With apologies to readers of a certain generation who will remember a similarly titled BBC Radio broadcast, James Selka and Geoff Noon have been at IMTS in Chicago this week and offer a few thoughts on what has been on show.

The event was slightly smaller than in 2018 but still filled about 96% of what is the US’s largest single site exhibition venue at 1.2 million ft2 (about 120,000 m2).  Similarly, the total number of visitors are likely to be down a little but this is entirely due to a lower number of students (some educational establishments are still not running field trips due to the pandemic) and fewer international visitors, especially as very few Chinese companies are present compared to normal.  The positive news is that, based on pre-registrations, they are expecting the highest ever number of US visitors.

Like our own MACH event earlier in the year, there was a great buzz around McCormick Place on Monday and this has lasted all week with business being done and new contacts met.  We have seen all the UK exhibitors – or at least all those we could identify from the exhibitor list – and most have reported having a good show although as with most events, not everyone has an ideal location.

The US machinery market is showing some signs of cooling but this is from an exceptionally high level – for machine tool orders, 2021 was the best ever year and even with the easing of the market, 2022 looks like coming in as the third best year ever, so hardly a disaster.  There are a few key themes in the market trends being discussed around the show, including:

  • An increased use of automation across most tiers of manufacturing but perhaps most notable among the job shops where the average transaction value is increasing because of this uplift in automation.
  • Another manifestation of this is in some large OEM’s acquiring robot companies, in part at least, to incorporate automation into their own products as well as to make use of it in manufacturing capacity.
  • A trend towards re-shoring of manufacturing capacity to the US;  again, this trend is being driven by a number of factors that are coming together and are being helped by (and/or are driving) the increase in automation in the previous point.
  • A boom in manufacturing for the US space sector – not just NASA these days, of course, but including a range of private space companies – that was reflected in some impressive exhibits across the show.
  • The move to marrying tech companies with those in the manufacturing technology sector continues – this is something that MTA will be keeping a close eye on and working to share with our members in the near future.

Overall, despite one or two notable absences, this has been an impressive event and we send our congratulations to our friends and colleagues at AMT who have put together another spectacular IMTS – we look forward to 2024.

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