FABTECH 2013 Sets Records Across the Board

December 2, 2013

Steady manufacturing recovery and an increasing need for faster, cheaper and better production drove record numbers at FABTECH 2013, a metal forming, fabricating and welding event, that took place Nov. 18–21 at McCormick Place in Chicago.

A total of 40,667 attendees visited 1,573 exhibitors to see live equipment demonstrations, compare products side-by-side to find cost-saving solutions at product displays spread across a 650,000 square foot showfloor.

That is an 11 percent increase in attendance, a 19 percent increase in exhibitors and a 25 percent jump in square footage, compared with the previous event in Chicago in 2011.

"This is our biggest show ever," said John Catalano, FABTECH show co-manager.  "We had a very successful show in Las Vegas last year, but Chicago is the heart of manufacturing, and we consider it our home."

FABTECH, organized by five associations, opened the next day after devastating storms and tornadoes hit the Midwest. The five associations that co-sponsor the show kick-started a fundraising campaign and during the course of the four-day event raised more than $15,000 to help the victims through the American Red Cross.

Catalano noted that many exhibitors have increased the size of their footprints for this show and brought high-level engineering staff to answer attendees' questions.

"Exhibitors are here to introduce their latest technology and equipment," he added. "It's not uncommon that an attendee would bring a part and ask 'can you manufacture this for me'?"

Much of the excitement on the showfloor was around the robotic welding and cutting equipment, as employment costs continue to rise and customers are looking for shorter lead times and a greater variety of products.

"Robots allow me to produce more parts cheaper. I can work a robot around the clock if I have to," said attendee Greg Lucas, plant manager for Valley Chrome Plating Inc. "It looks like it will be about a two-year payback on the investment, so it’s a no-brainer.”

At the inaugural Robotic Arc Welding Championship, anyone with minimal qualifications could try their hand at programing a welding robot.

"It's as easy as programing your cell phone," said Kevin Summers, automation sales specialist with Miller Welding Automation. Mathew Matuschka, a programmer with D&S Manufacturing and one of the contestants, said that they keep their five robots busy. "Any time we can, we try to put in a robot. It’s the best way to make money,” he said.

Several attendees and exhibitors said that while they don't foresee a jump in activity, they are pleased with a steady recovery of the manufacturing sector and positive signs, such as the push to shift manufacturing back to the U.S.

A recent online survey to the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA) showed that capital equipment purchases were on track for 54 percent of the respondents but at the same time, were indefinitely delayed for the 22 percent. The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index for October came in at 56.4, the highest level since April 2011.

FABTECH 2014 will be held Nov. 11-13, 2014, in Atlanta.

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