Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Dreamstime
Runners approaching finish line with IMTS banner

A Marathon and a Sprint: Charting Manufacturing’s Future

Sept. 22, 2022
IMTS showcased a clear direction for manufacturing. Now it’s up to us to take advantage of the opportunities presented.

As I raced between the four halls at Chicago’s McCormick Place to take in all that manufacturing had to offer at IMTS 2022 in September, I literally walked a marathon. Over four days, I covered the 26.2 miles (and a little more) to see what manufacturing suppliers wanted to showcase in the largest post-pandemic trade event in North America.

There always is a lot to see at IMTS, but this year’s event was more than devices, machines and technology. If the ability to gather 90,000 attendees safely is considered an achievement, it appears the show satisfied that goal admirably. That leads to the next question—what’s next?

That was the primary question that attendees needed to ask at this show. IMTS showcased a clear direction for manufacturing. The future is digitization—a smart, scalable, connected and managed enterprise. The digital future offers better product design in a collaborative environment, smarter use of materials and energy to meet the changing environmental expectations of end users, and an automated plant that employs the scarce human resource more intelligently while leaving the heavy lifting and bending to their new robotic co-workers.

This no longer is a panacea. This is real-life manufacturing. The technology works. What’s left is a thorough examination of what your operation can implement now to derive the greatest success.

This is an opportunity to take a long, hard look at design and operations. Identifying places to improve product creation and throughput starts with the design and operations teams now using digital twins, efficient 3D product prototyping and increasing use of artificial intelligence, all to streamline the process before the first part rolls off the line.

If the goal is not to waste time in the production process, then this fresh look at what we do now and how we can do it better in the future also must not waste time. The looks for improvement have been laid out in clear ways before the attendees at IMTS, and there is no return to the past. The digital future has arrived. If learning about the enabling technology at IMTS felt like a marathon, this next effort must feel more like a sprint, because those who do not start fast will inevitably be left behind

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