There's no business in (trade) show business

No matter how the organizers spin it, the decision to move National Manufacturing Week to the suburbs next year won't resonate well with potential exhibitors or attendees. Editor in Chief Joe Feeley reports.

 By Joe Feeley, Editor in Chief

I

have several things to tell you about this month. First, I want to report back to you about last month’s National Manufacturing Week Show in Chicago. I always hope I can bring back some particularly hot or unique news to pass along that can help you with your network decision-making and problem-solving. It seems, however, that “Wait ‘til next year,” a far-too-familiar Chicago Cubs motto, seems to apply here.

At least it’s encouraging to see digital networks, as a featured topic or as an essential part of a control scheme, now just a normal part of the vendor conversation about machine and/or process control at a broad automation show such as NMW. There was ample evidence that fieldbuses and Ethernet hybrids are becoming supported by enough device makers to make potential specifiers feel they’re not on their own here.

In addition, the wireless enablement of devices is gaining critical mainstream product inertia, at least by its increased presence. However, when I pressed a few of the exhibitors for some proof of industrial applications beyond the expected outdoor SCADA and remote-monitoring uses, I largely got either commercial examples or a litany of industrial projects for unnamable customers just off the drawing board that should be ready to talk about … umm, soon.

But again this year, for every recognizable vendor exhibiting good things on the show floor, one or two more came were notable for their absence.

I don’t mean to spend this column trashing the show, but it’s irresponsible not to pass on to you just how marginal this show’s value has become. The educational conference seminars—at one time important and well-received—were dismally attended. The exhibit floor, corralled into a space half the size of the hall to create maximum attendee density, lacked the energy we have a right to expect from an important automation and design event.

No matter how the organizers spin it, the decision to move this show to a suburban convention hall next year won’t resonate well with exhibitors or potential attendees. There’s just not enough substance to seriously tempt you to go. For accuracy’s sake, maybe it’s time to rename National Manufacturing Week to reflect what it’s become. How about the Northwest Suburban Chicago Manufacturing Couple of Days?

I know I’m biased, but I think the success we’ve had matching up readers with specific spending initiatives with the right suppliers, via our no-nonsense Control Design and CONTROL AutomationXchange events, now does what trade shows did long ago: help you do business efficiently with the right people. If you’d like to know more about how AutomationXchange might help you, drop me an e-mail or give me a call. I’ll tell you all about it.

A word or two about a few things in this month’s pages of Industrial Networking magazine: After you’ve read the Ethernet user survey summary we present on page 22 of the Spring issue, I’d be grateful for your reaction and response to how it matches up to your own perceptions and preferences about both wired and wireless industrial networking application. In addition, we’ll be assembling Part II of the survey results for the summer issue. If there’s something specific you’d like to read about, let me know. If it’s covered in the survey results, we’ll include it or I can let you know directly.

Along similar lines, the Bandwidth column on page 34 opens a discussion about emerging Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology. Take a few minutes to read what Senior Technical Editor Rich Merritt has to say. I’d like to know what you envision for its possible use down the road when a few of the current glitches get worked out.

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