As the biggest manufacturing tradeshow in the Western Hemisphere, IMTS offers a great opportunity to hear from manufacturers firsthand about the challenges, opportunities, and marketplace trends that are shaping the future. After considering everything I saw and heard this year, here are my three biggest takeaways from the conference.
1. Manufacturers Are Looking for Talent Like Never Before
One of the most incredible things about US manufacturing is its resiliency. We saw this throughout the pandemic, and even today as manufacturers adapt and overcome supply chain issues along with other ongoing challenges. Despite all the challenges of the last few years, what I saw at IMTS was a reminder that our sector remains very active.
But like many industries, almost every manufacturer and end-user I spoke with is in urgent need of more people. Many have employees working overtime to try and make up the gap, but there remain long-term concerns about new talent entering the field. How do we as an industry attract more people into manufacturing while doing more with the people we have?
Technology helps to fill that gap, but it can only take us so far. Manufacturing has always been innovative when it comes to automation and smart technology, and necessity has led us to progress much faster than other sectors. Yet technology can’t fully replace the need for more people to fill certain roles.
One new development we’ve seen in the last couple years is the use of social media to attract the attention of young people. I saw great examples of this at IMTS, including social media giant Titan Gilroy of Titans of CNC Machining and Jason Zenger of the Making Chips podcast. Their success is proof that there’s a young audience eager to connect and learn.
2. Consolidation Is Changing the Manufacturing Landscape
There were more than 1,800 exhibiting companies at IMTS this year, and yet what really stands out to me is how much the landscape has changed. The big players in the industry continue to make acquisitions, buying up smaller brands and continuing a trend of greater and greater consolidation. In and of itself, this isn’t a bad thing, but it comes with its own set of challenges.
The biggest one is simply confusion. When a manufacturer acquires a new company and rebrands its products, distributors and end users can be left feeling as though a trusted name has disappeared from the market. It doesn’t matter if the products themselves are unchanged — without good communication through the supply chain or a proper go-to-market strategy, distributors and end users may be left with the impression that their favorite products have disappeared or are being made somewhere else.
While at IMTS, I saw manufacturers approaching this problem with two different strategies. In some cases, manufacturers are creating new brands to introduce to the market. Of course, this requires the same support and resources as a new product launch, which means a major commitment. In other cases, however, manufacturers are going to market with their newly owned brands still intact, relying on the acquired company’s reputation in the market to continue carrying the day.
One example of a company that’s doing consolidation right is GWS Tool Group. For several years now GWS has been acquiring new brands and products, and they arrived at IMTS prepared to make a big splash. Not only was their booth set up to be bold and inviting, they designed it to educate attendees on all the brands that they own.
It was a great example of the importance of good communication and a defined brand strategy. Manufacturers need both if the want to compete in this market, whether they present products under a new brand or legacy brands.
3. More Manufacturers Are Leveraging Industrial Manufacturers’ Representatives (IMRs) to Increase Their Sales
One of the reasons I love to attend IMTS is the chance to talk to so many manufacturers all in one place. But what surprised me the most as I went booth to booth was how often those conversations started to feel more like interviews. People were eager to hear more about IMRs and learn how we can help them sell more of their products.
And I’ll tell you now what I told them: Hiring an IMR is one of the best ways to build your sales team. Whether you want us to serve as your sales department, or you want to take a hybrid approach and complement your existing team with an IMR, we act as a true partner to your business from day one.
We begin by learning everything we can about what makes your products great and leveraging our knowledge and industry relationships to help you compete in the market. When you work with an IMR, you immediately enjoy the benefits of a sales team trusted by the distributors and end users you want to work with.
Manufacturers are understandably eager to talk about their products, but sales and marketing is about more than sharing a spec sheet. IMRs have the experience and expertise to help you stand out. I love this industry, and I love working with manufacturers as passionate as I am about what we do. It’s always my pleasure to help more manufacturers understand what IMRs do, and at IMTS 2022, I found many who were eager to learn.
The Industry’s Future Looks Bright at the International Manufacturing Technology Show 2022
After attending this year’s IMTS, I feel very optimistic about US manufacturing. Though we’re certainly still facing challenges, our resiliency was on full display. The pace of change might never slow down, but neither will manufacturers. It’s exciting to see so many people coming together to connect, share ideas, and further the industry.
It’s also exciting to know that IMRs will be a key part of building that future. Whether we’re helping manufacturers build out their sales team when they’re struggling to find the right people or helping them succeed in a competitive market, we continue to offer solutions to some of the industry’s most challenging problems. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help fuel your sales, contact us today.