Fabtech – the biggest exhibition for the metalworking industry in North America – took place in Atlanta in November. Bob St. Aubin, Managing Director of Bystronic USA, reveals which Bystronic products were especially popular at Fabtech 2014 and talks about the state of the US manufacturing industry.
Bob St. Aubin, how was the atmosphere at this year’s Fabtech?
Generally upbeat with the economy remaining generally consistent. The only negative was that we have seen a rather significant slowdown in the agricultural marketplace, which is an important component of our industry.
What Bystronic products gained most attention by visitors?
The BySprint Fiber with 6 kilowatts of laser power, and ByOptimizer.
Fabtech is an unmissable yearly event for Bystronic Inc. Why is exhibiting at Fabtech important to you?
Trade fairs play an important role in our success, both directly and indirectly. In terms of direct results, this year’s Fabtech has provided us with a significant number of new projects to fill our sales pipeline. The indirect benefit is that our presence at the show strengthens our brand and reassures both the market and our own salespeople that our company is healthy.
What role do trade shows play in your marketing mix?
Typically, a trade fair is very expensive, but it is the most direct channel for reaching our market, as well as being the easiest to measure, and creates the fastest results. It is a very important element in our spectrum of marketing activities.
Exhibitions reflect the economic pulse. What is the heart rate of the US sheet metal industry this fall?
Beating strongly! While the market has not made any large advances in the last four years, these years have been consistently good, and our customers are feeling confident as a result. With this confidence, they feel more comfortable buying industrial goods.
How about the general situation of the US manufacturing industry?
The overall manufacturing industry has seen a very nice increase in the last several years. This is the result of a re-shoring initiative, where goods that had been outsourced to countries like China for production are now being brought back to be manufactured in the USA. This is happening because US companies have found that an 11,000-kilometer supply chain is difficult to control; because the USA has ramped up automation to offset the advantages of cheaper labor; and because cheaper energy is really starting to give the US economy a large boost. However, this has not had as large an impact on the sheet metal market as on the total US manufacturing industry, since sheet metal is large and bulky and was never the most suitable material to send overseas in the first place.
Mike Walton, Head of Manufacturing at “Google for Work”, held a presentation at Fabtech on “Transforming your manufacturing business for the digital age”. Is digitalization of processes an important issue in the US manufacturing industry?
It’s becoming more and more important every day.
Does that mean Bystronic is heading in the right direction with ByOptimizer?
Absolutely, but not only with ByOptimizer. At Fabtech, and earlier at Euroblech, we demonstrated a cockpit featuring ByOptimizer, the Webshop, Plant Manager, Observer, Condition Messenger, OPC Interface, and TeamViewer. In my opinion, this was the most comprehensive view of where Bystronic and the entire sheet metal manufacturing industry are heading. Cloud-based computing, online shopping, web-based tech support, leveraging the Internet of Things, camera surveillance – all of these capabilities are in everyday use in other industries. Bystronic, however, is the first company to bring all of these capabilities to bear on the sheet metal market. This was well appreciated by our customers and gave Bystronic a level of differentiation that no one else can currently boast. We are no longer just selling machines. We are selling a manufacturing solution, with machines being just one more node on our manufacturing network.