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  Manufacturing Insights   |   June, 2008
Regional Manufacturing Expos : Cost-Effective and Hands-On
by Thomas R. Cutler

Conferences, Webinars, and Expos, oh my. Deciding which events are worthwhile for manufacturing engineers and buyers to attend sometimes feels like Dorothy in the woods en route to OZ. Too often tradeshows are for the benefit of exhibition companies, webinars to simply promote a software product, and conferences lack any dynamism or little more than a rehash of last year’s content. There are, of course, exceptions and value can be found in a local expo rather predictably.

Engineers and buyers attending a regional contract manufacturing expo can often find multiple sources to take a project from concept or prototype to finished product quickly and at competitive prices. OEMs can find sources for engineering, design, prototypes, forming, fabricating, machining, finishing, assembly and electronic manufacturing services all under one roof.

According to Kati Olson, who produces nearly two dozen Amcon Contract Manufacturing Expos annually, “These regional events offers attendees a unique opportunity to investigate a variety of manufacturing options, both new and traditional, and find the best processes and materials for their applications. They can view actual samples of products that have been produced for other OEMs in their industry. They can get quotes on current projects and compare quality, pricing, and lead times from multiple vendors all in a few hours.”

Unlike many webinars that are interactive in demonstrating the efficacy of software solutions, or large conferences where a litany of dull speakers sit at a draped table until it is their turn to speak (and read aloud their dull Powerpoint presentation), effective manufacturing expos provide a “hands on” and one-on-one education. Attendees can see actual parts that other OEMs are using in their products. Olson notes, “Since the exhibits are staffed with top management and technical personnel, it’s possible for the attendees to have in-depth discussion of their projects regarding design, materials and production issues.”

Unlike many manufacturing conferences charging a thousand dollars or more to walk through the front door (requiring cost-justification to a CFO who asks for the return-on-investment), AmCon shows are free and include seminars on a variety of manufacturing processes and quality issues. Engineers and buyers can attend the seminars and then visit the exhibits to see how the various processes are being applied.

Why local manufacturing Expos are better…

The big national manufacturing shows, including National Manufacturing Week, have a place in scope and breadth of the sector. Regional expos, while generally smaller than the national shows, still offer hundreds of manufacturing services, and the “boutique” nature of these shows allows the exhibitors and attendees more time to get into the details of a project. Olson noted that, “Attendees can bring their prints and parts for review by the technical people staffing the booths. These are serious working shows where a lot can be accomplished in a very short time. Because of their regional nature, they are also more convenient, and cost less in terms of travel dollars and time.”

Purchasing and Engineering Attend as Teams

The highest percentage of regional manufacturing expo attendees are engineering professionals (design engineers, manufacturing engineers, and quality engineers), followed by purchasing, procurement and supply chain managers. Often, engineering and purchasing teams from the same company attend together. This allows them to address cost issues, along with design and quality issues, and to get quality products to market faster at a lower cost. Speed to market is extremely important in today’s competitive manufacturing environment and having so many resources together under one roof is a huge advantage.

Eric Smitt, Sr. Electrical Engineer of Lockheed Martin Space Systems recently attended a local AmCon Manufacturing Expo and noted, “I came to the show to find alternative contract manufacturers for some of our products that will be built in the future. I found a good mix of contract manufacturing services—metal, sheet metal, finishing everything you really need for manufacturing a product.” Similarly, Bob Schultz, Director of Operations with Seal Dynamics/Heico commented, ““I met several top quality suppliers here. I contract work out all over the country and this is the one place I can make a lot of contacts in a short period of time. The show was excellent. I made several contacts for new projects I have coming up that I’m ready to issue some RFQs for. I would recommend it highly.”

Olson does offer one caution: “Don’t come looking for machinery or equipment. The show is strictly about custom parts and manufacturing services. It is a very focused and a serious working show.” While there is no panacea, many attendees of local manufacturing expos conclude that there’s no place like home (to gather valuable manufacturing information.)

Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based TR Cutler, Inc. ( Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium of three thousand journalists and editors writing about trends in manufacturing. Cutler is a member of the Society of Professional Journalist and author more than 300 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Cutler can be contacted at See More Details.

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