A new year just started and— if you are like me—you look back and try to analyze what you accomplished and what things fell by the wayside. During my years as a manufacturing manager, I sometimes felt technology around me was moving so fast I might miss something that could have made the operation and business run better.
At the beginning of a new year, I recommend you take a few moments to review ideas and areas where you can catch up on new technologies and other business skills that might not get exposure during normal work days. I often looked to trade shows for the opportunity to catch up and learn about new technologies. Even in today's online and social media world, trade shows can still be useful in running a successful business.
Here are some benefits of attending trade shows or industry conferences:
New technology, processes, and systems. See it, test it, and learn it.
Get sales leads. You might see exhibitors using parts or products similar to the products you manufacture and connect with them for future sales.
Network. Meet suppliers, competitors, and potential customers. See what others in the industry are up to.
Safety. See new systems, technologies, and processes. Learn about new standards, requirements, or issues.
Regulatory. Learn about recent and upcoming regulatory changes and updates.
Certifications. Obtain or learn about industry certifications.
The development and adaption of new technologies has been a whirlwind in the manufacturing sector. No matter what industry you are serving—metal, plastics, concrete, food, wood—new and emerging technologies change the way we operate our businesses. If you are not on the forefront seeing the technologies that are out there, you might fall behind. To keep your business on top, here are a few trade shows that may be worth your time and money.
NPE: The Plastics Show, May 7–11, Orlando, FL
CAMX: The Composites and Advanced Materials Expo, October 15–18, Dallas, TX
IWF: International Woodworking Fair, August 22–25, Atlanta, GA
Food and Beverage
FA&M: Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo, April 8–11, Bonita Spring, FL
Food Safety Summit Conference and Expo, May 7–10, Rosemont, IL
NRMCA’s Concrete Works, September 29–October 1, Washington, D.C.
NRMCA’s 2018 Annual Convention, March 3–5, Houston, TX
Mold Manufacturing, Amerimold, June 13–14, Novi, MI
FABTECH, November 6–8, Atlanta, GA
Machine tools, robotic, software, tooling, work holding, etc.
IMTS: International Manufacturing Technology Show, September 10–15, Chicago, IL
Supply chain, packaging, warehousing, labeling, automation, etc.
MODEX, April 9–12, Atlanta, GA
Packaging, sorting, automation, etc.
PACK Expo East, April 16–18, Philadelphia, PA
Technology, automation, Lean, Industry 4.0, AR/VR, etc.
IndustryWeek Manufacturing & Technology Conference & Expo, May 8–10, Raleigh, NC
This is by no means a complete list of shows, but it will give you a few ideas that you can research for more detail.
I also realize that time and money can limit the possibility of attending a conference or expo. There are ways to deal with this. Consider putting conferences and expo attendance into your annual budget. Also, many shows are discounted or free if you register early. Sometimes you can also get hotel and travel discounts if you book early through the show.
As far as time, your most valuable commodity, you need to plan for it. Also, keep in mind that you don't have to attend every expo in person. You can send one or two of your managers, supervisors, or other staff. Just make sure they understand your expectations—ask them to report what they saw, what they think might be helpful to your business, and why. If there are too many shows, consider attending on alternating years.
Hopefully you can see the benefits of attending conferences and expos. I recommend finding the resources to attend one or two. And who knows—maybe we will meet each other at one.