Go prepared, go with an open mind, be ready to learn and go hungry!
If you operate a machine shop or any manufacturing operation with a focus on machining, and all the surrounding process technologies like product and process design, troubleshooting, CAM programming, tool design and selection, quality control, etc., you face a steady flow of new technology and products, updates and improvements intended to address the large and small, general and arcane details that concern machine operators, programmers, shop owners and managers.
I’m sure you are familiar with the idea of tyre kicking or browsing and peering in the hopes of spotting that perfect piece of equipment. But when you’re looking to buy something as expensive as a machine tool, every opportunity to make comparisons is important and that means attending open houses.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like a visit to an open house will suddenly highlight some diamond in the rough that every other shop owner or foreman is going to miss. But by visiting open houses you start to get a better idea of what you like and want, what is currently on the market and a ballpark budget for it.
For instance, I’ve met shop owners who were dead-set on a certain type of machine or a certain brand until they started to learn more details about the other choices. I also know others that have set their opinion based on their friends or peers experiences and recommendations. Sure, we can all navigate websites, watch cutting videos or machine reviews on YouTube but your opinion can completely change after spending some time with a machine tool manufacturer’s applications engineer. A conversation with one of them running a machine during an open house can help you learn the cool things about it as well as it’s quirks. These individuals spend a tremendous amount of time helping customers maximise the efficiency of the machines and have experienced so many different scenarios specific to the brand they represent. That experience alone is of prodigious value and you should want a part of that!
“I visited the local trade show… I don’t need to go! ” Well, in part, I agree! However, if you want to know more about a certain brand and its support network, I really think visiting their facility is a necessary exercise. It will help you set your expectations of the service support and meet the key people that will make your investment a success story. In comparison, trade shows are a good place to make the first contact or give you a first impression, though the costs involved with setting up a booth at one of them is a limiting factor to the amount of machines being displayed. In an open house setting, you can typically see more machines under power and have more in-house experts to help answer your questions.
If you have upcoming investment plans, one more reason to attend is the promotions! Many machinery dealers and machine tool manufacturers combine their efforts to develop special promotions to help relieve that capital investment. Although it is typically not the main reason to make the purchase, if the timing is right for your business you could score on some very valuable perks! That could be in the form of extended warranties, special financing rates or additional discount to clear inventory!
On a final note, even if you don’t plan on investing in equipment in the short term, visiting an open house can be an excellent way to participate in networking activities with other shop owners and industry specialists. In all aspects, I assure you that time spent at one of these events can only benefit your business.
I believe that you have to make the effort to attend an international exhibition in your field and, not just once, but regularly. I always encourage you to visit these truly international exhibitions because you return with a wealth of knowledge and ideas that can only enhance your business. I can speak from experience because I have attended many and I am never disappointed. There are several to choose from and listed here are a few that are coming up. EuroBLECH 2016 takes place in October 2016 in Hannover, Germany. It is the number one exhibition for sheet metal, plate and lasers. But before that there is IMTS 2016 in Chicago, USA and in November there is Jimtof 2016 in Tokyo, Japan. Jimtof is the official exhibition of the Japanese Machine Tool Builders Association and I will be attending for the second time courtesy of the JMTBA. It is also another exhibition that you should not miss attending at least once in your working career. Then there is EMO 2017 that also takes place in Hannover, Germany in September 2017. From machines to tooling to software, you name it, there are exhibitors covering all aspects of metal forming, shaping and removal. The individual country exhibitions are also enlightening and one that is very popular with South Africans is Timtos in Taipei, Taiwan.
Visiting these exhibitions also gives you the opportunity to meet up with other like-minded South Africans and the opportunity to network and discuss business. Without question the value of this is immense.
Machine Tools Africa 2017
I know it is not always easy to travel internationally and the Machine Tool Merchants Association of Southern Africa (MTMA) has recognised this fact and decided to resurrect the local exhibition. Nasrec Expo Centre, Johannesburg will be the venue for metalworking suppliers and manufacturing companies to exhibit their products from 9 to 12 May 2017 at Machine Tools Africa 2017.
It will be an all encompassing exhibition for the niche, but very important, area of industry that we operate in. The MTMA are encouraging all the related suppliers and manufacturers to participate so that they put on a united and professional front for the metalworking industry. This includes tooling, software, metrology, additive manufacturing, foundries and many others.
Machine Tools Africa 2017 will be unique in the sense that it will showcase live working machinery including milling, turning, metrology, tooling, laser cutting and other sheet metal and plate operations, to name but a few. The exhibition will also bring together the industry’s finest manufacturers across a range of technologies.
At last count Hall 6 had 80% confirmed bookings and Hall 7 was 70% full, with a number of international companies booked. This is very encouraging and an exhibition that you must bookmark in your diary.
This is the viewpoint of Joe Poulin, Regional Sales Manager at Elliott-Matsuura Canada Inc.