See It to Believe It

During a recent interview, this company president mentioned that having employees attend industry events can help spur new ideas and smooth major transitions in processes and equipment.


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Summit Tooling brings more than just top decision-makers to industry events. At one recent IMTS, the company made a point to kick the tires on various laser welding equipment. Read this case study for information about the shop's experience with that process. 

A few weeks back, I blogged about an infographic detailing the demographics of attendees to the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) this past September. The fact that only 17 percent of visitors said they had no actual purchasing authority bolstered my hunch that, indeed, most attendees are higher-ups in their organizations.

In my view, however, sending only top decision-makers could be a mistake. After all, IMTS was among the first industry events I ever attended, and I’ve never in my life gathered so much information in so little time. Granted, as a magazine editor, my role is quite different than that of most attendees. However, if a complete neophyte (which I certainly was at that first show) could learn so much, what might such an event have to offer a seasoned shop-floor-level employee? After seeing what’s out there first-hand, how might employees think differently about how they’re currently doing things? What might they have to contribute to conversations about new machinery and processes?

According to Dan Martin, president of Summit Tooling, who brought his entire toolroom (16 people) to the most recent IMTS, they can contribute a great deal. Indeed, leveraging employees’ expertise and ideas is “critical to the success and future of our company,” he says. In fact, says this first-hand exposure to technology outside the shop’s own four walls played a significant role in easing the adoption of the company’s first-ever robotics.  That’s a transition that, as many shop owners can attest, can induce a significant amount of anxiety. “Some people were pretty skeptical until they actually saw the reality of what it could do,” he says. Sometimes, it seems, people have to see something in person to truly grasp its potential impact.

Interesting as it was, this conversation was just a small tidbit of a larger discussion that had little to do with IMTS or getting employees out of the shop, let alone the company’s adoption of robotics. Rather, I was interested in a much less dramatic development, but one that has nonetheless resulted in big gains. For this McHenry, Illinois toolmaker and injection molder, implementing laser welding was not only relatively easy, but also led to time savings and reduced rework on repair jobs and engineering changes alike. Read this case study for more details.