West Michigan’s Advanced Manufacturing Expo is going big for 2016.
Now in its second year, the annual event will host more than 100 vendors and cover 29,000 square feet of the DeltaPlex Arena & Conference Center in Walker. The expo runs Aug. 10 and 11.
In addition to the latest automation, lean manufacturing and other technologies, the Advanced Manufacturing Expo will also feature events geared to supporting manufacturers, including a job fair held in collaboration with Michigan Works! and the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center–West. There will also be presentations regarding pending issues in manufacturing, and a golf outing to support FIRST Robotics, an organization that helps young people learn about robotics. MiBiz is among the cooperating partners for the expo.
Expo organizer Mark Ermatinger — who serves as vice president of sales at Industrial Control Service Inc. in Zeeland — positions the event first and foremost as a networking and learning opportunity for manufacturers. Ermatinger spoke with MiBiz about what company executives should expect at this year’s expo and discussed how he sees the event growing in the future.
What’s the main attraction for manufacturers to attend the expo this year?
The biggest draw is newer automation technology, whether that be 3-D printers or 3-D vision systems to help quality control on the factory floor. We also have machine builders that can help them automate their business. There’s such a lack of talent and workers in general that (businesses) have to automate. They just don’t have a choice because they don’t have enough people and they need to be cost effective. We also have a speaker coming in to talk about new changes to regulations in manufacturing. It’s really an opportunity to network with state programs and universities but to also see automation and help their quality and production issues.
Which new technology are you most excited to see at the show?
There are certain things at the show that are not even available in the U.S. This will be the first time they’re available. The number one thing that’s being released at this show that hasn’t hit the U.S. yet is Canon USA bringing its 3-D vision system that can pick parts out of a bin with a robot. Everybody has been trying to do this for years, and this is a Japanese company doing this in Japan and now they’re bringing this to the U.S. We’re the first distributor.
How was the expo received last year?
The first year went very well. We had a 97-percent approval rate, according to the surveys I sent out. … That’s why we doubled down this year and almost tripled our floor space and did the golf outing.
With the job fair and the speakers discussing manufacturing, this seems like it will have more content than a typical expo. What’s the end goal here?
I think most expos you’d go to in Chicago would be all for automation. Our expo is designed to network people so they understand what programs are available and what schools are involved in automation. We wanted to create something in West Michigan so that we didn’t need to go to Chicago or to Las Vegas. There’s a lot of talent in West Michigan and there’s no reason why Grand Rapids can’t have a major show of this type.
What’s on the horizon for next year’s expo?
The goal is to do this next year in Grand Rapids and Detroit. We also pulled in the Association of High Tech Distributors, (who) are people like myself from all around the country. You might start to see (the expo) in California and Texas. All these other distributors might adopt the same program. You’d be able to go on our website and see all the cities the expos were at, and they’d run under the same name and build that brand so that manufacturers all over the U.S. could recognize the Advanced Manufacturing Expo as the place to go.
Sidebar: Advanced Manufacturing Expo
- When: Aug. 10 and 11
- Where: DeltaPlex Arena & Conference Center, 2500 Turner Ave. NW, Walker
- Cost: Free, pre-registration is requested
- More info: advancedmanufacturingexpo.com