he states.

Last year’s FABTECH, held at McCormick Place in Chicago, broke all records, with 35,457 attendees (a 35 per cent increase over 2009), 1,300 exhibitors and 505,000 square feet of conference space. FABTECH 2012 might seem smaller by comparison, but Hoper notes that the Chicago shows are typically well-attended, a fact he attributes to the Windy City’s locale in the heart of the Midwest U.S. manufacturing sector.

All about the experience

FABTECH returns to Chicago for the 2013 edition.

As for FABTECH 2012, there’s no particular theme to the show beyond, “experience FABTECH,” says Catalano.

“FABTECH is all about the visitor’s experience. Attendees have commented that it’s the time of year when the FABTECH family comes together to celebrate manufacturing and the metal fabricating industry. The event not only showcases innovative equipment and services, but offers top-notch education, key networking opportunities and features presentations that touch on the topics that keep our industry professionals up at night,” he states.

That said, the continued recovery of manufacturing, in both Canada and the United States will be on everyone’s mind at the show.

“All the negatives you hear — the deficit, the [crisis in] Europe, the uncertainty of the U.S. elections — regardless of all those things, manufacturing in the U.S., and I’m quite sure in Canada, is really doing quite well,” says Hoper.

“Manufacturers in the U.S. added 12,000 jobs in May 2012, the eighth straight month of gains in the sector. Since 2010, a half million manufacturing jobs have been created in the U.S. Offshored work is returning home and profits at manufacturing companies increased 25 per cent in 2011,” states FABTECH background information.

Canadian manufacturing too has recovered relatively well from the recent economic downturn, which particularly devastated the automotive sector.

“Superbowl” of the forming industry

Catalano makes it clear that FABTECH is not just a playground for the big boys: “The show is for manufacturers of all sizes. Any manufacturer interested in viewing the newest technologies, meeting current and potential suppliers and of course, current and potential customers should plan to attend,” he states.

“The core attendees of FABTECH are small to medium-sized job shops,” echoes Hoper, who estimates that representatives of small to medium-sized job shops will make up three-quarters of attendees.

“FABTECH serves the smallest job shops looking for a competitive edge to the largest Fortune 500 manufacturer seeking innovative solutions to complex problems,” states FABTECH press material.

FABTECH typically attracts people working in aerospace, agriculture, automotive, construction, heavy equipment, mining and utilities, military and defence, etc.

It’s not all serious business, however (this is Las Vegas, after all). Networking and socializing opportunities abound, including a “Cocktails and Comedy” event. The C&C event will feature comedian Greg Hahn who has made the rounds of various television shows, including Comedy Central and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. An “interactive” comedy session is promised.

The conference features a “FABTECH Bistro” offering an expansive lunch buffet with fresh and healthy options, located within the exhibit hall. A $20 fee covers lunch, drinks, dessert and tax. There will also be a FABTECH “Happy Hour” slated for the exhibition floor. The latter is free and open to all attendees who can use the time to quaff beverages while investigating displays and new equipment.

Of course, attendees might also want to investigate some of the host city’s allures. Besides being the casino gambling Mecca of North America, Las Vegas offers a wide selection of entertainment in the form of concerts and casino shows, plus a plethora of inexpensive restaurants.

For those who prefer fitness to partying, an inaugural FABTECH five kilometer footrace will be held on the streets of Las Vegas. Runners and sponsors involved in the race can donate to different charities.

Asked what the FMA hopes to get out of FABTECH and Hoper waxes businesslike and sentimental.

“For us, FABTECH represents the Superbowl of the forming and fabricating industry … it’s an event, once a year that gathers all the suppliers, all the users, at one place … it’s an opportunity to get the industry together to network and facilitate a sales cycle that puts buyers and sellers together,”  he states.

For more information visit: www.fabtechexpo.com

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By: Nate Hendley

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