FABTECH 2014 Recap
Atlanta was a very good venue for FABTECH this year. In contrast to the last show in Atlanta, four years ago, attendance was very, very strong this time around. The FABTECH people had a goal of having close to 30,000 visitors, and they exceeded that, with the final attendance figure being 30,250. This was a record attendance for an “off year” show (those that are held every other year than the main show held in Chicago).
I found it interesting as we were analyzing leads after the show to see how they were distributed from a geographical standpoint. Even though FABTECH is an international show, the Atlanta and Las Vegas shows on off years are still largely viewed as being regional shows. And while the majority of our contacts were based on the East coast, the Midwest, and the Southeastern U.S., it was interesting to see that over 10% of our leads were people from California, Arizona and Nevada. The need for equipment had motivated many to leave the relative warmth of the West coast and Southwest states to travel to Atlanta where the polar vortex had caused the temperatures to plummet. Not wanting to leave any stone unturned, we had our Regional and Territory Sales Managers from around the country, including the West coast, on hand to meet with the people from their states. Interestingly, about 15% of our leads were international ones, primarily from Canada and Mexico, with a number coming from South America.
Being on the front lines in our booth, I could see most of our visitors didn’t just have a general interest in looking at machines and “kicking tires,” so to speak. Our visitors were largely those on a mission, people who had a need to buy — and had a timeline to do so — and that was very integral to our success at the show. We had people visit with us who were looking very specifically for machines for their upcoming projects. Many companies were interested in bringing manufacturing back into their own facilities, instead of jobbing it out. Also, in talking to key people in several companies, they were looking at bringing manufacturing back to the United States instead of exporting those jobs to foreign countries. I see that direction to be very good, not only for JMT, but for all of the manufacturers of equipment doing business here in the United States.
I set some very high expectations for our sales team, and they worked very hard towards them. The first two days of the show were just phenomenal, though things did begin to taper off on day three. We boiled down our show contacts and came up with several hundred qualified leads that we are in the process of following up with. We were lucky to obtain a lead retrieval system that not only helped us record information accurately, but also was customizable, giving us the ability to ask very pertinent questions, ones that should be asked of any lead. It made it a very simple and seamless process of gathering leads, qualifying them, and also plotting a trajectory of what to do next. Within a few seconds of meeting a customer we were able to assemble a lot of really pertinent information to guide our interactions with them.
One thing that I’m responsible for is monitoring our exposure within the FABTECH environment. We’re the new kid on the block, if you will, so we do not yet have the best location in the show. That is reserved for companies that have been doing business with FABTECH for many, many years. Still, our exposure – how customers, dealers and even our competitors react to us – seemed significant. I had countless people come up to me and say what a splash we’d made at the show.
JMT isn’t the largest company, and we don’t have the biggest budget, so our booth itself was designed and constructed by our employees with the use of JMT equipment. This gave us a very organic feel, and I think people generally respond positively to things like that. We aren’t the “big box” guys — everything from the furniture to our backdrops to our offices in the booth were all fabricated by us. This initiative reflected well on us, bringing a very positive response from our visitors.
I also had several machinery dealers and even several competitors come up to me during the show, having personally sought me out, to comment on how well our marketing efforts are working. It is a very positive sign any time you get that kind of feedback, especially from the competition. Because we are a relative newcomer, we have to make an extra effort to put ourselves out. We’re not in position where we can sit back and be comfortable, and we probably never will be.
We featured a diverse selection of machines at the show this year, including two press brakes, two plate rolls, an angle roll, an ironworker, a welding positioner, a tank turning roll, a band saw, a structural steel drill line and, of course, one of our JMT Nukon fiber lasers.
We once again saw what we felt was the growing demand and acceptance of fiber laser as the utility tool for two dimensional cutting and pipe cutting in the industry. The CO2 laser seems to be quickly becoming a dinosaur. Not a single company I spoke to this year who was looking at lasers felt that CO2 was the way to go. This was not the case during the last two FABTECH shows, where many people still expressed to me a preference for CO2, so there definitely is a shift and I think we can carefully say that while CO2 is not dead, it is a definitely a dying tool within the laser world.
Our 4 kW JMT Nukon fiber laser was a machine that had a lot of attention at the show. The laser is unique in that it’s not just processing one type or one thickness of material. Our large table machine was loaded with multiple types of materials and multiple material thicknesses. We were not only able to demonstrate the diverse capabilities of the machine, but were able to do so within one work envelope, going from a very light gauge mild steel to highly reflective copper and brass, to stainless steel, to thick ¾” material, and back down to a very light, thin gauge metal, and doing so with relative ease. While we performed some fun demonstrations and made some simple laser-cut handouts for visitors, which is always nice, we were still able to impress those people who were really looking at the fiber laser as a production tool and a money maker.
It was refreshing to see the attention paid to our structural steel drill line, which we were featuring at FABTECH for the first time this year. JMT’s I-beam drilling line is manufactured for us by Akyapak, with whom we’ve established a strong relationship. Although this type of drilling is a very niche market, people involved in the industry were coming by the booth and commenting to me about how feature-laden our machine was when compared with the competition. Our machine has a three spindle system, each with its own X, Y and Z axes and a separate tool changer for each spindle. When the beam is in position, all spindles can work independently from each other, drilling, milling, tapping, countersinking or engraving on three different sides simultaneously.
The way the beam drilling line was situated in our booth gave it exposure to three sides, with three walkways, so it was in a very predominant spot. From a price point, those I discussed pricing with remarked about the value of the machine given all of its capabilities. We may be new, but it doesn’t take away from our ability to provide the best experience and the best equipment for those people who are doing that type of drilling work. As people become familiar with us, I believe anyone who is looking for this kind of a drill line will definitely contact us for a quote.
When it comes to FABTECH, the JMT employees are totally vested in the process. They pitched in for the design and fabrication of our booth materials. Of our core staff of 33 employees, 27 were at the show. When we go to a trade show like FABTECH, we don’t go because it is a job — we go because it is our future. We also go because it is our “current,” a place to meet those prospects who most need what we have to offer here and now. Our team is very dedicated, from salespeople to service techs to support staff to JMT distributors who helped man the booth, and they were essential in making it a very good show for us.