EASTEC 2023, held May 16-18 in West Springfield, Massachusetts, has debunked the notion that trade shows are in decline. The phrase "people buy from people" emphasizes the importance of human connections and relationships in the context of business transactions. It also highlights the idea that customers are more likely to make a purchase from someone they trust and relate to, and that digital interaction cannot fully replace the value and effectiveness of face-to-face meetings.
EASTEC holds a prominent position within the Manufacturing Technology Event Series, which is organized by SME and AMT – The Association for Manufacturing Technology. Regarded as the largest and most significant manufacturing show in the Northeast region of the U.S., EASTEC was held at the Eastern States Exposition Grounds and attracted 9,500 participants — a notable increase of 35% compared to the event’s previous edition, which took place in October 2021. Moreover, the number of exhibitor companies rose to 450 for this year's event.
The Digital Solutions Showcase, organized by the MSC Industrial Supply Co. and Robert E. Morris Co., took a prominent place on the exhibit floor, offering visitors a unique opportunity to explore and engage with the latest innovations in advanced manufacturing. With firsthand access to leading technical experts and hands-on demonstrations, attendees gained insights into new ways to enhance profitability, throughput and productivity through the introduction of cutting-edge technologies.
"EASTEC, traditionally known as a machine tool show, is now recognized across the industry as an advanced manufacturing exhibition,” emphasized Dave Morton, group director, MT Series, at SME. “Machining continues to hold significant importance and remains an integral part of the overall manufacturing process.” According to Morton, today’s manufacturing landscape has a growing need for systems that can actively monitor the production of parts and ensure their certification and qualification in real time. This field involves a multitude of different players and technologies. The capability to identify and maintain compliance throughout the part production process is of great significance. Faster production, improved quality, traceability and access to information will be increasingly demanded by larger corporations, key industries, government entities, the medical sector, military organizations and material control.
One of the growing technologies that spotlighted during EASTEC 2023 was additive manufacturing (AM). “AM has been on a trajectory toward covering high-volume production, especially in the metal and tooling sectors,” said Morton. “As a rule, additive manufacturing uses only the materials needed for the part, which reduces waste during production and eliminates long lead times.”
Continuing the tradition of past events, the organizers of EASTEC curated an extensive complementary lineup of keynote addresses and workshops. These offerings were not only impressive in terms of quantity, but also stood out for their exceptional quality and invaluable educational content. Attendees had the opportunity to gain industry insights, learn best practices and acquire expert knowledge, making the overall experience truly enriching and rewarding.
Day One commenced with a compelling keynote presentation by Michael Carroll, VP of innovation for Georgia-Pacific, who said, "Embark on the smart factory journey, or someone else will own your assets.” This quote served as a key takeaway, resonating with attendees and highlighting the importance of embracing technological advancements in the manufacturing industry.
The second keynote address, on Day Two, was delivered by Craig Owens, small business innovation research program manager at Lockheed Martin. Owens presented specific strategies on how to secure a contract with a large corporation and become a vendor. In particular, he highlighted the Federal Small Business Innovation Research program, which aims to promote the involvement of small-and-midsize domestic businesses in federal research endeavors that hold the potential for commercialization.
"Federal funds have been allocated for companies that generate innovations, breakthroughs or new technologies that will bring advantages to a major corporate platform," Owens explained. "Lockheed Martin, along with other large organizations like Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Boeing, are actively seeking out small companies with specialized capabilities or those capable of outperforming us in certain areas."
To qualify as a vendor for Lockheed Martin, a company must implement strong cybersecurity measures, particularly due to the involvement of the military and government sectors. Owens emphasized the importance of upgrading your cybersecurity infrastructure and avoiding vulnerabilities, even if it entails significant costs. He argued that failure to prioritize cybersecurity would ultimately prevent you from conducting business with Lockheed Martin. Owens further highlighted the imminent threat of ransomware attacks, stressing that it is a matter of time before such attacks target vulnerable entities. He clarified that the primary motive behind these attacks is extortion rather than espionage, and again pointed out the need for comprehensive cybersecurity measures.
On Day Three, Rick Oppedisano, CEO of Delta Bravo Artificial Intelligence, delivered a keynote address entitled “Cracking the Code: The Holy Grail of Data Combinations Behind AI Success.” During his presentation, Oppedisano revealed key data sets that serve as the "Holy Grail" for achieving success in predictive maintenance and predictive quality initiatives with industry leaders such as Rolls-Royce, Nucor Steel and Elkem Silicones. Additionally, he shared insights into the creation of value when working with imperfect data.
Many attendees were primarily interested in engaging with exhibitors and witnessing live demonstrations of equipment and processes. Numerous exhibitors showcased their cutting-edge technologies in machining, grinding and laser cutting. These exhibits included a wide range of peripheral equipment and manufacturing solutions.
To promote engagement of the future workforce, the SME Education Foundation organized the SME Bright Minds Student Summit. This year's summit at EASTEC marked a departure from its traditional approach by including gamification in a mobile app to enhance interactivity, immersion and overall enjoyment for the high school students — thereby fostering increased participation. As a token of appreciation, 10 students were awarded a 3D printer. With active participation from 40 exhibiting companies, the Student Summit attracted 200 students and educators.
A key takeaway from EASTEC 2023 is its prevailing positive atmosphere — among both attendees and exhibitors — regarding the future of the manufacturing industry in the U.S. The U.S. economy may have experienced a decline in orders and a period of stagnation because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there has been a notable resurgence in capital investment demand since 2020. This positive trend appears to be on track to continue throughout the remainder of 2023.
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