Manufacturing Magic at IMTS

IMTS showed what magic manufacturing is today - and how many people are involved.

IMTS showed what magic manufacturing is today – and how many people are involved. Photo by Oscar & Associates.

What can you imagine designing and making? Dream as big or small or complex as you’d like…Someone can probably make it, and quickly. At least that’s the big impression I came back with after visiting the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) last week. It was manufacturing magic. I was there representing Iyno and also discussing MESA International membership with some of the exhibitors.

In the central area between exhibit halls Local Motors and its partners were using additive manufacturing to build a car. ExOne had one of its machines 3D printing or layer-sintering very complex metal parts with multiple separate layers of open-shape patterns.

I had a very short day and a half, but even if you had all six days, you probably would not have seen the entire show. It appeared to occupy very square foot of McCormick Place: North, South, East and West: over 1.2 million square feet. The 100,000 plus visitors are a testament to the fact that manufacturing is alive and well.

The technologies on display illustrate that discrete manufacturing is changing fast. While the same categories equipment, tooling, supplies and software were on display as decades ago, but the capabilities are quite different. The skills needed to use the equipment and tools are much more sophisticated than decades ago when I first attended.

As a software person, I spent most of my time in the East or Lakeside hall. Today’s software is more intuitive, so it allows lower skilled people to do some things, and higher skilled people to do things that were outside the scope of our imagination 20 years ago.

  • Job shop enterprise software has much broader scope than even a few years ago. Many of these products now include some credible manufacturing execution and some have realistic costing capabilities. MESA Members Epicor, Dassault, Forcam, and MPDV were here. I also visited with Exact JobBOSS, Global Shop Solutions, Henning Software, JobPack, Manufacturing Software Manudyn, ProfitKey, RealTrac, ShopTech E2 and Syspro.
  • Product design software has moved from a hodgepodge of specialist tools to many that are either broad platform-based suites or intuitive enough for non-CAD-trained people to use them to collaborate. Some that are both. Dassault and Siemens had industrial-equipment-specific suites on display, and others such as SpaceClaim and Kubota also showed new capabilities.
  • Many products for ERP, MES, PLM, and CAM now run in the cloud, a benefit for the many smaller job shops that don’t want to manage IT infrastructure and staff but do need sophisticated and secure software.
  • Metrics and analytics software was on display with Memex and Vorne showing OEE-focused systems and Expert Manufacturing Systems’ Micronite with tool process data analysis. System Insights with its Vimana predictive analytics showed its capabilities and some of the joint offerings with partners as diverse as Autodesk for process design and Kennametal NOVO Optimize for tooling management.

The wealth of innovative technology available today means that job shops that invest wisely can break out of their molds and be highly competitive. All of us who have been watching and encouraging the use of IT in manufacturing can see our dreams coming true.

This is real magic. No slight of hand. The magic of manufacturing as it can be. Perhaps that is not how everyone explains it, but increasingly, it is.  Dream it and you can make it!


Special thanks to my friend John Jackiw of Alta Via Consulting and his friend Joe McCall for hospitality in driving and showing me the harbor and boat, and especially the White Sox game!

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