IMTS is really people.

Author:Modic, Stan
Position::Straight talk

The world's machine tool makers and metalworking industry suppliers--including some 1,200 companies stretched over a million square feet of booth space--will be showing off their latest and best technology and equipment at IMTS in Chicago. The International Manufacturing Technology Show starts its eight-day stand in the three halls of McCormick Place on September 6. More than 100,000 buyers from around the world have attended the biennial event in the past.

The spotlight will be on new technology that'll help metalworkers be more productive and lower cost. Again there will be a Technology Center, where companies and universities will be talking about what to expect in tomorrow's metalworking operations.

But there is more to IMTS than technology and selling machines. It's also about people. It's an education. Its Student Summit in the past has attracted thousands of students and educators, exposing them to careers in metalworking. Daily conferences on various subjects attract many.

The human factor

I've been attending "The Show" since the 1960s. I think of it as the arena where tech nology is put to work by human ingenuity, often times one person at a time. Even though the machine tool industry is relatively small, it is the most important. It creates the machines necessary to build the equipment that makes most everything else--from miniscule jewelry to rocket ships. I have found it takes some pretty special people to run those companies: people with vision, technical acumen, and leadership qualities.

One of those people is Brian Papke. He's president of Mazak USA Corp. in Florence, KY, the North American manufacturing and marketing arm of Yamazaki Mazak headquartered in Oguchi, Japan. He joined Mazak in 1988 as vice president of sales and marketing after spending 15 years with Sundstrand, Bullard, and White Consolidated, working for "companies that had been challenged to battle against Japanese companies." He admits to being a "bit apprehensive" at the time; some in the industry accused him of "joining the enemy camp." Back then, machine tool imports from Japan were a very controversial subject. Imports were barred from exhibiting at IMTS until the 1972 show.

Brian Papke proved he was his own man. He went through an intense interview process. "I found a lot of misconceptions and, frankly, had a lot of misconceptions myself about Japanese companies," he admits. Why did he join a Japanese company? He tells me he looked around and felt that when it came to developing...

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