PMTS 2011—middle of Passover, beginning of Easter, and spring break, but the machining guys turned out, at least those from the Big Ten area, to see who would make their Final Four if they were buying a lathe (or software or steel or cutting tools etc.).
The PMPA sponsors this assembly of the oil stained with the Gardner Publishing group, and it ran as efficiently as a Japanese commuter train with about the same amount of pizazz. Attendance was much better than 2009, but that’s comparing a parade and a death march.
George Bursac of Star called it a “nice regional show.” The boss of another Swiss importer also viewed it as primarily local but loved the fact that 80 percent of the people who showed up at his exhibit were legit prospects, while at IMTS only one out of 10 knew the difference between a sliding headstock and a slider from White Castle.
The vibe was positive at the show. Marc Klecka, who is one of Citizen’s most successful and relentlessly positive sales agents, was glowing. Off of a record breaking first quarter in the U.S., Marubeni-Citizen is on a 600 machine pace if they can get the inventory out of earthquake traumatized Japan. A big order of 32 mm machines has pushed deliveries out on larger machines and Star’s Bursac echoed the “cupboard is bare” lament. My sense was that higher prices from the strong yen are not really biting into sales. With the March PMPA business index hitting record territory, job shops have good cash flow, and with the capital equipment write-off expiring at the end of 2011, machine buying should be moving from aggressive to frantic by year’s end.
I was looking for hints of a slowdown because of $4 gas, but I never heard it mentioned. Training and luring CNC talent was the bigger battle. I didn’t even hear any Obama bashing. The first person I met at the show was Paul Huber, the tireless advocate of training young people in the machining trades through NIMS. Paul said, “Did you hear about the Chinese sponsoring job fairs for manufacturing skills in London, Chicago, and L.A.?” I hadn’t, but I know that in Shenzhen, the industrial hub of the Pearl River Delta in China, the ex-pat bars are full at night with well-paid foreigners who are making the machining world flatter than a moo-shoo pancake.
For a machinery guy/journalist, a show like PMTS is the best of both worlds, even if they can’t get the schedule right. (“Bad Dates,” like in Raiders of the Lost Ark.) It’s a great time to swap stories, dig for selling clues, spread a few lies, and just be grateful that I can make it to the show.
Jim Otten of Hydromat, who I probably have exchanged 30 words with in the last 30 years, came by and told me at some length about his quintuple heart bypass surgery right after IMTS.
Jim Montague of Paws almost brought tears to my eyes talking about the group home for adult children he and his wife built out of a compelling faith, a profound need, and a commitment to do the impossible—build a privately funded living place for their son Jared and eight others. He and his wife Lois house sit each night and they are exhausted in every way. In spite of that, Jim says he is planning to start another impossible dream group home soon. Jim always thanks me for helping get his group home built because I aided him in getting attention in the press. I laugh because my contribution was inconsequential, but people like Montague are all about crediting others while minimizing their own efforts in accomplishing the impossible.
Despite frequent lapses into cynicism, I really find the people who come to PMTS a wonderful crowd. It seems like they often forget the script that they rehearse for IMTS and just talk to people like human beings. Even Hanan Fishman of PartMaker, who I consider a friend, though he masquerades as a grade-one hard-ass, let down his guard a bit at Columbus after a profane harangue about being “hosed by the PMPA and Gardner” in his booth placement for 2013. PartMaker has been a great success story under Hanan’s gruff demeanor, and I still really like him because I find him so ridiculously real.
I queried in my blog before the show whether any of the smaller Swiss lathe brands would make a challenge at Columbus. Nexturn and Maier did not appear, Tornos did not bring a sliding headstock machine and Nomura folded into the Gosiger display. Hanwha did come with a new crew of people—nice to see Bill Papp (former TMW Sales Manager) has resurfaced with them. But Citizen, Star and Tsugami still rule.
Methods had a solid display for Nakamura, but Mazak and DMG/Mori were absent. Index had a prominent presence and Schutte catered to a small cadre of sophisticated buyers.
The steel guys were there, but I always wonder if they’d rather be golfing or bowling when I see them at shows like this. On paper it seems like metals and machining shows are a good fit, but my sense is most people come to these shows to check out the hardware, not the raw material.
For me personally, the show ended ironically. Jim Graff, Rex Magagnotti and I bid on some Wickman repair parts in central Illinois in a GoIndustry DoveBid Internet auction. A couple thousand people including us had spent a lot of money to come to Columbus to sell and buy, but the only actual business we did over the week was buying some shelves of surplus stuff on the Web.
Perhaps shows are for stories and relationship building, but making money is moving to the Web.
Question: Do you wish you went?