Toughts on the big IMTS show
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  1. #1
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    Toughts on the big IMTS show

    Tuesday:
    Today was the final set-up day for the IMTS show in Chicago. American Machinist's booth is modest; we don't have any machines to program or fine-tune -- just about a hundred boxes of magazines to open, organize and disply. Still, the display company began setting up our small (10 x 25) booth sometime last week. And it took 3 staff members most of the day to make the booth look organized and ship-shape.
    When we left Chicago's McCormack Place at close to 6 p.m. today, there were still hundreds of people at work. The exhibition floors were, frankly, a mess. It looked like trade show meets Katrina.
    One company (at least, one that I know of) was working in near-panic; as the large booth was being constructed, engineers were trying to learn nuances of machinery that had been shipped straight to the show floor from a new overseas partner. None of the people in the booth had ever worked with the equipment before.
    It's nearly midnight as I write this; I'm guessing the engineers are still working. I'm also guessing that by tomorrow, they'll all be expert enough to run, show and perhaps sell some of the new machines.
    Bob Gardner, the top communications guy at AMT (which runs the IMTS show) said it's been the smoothest move-in he can recall at anytime in his tenure.
    There is a lot of horsepower.I didn't have time today to consider any of the equipment closely; that's what the next 7 days are about. But there couldn't be a metal product anywhere in the world that can't be produced with equipment that's currently plugged in at IMTS.
    Tomorrow, I'm sure I'll have learned something new, with a schedule that runs from 7 a.m. until at least 10 p.m.
    I'll be sure to provide some of my thoughts here.
    Bob Rosenbaum
    Former Publisher
    Penton's WELDING Magazine

  2. #2
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    Re: Toughts on the big IMTS show

    Day One: A dose of unbridled optimism

    “Every indication is that the economy is going to remain strong.” Those were practically the first words out of the mouth of Bill Gibbs, the iconic founder of Gibbscam, which is celebrating its 20th year in business. “Most of our customers who were going to [go out of business] have long since died,” he said. “Most of those who were going to survive are doing well And there are always new customers coming in. So business is good.”
    Gibbs is not, by far, the only optimist at the show. Germany’s DMG has recorded its best year in history -- $1.2 billion (U.S.)
    Its chairman, Rudiger Kapitza, points out that U.S. machine tool consumption (a strange term for something as durable as machine tools) is once again growing. It stands 3rd in the world at $6.2 billion – catching up with No. 2 Japan, at $6.4 billion. (China’s consumption, no surprise, leads the world at $9.6 billion/year). But German consumption, Kapitza noted, is fading.
    It’s an interesting fact. A year ago, when I traveled to Germany to meet with machine tool makers, I was surprised that the effects of outsourcing production to China seemed new and surprising there. I saw fresh emotion from Germans, of the kind that we’ve been living with in the U.S. for a decade now. Apparently, its showing up in the numbers too.
    But the machine tool makers are calm about it. DMG – like so many large builders – is truly global. Declines in one region will be offset by gains in another.
    The bigger question is the world economy – will it slow down, and if so, when?
    I asked Takashi Yamazaki, who is senior managing director of sales and marketing for Yamazaki Mazak Corp. He agreed with the assessment that as long as China is growing, the world economy will continue to grow.
    How long will that last? “We have no way to know,” he said. Yamazaki Mazak – like DMG and, I presume, the dozens of other machine tool builders that are manufacturing in China – will keep on building capacity as long as it can continue to increase sales in China.
    Is it madness in an industry with a business cycle that’s as regular as Old Faithful? Perhaps. But any company that gets cautious now will simply lose sales to someone else. So they keep building.
    I don’t know when the downturn will come. Predictions are anywhere from 2008 to 2011.
    In the mean time, more people are being employed in the U.S. to build machine tools. Hardinge is adding production of a new machine – its Bridgeport XR-1000 moldmaker – to its workload in Elmira, NY.
    And DMG, which has committed to a series of entry-level machines starting in the $40,000 range, is looking for a U.S. facility to begin production.
    The reason is lead time. If you want to sell machine tools to job shops, you need to have them in inventory. If the best you can offer is a 3- to 4-month lead-time, the sales simply go elsewhere.
    But if you have them in stock, someone’s going to buy them. For example, a new company, GBI Cincinnati, is now representing the Feeler line, which is built in Taiwan; they promise increasingly sophisticated performance at low prices. By 5 p.m. on the first day of the show, sales engineers at GBI had sold two machines.
    So here we are, in the 5th year of the up-side of a business cycle that averages 6 years from peak to peak. And if you spend a day at this show, it’s hard to walk away feeling anything but optimistic.
    Bob Rosenbaum
    Former Publisher
    Penton's WELDING Magazine

  3. #3
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    Re: Toughts on the big IMTS show

    DAY 2: Looking for transformations

    Every big trade show is filled with the “new” – and while all this newness represents a lot of sincere work by a lot of good people, most of it represents incremental improvement.
    But occasionally you find an innovation that offers a true leap; you can’t always tell at the moment, but here are three that seemed to rise above the chaos of the show floor on Thursday.
    1.
    Kennemetal’s global restructuring. This is not exactly new; it’s been quietly going on since Carlos Cardoso took over in 2003 as CEO. Since then, Cardoso – proud to tell anyone that he is a Six Sigma Greenbelt – has instituted strict systems and processes into every corner of the organization. Distribution; manufacture; customer service; sales; R&D: all follow clear operating principles designed to assure consistency from every corner of the company’s global operations.
    Why is that important? He believes it allows Kennemetal to offer a clearer value proposition to customers at every level, without the internal competition that can arise from companies that own and separately manage multiple brands.
    He also says it allows him to take tremendous cost out of the organization – making it more competitive and better able to invest in research.
    I know that when people come to IMTS to learn about what’s new, they aren’t usually looking for a change in the way a company tries to sell them product. But I’m curious whether anyone in this community who works with Kennemetal has noticed a difference over the last year or so in the way the company does business. Is it easier to get what you want? Are the right things presented to you? Do you enjoy working with them?

    2.
    Getting a little closer (but not quite) to the mainstream of the kind of big changes you expect to hear about, a little company called Teksoft thinks that it has a better approach to CAM software.
    I bring it up because conversations about software are some of the most volatile threads Practical Machinist has to offer. So I’m throwing it into the fray.
    Teksoft (which ended up being the owner of the now-discontinued ProCAM product) doesn’t employ programmers to write new capabilities; it employs them to integrate best-of-breed modules from other developers. It puts them into a common interface, strings together their capabilities and packages them together as the new-and-improved CAMworks.
    Mike Coleman, president and CEO, calls it a “buy-don’t-build” strategy; the company licenses strong modules – milling, turning, laser cutting and EDM, for example – from established vendors and pieces them together. The result is software that should offer top-of-the-line usability in each category and a significantly lower cost than traditional CAM systems engineered entirely in-house.
    Coleman admits there are still a couple holes in the software. He says it’s great for a shop that does mostly milling and turning, but may have occasional use for other cutting or fabricating modules. It eliminates the need to buy multiple platforms to get acceptable performance across the board. And it aspires to be better than dealing with the compromises that are inevitably built into traditional systems – compromises like the ones so often pointed out at Practical Machinist.
    I don’t know if this is really going to be a quantum leap or not; I don’t know if it’s going to change the way other CAM vendors approach their business, or if it will make things better for you. It’s a classic “time will tell” question. But it clearly qualifies as a company that’s trying to present a new level of value to its market.

    3.
    Ironically enough, I’m at the year’s largest metalworking show in the world and the biggest advance may not be in metal cutting, but metal-joining. It’s mechanized hybrid laser welding.
    ESAB is commercializing technology developed by Precision Light Systems for the military shipbuilding business.
    It’s big because it significantly reduces the amount of heat that you need to put into the metal to achieve a strong weld. Less heat means less distortion. That, in turn, means downstream manufacturing costs are reduced, because so many downstream costs (especially in shipbuilding) are attributable to dealing with the heat distortion caused by welding.
    David Patch, president of PLS, says it reduces filler metal consumption by 90% and increases weld speed by a factor of 5.
    This could be transformative for the auto industry, heavy transportation and construction equipment, and structural welding.
    According to Ed Hansen an engineer at ESAB, much of the weight in a heavy truck, for instance, isn’t structural at all; it exists for rigidity during the welding process. Distortion reduction.
    By applying hybrid laser welding, manufacturers can use less metal and make things lighter. For vehicles that means reduced manufacturing cost and increased energy efficiency.
    For structural components in bridges and buildings, same deal.
    This is technology that can change the way virtually every manufactured metal product is made and designed. I can’t wait to see how this one plays out.
    Bob Rosenbaum
    Former Publisher
    Penton's WELDING Magazine

  4. #4
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    Re: Toughts on the big IMTS show

    Day 3: I Robot
    Ready or not, automation is here.
    Over the past 5 years, the United States has lost more jobs to productivity than it has to China. And it’s not over yet.
    For the same price you’d pay in salary and benefits to a skilled machinist, you can buy a robot arm that will load stock around the clock.
    Such solutions are in abundance at this year’s IMTS. Motoman, a leading provider of robotics, has a display right at the entrance of one of the main exhibition halls, showing just about every kind of robot I’ve ever heard of, except perhaps the “Roomba” that we use to sweep up the dog’s hair from the floors at home.
    Tornos uses automation to feed wire and bar stock into one side of a machine, and remove and validate finished parts on the other side.
    At the Mori Seiki booth – which is bigger than the lot my house is built on – the automation solutions are all front-and-center. Robotic arms. Gantry loaders. Pallet changers. Just six months ago, automation solutions were a hard job for Mori Seiki; a few key partnerships have suddenly brought these labor-savers to the center aisle.
    Bar feeders once were stuck in the corners of the convention hall. Now, every vendor that has a turning solution seems to display it with a bar-feeder at the front end.
    Costs for automation have come down too – along with costs for entry-level machining centers.
    The message is clear: You don’t need to be Toyota to benefit from automation. In fact, if you aren’t Toyota, you may need automation to keep up with the rest of the world.

    My next show-floor report will be Monday night; I’m heading home for the weekend.
    Bob Rosenbaum
    Former Publisher
    Penton's WELDING Magazine

  5. #5
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    Re: Toughts on the big IMTS show

    its tuesday going into wednesday...

    ...zap!


    I am not completely insane..
    Some parts are missing

    Professional Driver on a closed course....
    Do not attempt.

    Just because I'm a dumbass don't mean that you can be too.
    So DON'T try any of this **** l do at home.

  6. #6
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    Re: Toughts on the big IMTS show

    Day 6: No excitement in Detroit

    Bruno Schmitter, CEO of St. Louis-based Hydromat Inc., has a lot riding on the fortunes of the auto industry in the United States. But over the past few years, he has marched his company away from that dependence as much as possible.
    The rotary transfer machines that Hydromat makes are ideal for the long production runs of automakers and their vendors. At IMTS, Hydromat was showing a 16-station behemoth that could move a workpiece “around the horn” for an eight-step cutting process with a cycle time measured in seconds. It’s fascinating to watch and has always been impressive technology – fast, powerful and precise.
    Historically, the price you’d pay for such speed is a complicated set up. The machines can be configured with fewer stations than the 16 on display. But in the past, each station needed to be programmed individually and fixtured manually; a job changeover was monotonous work that could take an experienced operator several days
    But as U.S. automakers have faltered, Hydromat has needed to find a different market for these machines; and there aren’t many where you can count on running a single high-value part for days or weeks at a time.
    A number of innovations, such as replacing mechanical flanges with programmable ones that can easily retain old settings, has cut changeovers drastically – from 11 hours to less than 2 in one example. American Machinist rotarty transfer example.
    Now it has machines that can be considered by shops that do smaller runs – say in the medical or aerospace industries.
    That also helps to explain Hydromat’s top announcement in the lead-up to IMTS – that it had agreed to sell multi-spindle lathes from Tornos. (Tornos U.S. will focus on its single-spindle lathes.) The connection is clear. Like Hydromat’s rotary transfer machines, Tornos multi-spindle lathes use bar stock; they make high-value parts; they are appropriate for vendors in auto, medical and aerospace applications. Hydromat sales team now has more to offer the same customers.
    Hydromat also has a subsidiary business, Edge Technologies, that sells bar feeders and parts cleaners – tools that support the same customers again.

    But with all the work, Schmitter is still a bit of a motorhead, and he’s connected in his heart to the automotive industry.
    For instance, a couple days ago, Schmitter met with a group of journalists. He noted, “The future in engines is the efficient diesel – not the hybrid. When you drive a hybrid, you step on the gas and you look around and wonder if anything is ever going to happen. Who is going to drive this?
    “But have you driven one of those 1.8 liter diesels? You step on the gas and it feels like a race car.”
    He also has some strong feelings about the automakers themselves. One journalist asked if there is any excitement in the auto industry today.
    “It depends,” Schmitter said. “If you’re working with Toyota or Hyundai there is plenty of excitement.” Toyota this summer officially surpassed Ford to become the second-largest producers of cars in the U.S.; and both Toyota and Hyundai have embarked on multi-billion-dollar production expansions here.
    “But in Detroit? There is no excitement there,” he said, shaking his head. “Billy took the job thinking that he wouldn’t have to work.” The reference was to William Clay Ford Jr., who is Ford’s chairman – and who last week turned over his job as its CEO to Alan Mulally, the man credited with leading Boeing’s turnaround.
    A reporter asked, “Can we quote you on that?”
    Schmitter hesitated for a short moment and said, “Sure; he’s not going to buy any machines anyhow.”
    Bob Rosenbaum
    Former Publisher
    Penton's WELDING Magazine

  7. #7
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    Re: Toughts on the big IMTS show

    Day 7: The magic number

    There’s a lot of talk about pricing.

    Haas remains a price leader, of course. That’s the foundation of Haas’ market position: affordable machines that are simple to use and get the job done.

    The magic number builders are trying to reach is $40,000 for an entry-level vertical machining center – generally with a working envelope in the ballpark of 24” x 16” x 20”. (The specs vary widely from brand to brand.)
    Haas is right there; its VF-1 model has a retail list price of $43,000.
    And while Haas is the consistent performer at providing affordable equipment, it’s not alone and it’s price isn’t lowest at the moment.
    Hardinge introduced its Bridgeport XV 710 model priced at $39,990. That’s about $10,000 less than the cost of a base-model Acer VMC 1824.
    Fadal, part of the MAG Group (which also owns Cincinnati Machine, Giddings & Lewis and a few others), has a model, the VMC 2216FX, priced at $39,990 too.

    Not all manufacturers hit this price point. Those that are positioned as providers of high-performance machines aren’t even trying. For them, $60,000 is closer to the bottom. And it’s easy to find that divide reflected among buyers at the show.

    I talked to several attendees while standing in front of the machines in that $40,000 range. The overall sentiment of those I met: Not interested; it’s just not enough machine. Serious businesspeople at IMTS recognize the compromises involved to bring a machine to that price point.

    But while I was getting the negative reviews, there must have been another group of people signing contracts in the little conference rooms that vendors have at each booth. Many of the entry-level machines had “sold” tags by Tuesday, the show’s second-last day.

    Shops across America are using such machines all the time. It’s really a matter of focus: If you need a mill but precision milling is not the core of your business, you are a prospect. If you’re just getting started with your own shop, you are a prospect. But if you’ve built a business around the heavy use of industrial strength equipment, then every one of these vendors has a higher option for you to consider.

    In other words, nobody is trying to fool anybody. For $13,000, you can buy a new car, but it’s not likely to be a “chick magnet.” And at $40,000, you can buy a shop-floor vertical mill, but it’s not going to lead your pitch to get the kind of high-value, complex work that is the required mainstay for growing machine shops today.

    And make no mistake, $40,000 is not the bottom.

    A few machine tools built in China have made their way to Chicago, and they are pioneering the low-price frontier. The Kanmen Machine Plant of Zhejiang Province has a small booth in the back of the large South Hall where the big machine tools are clustered. A sign there says that more than 900 of its Kaiji XK300 CNC vertical mills have been installed across China.

    You can have one too for a show-special price of $23,000.

    As of Wednesday morning, 8 hours before the end of IMTS 2006, it remained unsold.
    Bob Rosenbaum
    Former Publisher
    Penton's WELDING Magazine

  8. #8
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    Re: Toughts on the big IMTS show

    Robotics really are becoming more commonplace. IRobot's Roomba is an affordable way to avoid doing the vacuuming. My husband and I bought one and he is awesome. Yes, our little piece of the future has been assigned a gender and a name by my husband. He thought that Robbie would be just another techno-gadget, but Robbie (and now Junior) have proved to be excellent additions to the family. The wander around the room quietly vacuuming in a random pattern and when the are done the make the happiest little noise to announce that they are going back to their charger. IRobot has really done a good job. If this is any indication, we will all have a host of little robots that perform their household chores in a quiet, cheerful, and independant manner.

    btw, I am in no way affiliated with IRobot, I am just a satisfied customer.

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