Ever since we started writing Job Shoptalk, we’ve been working hard to share information about contract manufacturing and the make-to-order manufacturing industry. We can all learn from each other, and this forum is a great way for us to address some of the issues and topics that percolate with our market. We may not have all the answers, but we do what we can to inform.

Well, a forum of another sort is upon us: one of the largest conferences in our industry, the International Manufacturing Technology Show – IMTS 2014 – is happening September 8-13 at McCormick Place in Chicago. A large contingent of the Shoptech E2 team will be there at booth number E-3252 with live demos of the E2 Shop System, the manufacturing software for job shops.Shoptech E2 goes to IMTW 2014

Hosted by the Association for Manufacturing Technology, this is an important gathering for us because it brings us together with customers, suppliers, partners and other industry experts. It’s a way for us to not only exhibit our wares, but soak up and confirm knowledge and industry trends that will ultimately affect you.

The theme for this year’s IMTS conference, “Come Together…Leave Inspired,” aligns closely with what Job Shoptalk is all about: bringing together those interested in job shop trends and topics and, hopefully, after reading an article or two, leaving you with ‘inspiring’ news to use.

The educational component of IMTS alone is impressively comprehensive. We’ve been learning since our first trip to the show 18 years ago. A couple of topics we see emerging and we’ll be tracking:

How to keep job shops competitive

Keeping current with machining technology and best management practices are two key drivers in helping job shops of any kind stay competitive. The advanced machines you’ll see on display at IMTS, for example, are more capable and powerful than ever. Many can produce even complex parts in one fell swoop. Gaining efficiencies by exercising job shop best practices is another mandatory for staying competitive. Are you taking advantage of job shop software that makes it possible to gather and use all the data that exists in your shop to make data-driven decisions? Whether it’s automated shop floor practices or using shop-wide software that simplifies how you manage your shop, making your shop more efficient may be the difference between staying competitive and closing up shop.

Are you ready for additive manufacturing?

Another topic that looms large on the contract manufacturing horizon is ‘additive manufacturing.’ Using CAD files and specialized printers, this ‘green’ process represents a drastic shift from the ‘subtractive’ process of trimming away the material you don’t need; rather, adding a part’s component layer by layer and building the part in three dimensions. It’s a shift from an analogue way of production to a truly digital approach. Some call it industrial version of 3-D printing.

As a software provider, we’re especially interested in this emerging digital technology. There’s still a lot to learn about additive manufacturing and its place in a small- or medium-sized manufacturing operation, but the time is now to begin learning about it as it develops momentum. There is, in fact, a comprehensive workshop at IMTS 2014 dedicated to this shift in manufacturing process.

There are loads more topics circulating at IMTS 2014, but these are just a couple that have an impact on all of us. What are some of the most pressing topics and concerns facing your job shop? I’d like to know. Contact me directly or leave a comment below. We’ll be happy to address your topic in a future installment of Job Shoptalk.

Download free buying guide for manufacturing software