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Machine Shop Tips Tradeshow vs. Internet: In Person Always Wins

I was recently lucky enough to attend the Japanese Machine Tool Show in Tokyo, Japan. I’ve been to a lot of machine tool shows but this one seemed different right from the start. 

I should mention that at first, I was a bit unsure about going. After all, it was a fairly long flight to get there, and Tokyo is 17 hours ahead of us on the West Coast, so we arrived about 7 hours before we left. It was like living in the movie “Groundhog Day” as I had to live the same day twice. When we returned to Canada, I got a text saying we had missed a 7.3 magnitude earthquake in Japan by just a few hours. We were lucky to miss it, and it looks like it didn’t cause too much damage. 

Anyway, getting back to the show. I realized right away that something was very different about this tradeshow compared to all the previous ones I’ve been to. That difference was: seriousness. Many other shows I’ve attended have almost been portrayed as just a reason to party. I must hand it to the Japanese, they really take what they do seriously. 

The Japanese Machine Tool Show (JIMTOF) also proved to be innovative, and put the worldwide manufacturing sector into a truly global perspective for me. I saw tooling and machines that I probably would never have seen in my lifetime had I not attended this show. I also discovered tools that I didn’t even know our current suppliers carried, which leads me into the point I really want to make today: you need to connect with your customers in the real world. 

At the show, I was able to meet with factory representatives directly, instead of just the salespeople you usually get to speak with. I quizzed these factory reps about their tooling, and described some of the issues I was having. They were able to provide me with awesome new solutions to my machining problems. Those solutions are available right now, and had I known about them earlier, would have saved my shop and me a lot of manufacturing headaches. I thought back to my article “Is Your Salesperson Useful or Useless?” and realized just how much of a problem our industry really has. 

Sometimes it can seem like if you don’t live in one of the world’s premier manufacturing centres, then you are of little significance and are treated like a remote outpost in Siberia: left to fend for yourself and the last to know key information, like the end of a war. When it comes to salespeople, many do not have enough technical knowledge or training to actually help analyze and solve your manufacturing problems. This is not the salesperson’s fault in most cases. Many of them have barely received anything except very basic training, or are brand new to their job. This all adds up to be a serious problem for machine shops everywhere (remote outpost or not).

Now I know that a lot of you may be thinking, “But Udo, the internet exists.” You’re right, of course, but the internet is not a viable alternative to a human being with technical knowledge and experience handling situations like yours, and providing solutions. Google doesn’t know why your saws are folding over. The internet is like a vast ocean in that way. Recently, the world has seen just how hard it is to find even a giant plane in that ocean. Similarly, it can be hard to find a proper, correct and qualified answer to a specific question online. 

The problem with realizing how valuable a good tradeshow is, even in this internet-connected world, is that now you’re upset because they don’t happen all the time. The right ones like JIMTOF, I mean, not the ones that are all about partying. I’ve been to some other shows recently where there are 30 representatives in a single booth, and only one of those people was capable of answering technical questions. Why are the other ones there… moral support, to make the company look bigger, or maybe just to save on heating costs?

Even with the language barrier, I was able to find some great new solutions I can’t wait to implement in my shop. It was an amazing experience being there, and I learned so much that I can continue to use to solve machining problems at home. If you have the chance to attend the next JIMTOF, don’t hesitate. It’s just too bad this show doesn’t happen more often.

I firmly believe everyone should attend good tradeshows. Not the party ones, but the ones with real technical representatives. The internet is a great resource, but does not and cannot offer the same interactive knowledge and melding of experienced minds that a good tradeshow does.

It’s too bad that we don’t have enough technically qualified sales representatives in our field, but attending shows like JIMTOF can help you solve a lot of your manufacturing problems without them. Also remember to support good, knowledgeable sales reps! They are the key to your manufacturing success.