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AMTDA, SME promote Vegas show next year as "experiential".

At the June executive briefing to encourage booth rentals for the upcoming Interactive Manufacturing Experience event, AMTDA president Peter Borden noted that many equipment producers were pleased with open houses they ran. "IMX will be, in effect, all of the industry's open houses in one venue," he explained. A little later Don Lane, president of Makino Inc., took the podium and gave a slightly more nuanced view. IMX will fit somewhere between an "big-iron show" and a technical seminar, Lane said.

Organizers are eager to set the new exposition apart from conventional machine-tool shows. IMX, scheduled for Sept. 12-14, 2011 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, is being organized by the American Machine Tool Distributors' Assn. and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Both groups have a long history of sponsoring and producing trade shows, of course, but as they move into the century's second decade they're finding the exhibition landscape changed. SME's juggernaut expositions department earlier this year reduced the frequency of its faltering Westec in Los Angeles from annual to biennial and finds itself moving from generalized expositions to targeting specific manufacturing industries like aerospace/defense or medical equipment. And in recessionary times AMTDA seems to be backing away from some of the hoopla associated with huge events (dropping, for example, its long-standing luncheon settings at IMTS) and looking more closely at participants' return on investment.
 At last month's briefing Steve Prahalis, the SME manager who's
 running IMX, explained some of the organizers" thinking. "The 'I
 'at the beginning of IMX strands for interactive," he told
 prospective exhibitors.


"This is about departing from the traditional show model. We're not debating the value of the traditional show model, but rather making sure that the appropriate platform brings together the communities of buyers and sellers that we want.

"In the Eighties the traditional trade show was a wonderful platform very simply because the number of options out there were limited," Prahalis went on to say. "The Web has changed that forever, and it's never coming back. If you want information now, all you do is type a few letters and it's all in front of you."

Rather than just present information, organizers hope IMX will foster bonds between equipment sellers and customers. Floor plans include a series of 3,000-sq.-ft. "learning labs" and "experience zones" scattered throughout the show, the better to "facilitate productive, peer-to-peer knowledge exchange and networking," in the words of promoters. The Las Vegas venue, distanced from mainstream metalworking locations, ought to help ensure an audience of "high-level, qualified U.S. buyers." Part of the plan is to set up focused private meetings.

The idea for a Las Vegas show of a different stripe has been kicking around the machine-tool distributors' organization for several years. At IMTS 2006, a brochure describing the first Machine Tool Exposition Las Vegas (MTELV) was circulated, setting dates in September 2007. That plan never materialized, but in March 2008 AMTDA and SME announced they would collaborate on a MTELV to be launched in 2011. By then the term "exposition" in the title had been changed to "experience."

Over the past two years the two groups worked to define just what the experience would entail. An executive committee was formed, composed of Makino's Don Lane; Daniel Janka, president and COO of MAG Industrial Automation Systems (and current chairman of AMT); Tom Dillon, president of DMG Mori Seiki; Okuma's Larry Schwartz; Byron Deysher, president of importer Methods Machine Tools Inc.; AMTDA's Peter Borden; and SME executive director and general manager Mark Tomlinson.

Additionally, a ten-member steering committee was set up to fine tune the event. This group included marketing managers and heads of machine-tool distributorships and is said to provide a hands-on perspective.

The resulting event, by now called the Interactive Manufacturing Experience, is promised to be a more intimate, experiential, and efficient staging, compared to traditional machine-tool shows. The show's organizers routinely refer to it by its initials, and when designing a logo--imX--they chose to capitalize only the "X," presumably to emphasize "experience." (The odd capitalization also conveniently distinguishes the event from the Los Angeles rhythm and blues recording trio called "IMx" and the International Magic Experience show called "imx" to be held in Las Vegas next May.)

Efficiency is a key idea behind the metalworking IMX (http:// imxevent.sme.org/), say organizers. At the June briefing, held in Schaumburg, Ill., about 25 miles from IMTS venue McCormick Place, Okuma president Schwartz commented about how exhibitors assess expositions. Judging a show's success by the amount of attendees in the booth at any one time is not a very good measure of the return on our investment, he said.

"And if we look back over the last four or five years, attendance continues to decline," Schwartz continued. Moreover, "when you talk to the people who have invested their time and money to attend these shows, this is what I hear: 'Larry, we didn't get what we wanted. We don't get the quality time and the expertise. It's so hard even to get to stand in front of your machine to try to understand the technology you're trying to provide us.'" Hence a key aspect of IMX will be the attempt to move discussion areas from the formal technical sessions of shows like IMTS or SME's APEX series and onto quiet areas of the show floor itself.

Hopes for the new kind of "experience" might be summed up by executive committee member Don Lane of Makino, "I expect IMX to be an industry-changing event."

Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Dearborn, Mich. 800-733-4763.

American Machine Tool Distributors' Assn., Rockville, Md. 301-738-1200.
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Publication:Metalworking Insiders' Report
Date:Jul 15, 2010
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