New England’s longest running and biggest manufacturing event
By Kathy K. Webster, AMT Exhibitions Content Manager - Correspondence
On May 14–16th, I joined thousands of manufacturers from the Northeast and visited EASTEC at the Eastern States Exposition, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Both New England and the Exposition have a long and rich manufacturing history. In 1787, the first cotton mill in America was established in Beverly, Massachusetts. In 1917, the Exposition Park hosted its first industrial conference featuring 122 of the nation’s foremost manufacturers.
The four largest buildings at the Exposition hosted more than 736 companies showcasing products across 148,005 square feet. In addition to visiting booths and listening to keynotes, guests could partake in workshops, seminars, and knowledge bars on specific technology topics addressing additive manufacturing, automation, advanced welding, and big data.
Exhibitors & Visitors Connect
I was impressed by the large number of machine-shop groups crisscrossing the aisles. I loved seeing them together dressed in their firm’s matching shirts, going in and out of booths, investigating equipment, and talking to booth reps. I asked several visitors what brought them to EASTEC.
“I brought my team to EASTEC because it’s important to have our younger and seasoned team members see all the advancements in technology,” said Chad Humphrey, president of Maine Source Machining Company, Inc., which he founded in 2004 with his business partner and wife Nicole Humphrey.
“We attend EASTEC to get ideas on how to increase cycle time whether it be by using better cutting tools, deburring tools, faster machine tools, or multi-axis machining. This year, we spent a lot of time looking at robotic arms for loading and unloading turning centers. If we can use technology to increase our output, it helps us and our customers,” said Nicole.
“I can't believe how far machining technology has come since my last visit in 2017. The advancements in CMMs and visual comparators really impressed me,” said Nicole. “We plan on updating some of our metal finishing and coating equipment. We were happy to see that well represented at the event. Chad and I are expanding our capabilities. EASTEC is a great place to see all your regional sales representatives, meet the actual manufacturers’ representatives, and ask those tough questions to get the answers right there.”
“EASTEC introduced us to a couple of manufacturers that we knew of but hadn't had the opportunity to actually put our hands on their machines,” said Nicole. “We left the event feeling confident in the machine decisions we made.”
And when I asked if they’ll return, “Yes, we will be back!” said Chad. “Technology in our industry is changing at an unprecedented pace. EASTEC is a great event to see all of those changes in one place.”
A Connecticut machine-shop owner named Ralph Milone of XCEL Tool & Manufacturing Company, a CNC job shop with both milling and lathe capabilities, closed his shop for the day. He brought his young team to EASTEC to learn more about the industry, spark some new ideas, and have some fun. “We gained a lot of insight and saw some very impressive CNC machinery, CAD/CAM systems, and tooling. Now we need to separate our ‘needs’ from our ‘wants' and decide how to move forward. This was my fifth trip to EASTEC throughout my career, and it never disappoints. I always walk away excited at the direction of the trade and will be back in 2021.”
Exhibitor Ralph Lazzara, the New England Sales Manager at Methods Machine Tools, Inc. told me, “Even though we had a small booth in building two, attendee traffic was phenomenal. We collected more than 100 quality leads.”
Headquartered in Sudbury, Mass., Methods is a third-generation company celebrating its 60th anniversary. Methods is an importer of many brands and specializes in automation integration. “The FANUC RoboDrill Plus K model, which we engineered to change out tools and pallets, attracted a lot of attention. We’ve eagerly signed up for EASTEC 2021.”
On Tuesday, May 14, The KISS Method to Automation Workshop was popular and well attended. Red Rabbit VP Corey Carolla and Red Rabbit Manager Adrian Rodriguez presented low-cost, clear steps to implement robotic automation.
On Wednesday, May 15, Keynote Alan Beaulieu, President and Principal of ITR Economics, presented Riding the Crest – Economic Outlook. Based on the U.S. Industrial Production Index, he forecasts a slowing rate of 0.5 percent for 2019 compared to the higher rate of 3.8 percent in 2018. He expects 0.7 percent in 2020 and two percent for 2021. Beaulieu foresees the industries of aerospace, medical, and defense to remain robust and areas of opportunity.
“The United States is a great place to do business and will be for decades to come. Despite misperceptions, manufacturing in America is vibrant and strong,” said Alan. “The United States continues to have the world’s largest economy holding 24.2 percent, while China has the second largest economy holding 15.8 percent. Even with all the political uncertainty, the economy has unfolded in a predictable way.”
He urged manufacturers to step into the downturn by investing in new technology to capture more market share as other manufacturers will have the tendency to step back and wait out the downturn.
Next Generation Manufacturing Challenge
On Thursday, May 16, Adele Ratcliff, Director – Manufacturing Technology at the U.S. Department of Defense, announced that Project MFG: Next Generation Manufacturing Challenge will culminate in a national competition at the Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS 2020 in Chicago. The Challenge is a collaboration of industry, academic, and defense partners from around the U.S. to address the critical shortage of skilled workers in the U.S. manufacturing industry. Teams of student machinists and welders, paired with a mentor, will compete in five-axis and welding skills challenges.
Thursday featured the keynote panel, Engage a Multi-generational Workforce for Sustainable Manufacturing. The panel suggested new ideas to patch the skills gap including focusing on Generation Z by visiting middle and high schools, hosting field trips, and sponsoring local STEM programs or challenges. They recommended offering flexible schedules and bonuses for mentors. They encouraged manufacturers to promote the company’s personality, values, and culture by identifying and promoting the company’s personality, values, and social responsibility through small events, web presence, and social media.
Student Challenge Event
Nearly 100 high school students attended the EASTEC Student Challenge. Ten80 Education provided five stations through which students circulated in teams of four to five. Station activities included coding, electronics, component (propeller) design and testing, and two drone flight challenges–basic UAV piloting and payload piloting.
“From the enthusiasm on the show floor, to the packed keynotes and technical presentations in the SME Zone, to the crowded networking receptions and student challenge, the Northeast appears committed to the future and the expansion of advanced manufacturing,” said Director – Industry Partnerships Bonnie Gurney. “Mark your calendar for EASTEC 2021, May 11-13.”