The wheels of industry are turning slowly but steadily as the world recovers from last year’s recession. Canadian manufacturers saw sales increase 0.1% to $44.8 billion in June, which Statistics Canada says is the eleventh advance in 13 months.
It’s a promising trend but conditions in the world economy are such that manufacturers are moving ahead cautiously, and there are other challenges affecting their businesses. Competition for the business that is out there is aggressive and with the value of the loonie being high and credit for many companies difficult to come by, manufacturers are looking for solutions that will make them more efficient, productive and ultimately more competitive. As companies gear up for the better times, this year’s Canadian Manufacturing Week/Weld Expo 2010 will deliver those solutions.
New this year is a change in venue. The show will be held Oct. 5-7 at the Toronto Congress Centre, near Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, and will feature an upgraded, more modern facility.
Presented every two years by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), CMW, featuring Weld Expo, co-sponsored by the Canadian Welding Association (CWA), will focus on new challenges and opportunities for key manufacturing sectors such as automotive, energy, aerospace, custom fabricating, transportation and medical products.
“Manufacturers are looking for knowledge and education that will help them to be leaner, more innovative and competitive, and CMW/Weld Expo 2010 will offer direct solutions to meet these challenges,” says Nick Samain, the CMW event manager.
Surveying CMW’s and other shows’ constituents on both the exhibitor and attendee sides yielded some useful insights on their business outlooks, technology needs and how the shows could serve them better. Their responses revealed a need for more emphasis on forming and fabricating, especially for the smaller fabricating shops. “As a result, we’ve really stepped up this side of the business,” he says.
The fabricating side combines with the advanced manufacturing section of the show, which features, products, services and information sessions for automation and assembly, design engineering, rapid prototyping, software, electronics manufacturing, and physical asset management, including green solutions, lean manufacturing and maintenance.
Partners support CMW
SME’s show partners who are supporting CMW include Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), CWA and Canadian Welding Bureau (CWB), Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), Canadian Fluid Power Association (CFPA) and the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’Association (APMA).
“Our partners recognize that the ability to learn, network and meet face-to-face is a vital element to the industry, which depends on innovation and knowledge to succeed,” says Samain.
In 2008 CMW attracted 4,535 manufacturing professionals representing more than 3,000 companies. He says one third of those came from firms with more than 100 employees and 40% of them had purchasing budgets greater than $200,000. This year’s show numbers are expected to be similar: between 4,500 and 5,500 people.
As of this writing, there were 191 exhibitors booked for CMW and new ones are joining the line up each week. Samain says the 2008 event featured 285 exhibitors and “we are expecting to have about the same number, plus or minus 10 per cent.”
The internet is changing the way companies make their buying decisions, which is changing the way they use trade shows. Buyers can do much of their research online, but in today’s competitive markets, a relationship with a supplier must go beyond price and the simplicity of being able to order some commodities online. Samain says more critical purchases still benefit from face-to-face contact that allows a supplier to communicate more of the added value characteristics of their offerings, such as attractive credit terms. Exhibitors are taking the internet into account and redesigning their booths, focusing less on standalone products, and more on turnkey packages and relationship building.
Seeing the solutions in action is a major benefit but as attendees stroll through the displays, they also meet peers who are already using the technology.
“You cannot get that online,” he says. “You cannot get that anywhere else other than when you group enough like people together; you get them in a room, you get them talking and you put these technologies in front of them, and wow, magic happens.”
Some of that magic will come from exhibitors providing travel-ready solutions for manufacturers, rather than just ‘here’s what we have and here’s the price.’
Multicam Canada is exhibiting at CMW because it’s an opportunity to meet with existing and potential customers to demonstrate its versatility. The CNC cutting machine supplier with regional technology centres in Toronto, Vancouver and Quebec City, specializes in CNC routers, plasma cutters, laser and waterjet cutting machines. It has more than 400 machines installed at customer facilities across Canada.
Bob Austin, president of Multicam Canada’s operations, expects to see sales increase modestly this year, but it’s not so much because the economy is improving.
“I think it has more to do with the fact that people have waited so long to invest in new equipment and technology… because you can only wait so long before you have to invest to get your business moving.”
Of course, it’s good to get new leads and to have existing customers make the decision to purchase, but personal encounters at a trade show may pay off later.
“I closed a deal recently and I was in touch with this customer for two years,” explains Austin. “He said he met me at the trade show two years ago and that we were the only company that took him seriously. So when he was ready to move, he called us.”
Creaform, a Lévis, Que.-based company that specializes in digitizing and 3D design, exhibits at CMW to talk with customers in a more relaxed environment.
Stephane Galibois, Creaform’s director of technology sales for Canada and strategic accounts, describes Creaform as a service company that manufacturers can use for product design and development, and a technology provider for the design phase of manufactured products.
He says trade shows such as CMW are a good way for companies like Creaform to get exposure to other potential markets and customers.
“We get to find out who’s who in the industry and get a good feel for the businesses competing with us and those who are not in terms of technologies, processes and services. We need to stay on top of the issues [our customers in] engineering are dealing with.”
Exploring the issues of concern to manufacturers will be a big part of this year’s show. Organizers are packing in more elements, including a town hall session, keynote address and educational sessions that will cover off a range of concerns identified by SME’s surveys, plus product demonstrations and the Canada’s best welder competition on the show floor.
The town hall presented by CanWEA and SME will focus on the status of wind energy, success stories from manufacturers that have made the transition to serving the alternate energy market, and the findings of a market study by CanWEA and CME.
The CWA will host its conference featuring specialized seminars dealing with cutting-edge welding techniques and applications. And there will be technical seminars led by exhibitors from the show floor that will discuss the latest solutions and innovations available to manufacturers across several industries.
Details for education sessions were being finalized at press time, but issues to be addressed include financing capital equipment, recovering tax dollars and developments in rapid prototyping. Attendees will also have an opportunity to network at a special reception.
The keynote, to be announced, will come from the APMA, which will look at the future of the automotive industry. “We’re still hearing about the high dollar and credit challenges, particularly in the automotive sector,” says Samain. “Contracts are out there but they can’t get them at the moment. These issues will be addressed specifically in the education program.”
With its stronger focus on small businesses, richer exhibits and easier navigation, the CMW’s major invigoration will move it in lock step with Canadian manufacturers as they stride to reinvent themselves for a new industrial era.