Shop Matters - Ep. 14 What to Expect from a Virtual IMTS 2020

Shop Matters is a podcast designed to talk about the world of machining and manufacturing with your host, Wade Anderson. Sponsored by Okuma America.

Host Wade Anderson sits down with AMT's Michelle Edmonson to discuss IMTS 2020, and what you can expect from their new, virtual experience.

TRANSCRIPTION

SHOP MATTERS PODCAST: EPISODE 14 - What to Expect from a Virtual IMTS 2020

Wade Anderson:

Hey, manufacturing world. Welcome to another episode of Shop Matters, hosted by Okuma America. I'm your host, Wade Anderson, and today joining me in the studio in rainy Charlotte, North Carolina is Michelle Edmonson with AMT. Welcome, Michelle.

Michelle Edmonson:

Good morning, Wade. Thank you so much for having me.

Wade Anderson:

Yeah, appreciate you joining us. To start with, tell us a little bit about AMT and then what your role is with them.

Michelle Edmonson:

AMT is the Association for Manufacturing Technology, and we produce the show IMTS, the International Manufacturing Technology Show. My role is really all things IMTS. I am the senior director for operations and marketing, which means I get to touch literally every single piece of IMTS.

Wade Anderson:

Holy cow, I cannot imagine that. If you've never been to IMTS, it is a massive show. I've been going since '92, I believe was my first show. I've been working the show since '94, working for an OEM Machine Tool Builder, so I've been going for a long time.

Wade Anderson:

I talked to a gentleman, a friend of mine here in the industry that was on a recent podcast, and said, "Going to IMTS on the builder side or the worker side of it, it's like a family reunion. You go back and you see all your friends with other machine companies and nobody tends to leave this industry. They may leave a company, but they stay in the industry, and you see them two years later again at IMTS."

Michelle Edmonson:

It's true. It's actually the same on the visitor side. A few years, ago we had Where Dreamers and Doers Connect. For '20, that was our slogan and our campaign, and a lot of the visitors said they take vacation and they come to IMTS. They just love it. It's kind of like Disney world for them. It's the same.

Michelle Edmonson:

We've had that more than once. People say it's a family reunion and it's fun, and we all are missing it this year, that's for sure.

Wade Anderson:

Right, yep. How long have you been connected with IMTS?

Michelle Edmonson:

Actually, my first IMTS was 1996, so not too far behind you, and I worked in the trade show industry in the registration company. I started at AMT in 2004 where I really took shape and hold of all aspects of the event.

Wade Anderson:

Okay. It's gotten bigger every year, right?

Michelle Edmonson:

It has. A little bit more complex every year, and definitely a lot better every cycle.

Wade Anderson:

I know for us, for Okuma, we start usually about a year to 18 months in advance of the move-in date, if you will. You basically wrap up one IMTS, you have a few months to take a breather, and then all of a sudden, all the meetings start back up. All right, IMTS planning. What machines are we taking? What demos are we doing? What's the booth structure going to look like?

Wade Anderson:

It's a massive focus for the industry, but what a great opportunity for customers to learn. I'm a big believer in education and you get educated by your exposure a lot of times.

Michelle Edmonson:

That's exactly right. IMTS is definitely a place... And we heard it all through, I'm going to say, the COVID cycle. Since March of when we were trying to determine what we could do and what we couldn't do, that was safe for the community, many people were asking us, "We need this for our business. We need IMTS. Please don't cancel. We come to learn. We come to see who the exhibitors are and what they're bringing in the technologies and how everything happens."

Michelle Edmonson:

It has definitely been a constant conversation on our end from the visitor aspect since March. We knew in June when we canceled that we did not have a choice but to bring the audience from both sides, the visitors and exhibitors and the community, something to work towards and something to be part of. We couldn't just let a cycle go. We had to bring them something to learn.

Wade Anderson:

That was our fear early on. When you could see it coming, you knew there's no way we're going to have hundreds of thousands of people together in this facility.

Wade Anderson:

Tell us a little bit about how has IMTS evolved, even from the early days to now the COVID cycle that we're in at the moment.

Michelle Edmonson:

Sure. Again, I started in 2004 at AMT, so my very first IMTS was the year that we went from the, we call it the three-inch binder of an e-kit that we mailed out to all exhibitors, to a disk that we mailed the exhibitors. That literally threw the industry for a loop. Everybody was like, "What are you doing?"

Michelle Edmonson:

Now we've come from that to a world of where digital technology is key and the norm. IMTS is definitely the place where digital manufacturing is where you need to come learn it and be part of it. Because if your shop is not in a digital world, you're not going to be around in the next five to 10 years. I truly believe that.

Michelle Edmonson:

Where do you need to learn that stuff? You need to learn it from the exhibitors. You need to learn it from the experts. You need to be able to learn it from your peers. How can you solve problems? Those are the three things we focus on with a physical event.

Michelle Edmonson:

Now we're in COVID. Those are the three things we focus on now in a digital event, in a digital platform. People need to be able to connect with their partners. They need to be able to see what's going on. If I'm a job shop owner, I need to talk to other job shop owners and I need to be able to find out, I've got this problem. I don't know how to solve it. How did you solve it, and what are you doing, and what are ideas? They need to be able to go to exhibitors and see what is the new technology you're bringing, what is the new processes? How can you help my business? They need to be able to get education from experts and conferences and webinars and different pieces. Those are the things that we are bringing to the table.

Michelle Edmonson:

This year, we're calling it IMTS Spark. It's exciting. It actually soft launched, if you will. Visitors are able to see what exhibitors are doing and who the exhibitors are, and they're able to go in and register now. They can add things to their, what we're calling the My Spark Planner. What are different conferences that they can see and what's going on, kind of a sneak-peek, and sessions and conferences and live demos that exhibitors will be doing, will launch and ignite. Spark will ignite, as we say, on September 21st of 2020.

Michelle Edmonson:

Just like IMTS, you can't just go into one hall and see everything in one day. We understand people's business, we understand that there's a lot going on, so we've made it last for six months. Spark will extinguish March 15th of 2021. They'll be on-demand.

Wade Anderson:

I like how you say that, extinguish. You ignite the fire and then extinguish.

Michelle Edmonson:

Exactly. There is a lot going on in that platform. Things will be recorded, there'll be a lot of on-demand, there'll be a lot of self-study.

Michelle Edmonson:

We have a very large engineer base in our community, and not all engineers want to collaborate. Not all engineers want to listen to somebody else. They want to do their own research. There'll be a deep dive study platform within Spark, so they'll be able to dig down the rabbit holes they want and get answers that they need to.

Wade Anderson:

Okay. How does Spark work? Let's say I'm a job shop owner and I'm wanting to attend it. How do I get started?

Michelle Edmonson:

What you want to do first is go to imts.com/spark. Then once you're there, you'll be able to click a register button or a My Spark Planner button, and that'll take you to where you, if you've already registered and created a planner, can log in and see everything. Or, you go ahead and register. You give just a few pieces of information and then register, and you can... It's free.

Michelle Edmonson:

You can go in and you can see different things. You can go explore the exhibitors. Some exhibitors have giveaways, and some exhibitors will have technical sessions, and some exhibitors will have live demos, and you'll be able to add those all to your planner.

Michelle Edmonson:

The planner is your electronic agenda, if you will. Anything that you have liked and added will always be there and it'll give you reminders, if you want, that says, "Hey, you signed up for the session, go in Spark and check it out." There are just different pieces of the planner that you'll be able to do right now.

Wade Anderson:

All right, excellent. Touch on Network. What's the difference? I've heard of IMTS Spark and then IMTS Network. What's the differentiation between those?

Michelle Edmonson:

Sure, absolutely. IMTS Network will be September 14th-18th. It is a live broadcast, so we're setting it up similar to the Today Show. It's not the Today Show, but we're modeling after that.

Michelle Edmonson:

It's all manufacturing technology. There'll be news in the morning. There'll be two hosts. Jules McGuire will be in our AMT offices in McLean, Virginia, and Peter Eelman, who many of the audience know, will be in different facilities around Chicago.

Michelle Edmonson:

There will be a dual hosting site. We will have something called Zoom Across America. If anyone listening to this podcast wants 15 seconds of fame, they can go to our website now, imts.com/network and click on Zoom Across America and apply to be on it. It's a 15-second interview with people. It's fun. It's a four-hour broadcast. There will be some live intermixed, and then there are some recorded stories.

Michelle Edmonson:

The difference with Spark and Network is, Spark is solution answers. Network is human stories in the manufacturing industry, similar to if you want to see what's going on. There are lots of episodes of Outside the Shop, and there's things that have never been seen before.

Michelle Edmonson:

Let's start with Outside the Shop as one of the episodes, and that is anything that you wouldn't find in a traditional job shop or a traditional manufacturing plant. There are things that the manufacturing community is doing that are not the norm.

Michelle Edmonson:

We have Profiles in Manufacturing, which is you take an icon in the industry and we do a story on them, and what they're doing, and how they're doing, and how they either have made it in the industry, how they got here, some challenges they faced and overcome them.

Michelle Edmonson:

We have Manufacturing Explorers, which is the traditional shop. We have explorers that go into the shop, find out what's going on, and all the cool technologies going on.

Michelle Edmonson:

That's just three out of the 15. Anyone can go right now, again, to imts.com/network and see all the shows that are happening. Again, this broadcast is free now, so it'll give little teaser videos of the different shows. When the broadcast happens September 14-18, it'll be live and streamed.

Wade Anderson:

Okay. How long do the shows last? I apologize if you said that and I missed it.

Michelle Edmonson:

No worries. The entire show itself, the broadcast itself, is four hours, and then it'll be replayed. Each show, realistically, is anywhere from... We have two-minute videos, they're called Tech Peeks, and those are just little snippets of technology going on, to 15-minute shows, but the average is about five to seven.

Wade Anderson:

Oh, okay. Yeah. Very good. You don't have to plan your day away to try to catch one of those.

Michelle Edmonson:

That's exactly right. That is exactly right. They'll also be on-demand. Once they're launched, they will be on-demand that people can go back and see them.

Wade Anderson:

I think it's such a great platform that you guys have worked through. I truly believe the world as we know it has changed. The COVID has ushered in the use of technology that's been around a long time that some people gravitated to, some didn't. I'm guilty. I'm one that did not. I was never a big fan of using Zoom or Skype or things like that.

Wade Anderson:

Now, I live on Teams, for the most part. Our whole corporation is tied together with Microsoft Teams and, in a click of a button, I'm talking to people in Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and right here in Charlotte in a snap. I'm really impressed how you can keep the company operating and people communicating in that team environment, moving forward in this new virtual space.

Wade Anderson:

I think even when COVID subsides... However, I'm not going to get into that side of it. But as the world changes again to a non-COVID-focused era, I think there's going to be a lot of people that realize we're able to maintain the company. We're able to maintain business and sales and revenue and we didn't have to send a lot of people traveling. I think the whole virtual environment is going to be something that is going to be around for the foreseeable future, for sure.

Michelle Edmonson:

I 100% agree with you, I do. I will say that people, as they did before but even more so, will be cognizant as to where they go and what they do. I think that if people are going to make the effort, they're really going to want to be in different places.

Michelle Edmonson:

I can honestly say... I'm biased, no question about it. I can honestly say from the conversations I've had, I'm confident people are going to be coming to IMTS 2022. People want it, they're craving it, and just like you said, it's a family reunion. I think people are going to be excited to see other people.

Michelle Edmonson:

But I don't disagree with you. People understand that this is an environment that works, and while it doesn't work the same, it still works. How can we shift our focus to being more digital and again, to just like digital manufacturing? I said it at the beginning of the podcast and I still mean it, that if people don't think in a digital space with their shops and how they can produce things digitally and at least have digital as part of their operations, I don't think they're going to be around much longer.

Wade Anderson:

Right. I think it's a unique thing to think about who can attend IMTS Spark this year. In years past, I know I've worked with teams and had people within my own reporting structure, that if you've got a team of 10 people and you're going to send two or three to IMTS, somebody's going to get their feelings hurt. Everybody wants to go. Everybody wants to be part of it. You two or three, you drew the long straw, you get to go. The rest of you are staying home. That's not the case this year, right? Everybody can log in, everybody can see it, everybody can see what's going on and be part of the discussion.

Michelle Edmonson:

That's exactly right. We set it up that way by design just for those very reasons. We set it up that it was free for everybody, for those exact reasons, so that everybody could come and be part of the discussion. You never know what you're going to learn from anybody that gets to come and gets to see it.

Michelle Edmonson:

We're pretty excited about it. We're excited to bring it to the industry and we're really excited to see the industry's reaction to it. So far, there's so much interest out there, so we're pretty excited.

Wade Anderson:

Yeah. Excellent. I think it's interesting to think about new technologies that people can learn. If you're a guy that hasn't been to IMTS before, or stuck in that one role, one position.

Wade Anderson:

Nick Goellner was just here. We did a podcast with Nick and he talked about how he sees more and more people get promotions in companies, not because they work to a certain level or ask for a promotion, it's because they saw there's a role, there's a need in the company, and they just went and did it. Then all of a sudden, that becomes part of their role in their job.

Wade Anderson:

I think about all these young, talented people coming out of school or been in the industry for their first three to five years. There could be new technologies they see here that could literally launch careers and change their path in life based on learning something new, learning a new skill set, understanding new trends and where manufacturing is going, and being able to bring that value to their company that they might not have had access to before.

Michelle Edmonson:

Yeah, it's interesting. I have a 15 year old, I have three children. My oldest is 15, and when she was little, I read an article that said about 60,000 of the jobs when she's ready to go into the world are not created yet. I can imagine that today, that number would expand with the digital speed and technology speed that we've come. I just thought that was astounding to me. You're right.

Michelle Edmonson:

Going back to the travel, a lot of her generation and the generation before her want a good life balance. I'm Generation X and we don't necessarily do the best at the life balance, right? The generations behind me are definitely demanding it more. With all the negatives COVID has had, I think it's actually allowed us to take a pause, and allowed us to see where we can go in the future, and what the future could look like, and make it better.

Wade Anderson:

Right. Yep. Good point. What's the future look like? What do you see? You mentioned 2022. Do you foresee we're still going to have an IMTS Spark platform of some sort combined with the physical location?

Michelle Edmonson:

Sure. Right now, and we're doing it within IMTS Spark, as well, we are going to see what clicks, see what people's needs are, see what happens. We are very good at being agile. We have a great team. They're very good at being agile and fit the needs of the industry. If we set out an agenda that we find that the visitor and the audience don't need, we will switch. We'll switch what content we use and we'll make sure that we get to what they need.

Michelle Edmonson:

A good example is back in March, we knew supply chain was immediately an issue, so we switched to being a supply chain reference, and how people can come and see where they can do, what they can do, how they can do, as far as that goes. We'll do the same within Spark. I'm going to say we're going to be listening. I can't tell you today if Spark will be part of IMTS 2022. It really will depend if the need is still there and if people still want it.

Wade Anderson:

Okay, excellent. Well, I really appreciate you joining us today. Appreciate all the knowledge you brought us, and we're looking forward to participating in IMTS Spark as well as IMTS Network. I think from an Okuma standpoint, we're a member of the highest package, if you will. We're going to have a lot of really good content out there, and some really good presentations, and opportunities to do some live events, and things of that nature. We're really looking forward to it and appreciate the opportunity.

Michelle Edmonson:

Thank you for having me. I actually looked at your showroom today and your marketing team has done a great job.

Wade Anderson:

They're on top of it.

Michelle Edmonson:

Everyone should go out and check the Okuma showroom. Thank you for being part of it, and thank you for having me here.

Wade Anderson:

All right. Michelle, tell us one more time for people listening. How do they participate in IMTS Spark and IMTS Network?

Michelle Edmonson:

Sure. If anyone goes to imts.com, they'll be able to do a path of three. You can go check out IMTS Spark, where you can register and create your Spark Planner. You can go to Network, where you'll be able to see the shows and what's happening and the times that they're going to be broadcast September 14th through the 18th. You can go see IMTS 2022 and see everything that's going to happen with the physical event in 2022. Then on that page, there's a Contact Us page, and that'll give our entire staff as to who can help in what venue that you need.

Wade Anderson:

Oh, that's perfect. Well, thank you for joining us today. I really appreciate your time and all the knowledge you brought us, and we're really looking forward to being part of IMTS Spark Network.

Michelle Edmonson:

Thank you again for having us. I appreciate it a lot.

Wade Anderson:

Thank you again for joining this episode of Shop Matters. Again, I was your host, Wade Anderson. If you have any thoughts or questions, ideas for future podcasts, please feel free to reach out to us at www.okuma.com/shop-matters. Until next time.

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