FABTECH is the North American metal fabricating industry’s premier event every year. It is run in partnership by some of the biggest trade associations in the sector. The intent of the show is to bring buyers and sellers into a convenient venue to conduct business, make connections, share ideas, AND learn. The event occurs annually in the US rotating between Chicago, Atlanta, and Las Vegas. An identical event takes place in Mexico annually on a rotation between Monterrey and Mexico City. FABTECH Canada is a biennial event exclusive to Toronto. You can learn more about FABTECH at your convenience. FlexTrades was in Atlanta for the entire event last week. We wanted to share some of our biggest takeaways with you.
Lead times were such a giant part of so many conversations at FABTECH 2022 that they almost got their own place on this list. The concern with how to deal with long lead times from suppliers and reduce lead times for customers is one of many primary drivers for the prevalence of automation at FABTECH this year. From reducing injuries to improving workflows to increasing efficiency, it seems most exhibitors and attendees consider a robot or cobot to be at least a partial solution for their problems. Automation of every kind was on abundant display. This great highlight video does a fantastic job of showing you as many of them as possible in 90 seconds!
It’s no secret that consumer taste is changing. No longer is it enough to deliver the best product or the best price. The market has evolved. Manufacturers still need to deliver on quality and price point, but people buy for the story now too. At least part of that story has become focused on sustainability. Mainly, end users want to know how you’re improving the environment of your facility for employees and how you’re maintaining the environment for your communities and consumers. FABTECH 2022 taught us that producers who don’t already have a focus on sustainability need to develop one quickly or they’ll be left behind. Meanwhile, companies who have been early adopters of processes with an ESG and sustainability focus are already reaping the benefits.
We’ve been saying for years that today’s facilities are no longer our father’s’ factories. The image of the dark, dirty, dangerous facility that news reels from the 50s and 60s accustomed us to are just no longer accurate. That doesn’t mean our current workforce doesn’t want manufacturers to continue to move the line forward regarding safety. Filtration systems to improve air quality, lighting advances to improve visibility, lift assist systems of all kinds, and even drones to inspect confined spaces were evident in displays or conversations at FABTECH this year. This prevalence indicates that an improved safety focus is something that all generations currently represented in the workforce agree upon. COVID protocols and practices brought safety front of mind for all of us (finally), and that’s here to stay.
Recent studies tell us that a full third of manufacturers are putting additive manufacturing on their short lists for investment. FABTECH 2022 echoed these findings in a big way. Additive was everywhere across this year’s expo. There were new powders to create metals, new machines to layer them, and everything in between. This expo made a point of teaching the industry that additive processes are much more than just 3D printing these days.
The lack of available talent in the skilled trades pipeline to manufacturing was as big a topic as it has been in recent years. That has traditionally been a huge driver for interest in automation. This year, especially among keynote speaker panels, we’ve heard a bigger emphasis placed on the role we play as employers in developing the workforce. These presentations are intended to make deciders across the industry aware that younger employees want the same things previous generations wanted. Millennial and Gen Z jobseekers are just willing to ask for it up front, and they’re capable of doing their own research to know if your competition is offering it. Panelist Will Healy III put it best when he said, “If you’re hiring a welder for $15 base rate and you offer full benefits but McDonalds down the street is hiring people for $15 base rate and full benefits AND a free cheeseburger at lunch – what you’re really competing with is a cheeseburger. You need to think differently and bring more to the table than the competition if you want to win.”
The next FABTECH happens in Mexico this coming March. But we don’t want you to wait until then to see and learn more! If you found this content interesting and informative, we put out new industry content all the time. Check out our YouTube page for yet to be released interviews we captured in Atlanta. You can always follow FlexTrades on your social media platform of choice or check out our blog page to make sure you don’t miss out. And, of course, if you have other ideas for topics you’d like to know more about, or questions for FlexTrades, just send them to our Writing Team and we’ll be happy to cover them in a future article or video.