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IMTS 2022 was held last month at McCormick Place in Chicago, live in person for the first time since 2018. LNS Research had sixteen briefings from member vendors over the two days we were there. I attended, along with my colleagues, Mehul Shah and Brady Aitken. This year's IMTS event was bigger than the record-breaking show in 2018, with over 1.2 million square feet of space and close to 100,000 visitors over the six days of the event. My main takeaways from this show are:
IMTS is still mainly a Machine Builder and Machining Focused show
The east hall (Lakeside Center) was dedicated to software solutions, robots, and Hannover Messe USA vendors. Several vendors we met with pitched that IMTS is “becoming” a software show. I don’t think this is the case...yet. The east building is the smallest in the McCormick complex, and only the main floor was filled to capacity, which is about 280,000 square feet of the total 1.2 million square feet available. The main hall at McCormick Place North and South were majority machining solutions providers and supporting technology. IMTS is still very much a machine builder and machining solutions show.
Hardware providers are getting into the software and solutions game
In the Lakeside Center, where the software solutions were located, there were several examples of hardware providers getting into the software game. This was certainly the case for Hexagon, Guardhat, and Litmus. Connecting hardware to software solutions is a no-brainer from an adoption perspective. The more seamless an environment is the less difficult it will be for users to use solutions, increasing adoption and utilization.
Litmus shared their shift in focus with a new infusion of capital, to focus more on solutions within their platform. Litmus’ solution is primarily an edge device on which Advanced Analytics and Machine Learning algorithms for production operations reside. This capability on the edge can be an advantage for customers whose manufacturing footprint includes some remote facilities with less than current infrastructure.
Hexagon had 5 booths at IMTS this year. Each of their booths focused on a different capability for Hexagon, from measurement systems to CAM systems. Hexagon is starting to talk about its Nexxus platform, mentioned in ETQ’s Quality Focus 2022 conference in April of this year. Nexxus is currently envisioned to allow connectivity between Hexagon’s various solution sets. Nexxus has the ability to mature into a Data Hub, something that we have written about recently as a concept to bring disparate data sources together to allow Advanced Analytics and AI/ML to be applied to fully contextualized datasets for more advanced use cases.
IT is showing up looking for education on OT
Many vendors that we met with reported more IT presence than they remember in past shows. These IT people were focused on learning about OT Solutions. My interpretation of this is that IT is trying to bridge the gap between IT and OT and become conversant in OT solutions. I hope this activity will help accelerate the IT/OT Convergence needed to effectively implement Industrial Transformations.
Monoliths becoming nimble and Analytics delivering value
Big solution providers are messaging easier, cheaper, and faster to become perceived as more nimble to compete with the small start-up providers that are winning deals because their approach is user-centric, rather than systems-centric.
Siemens shared some information on their new Xcelerator platform and focused the messaging on Easier, Simpler, and Connected. Their case study on display was an EV with 3D printed components, designed, manufactured, and finished through the connected Xcelerator platform.
Analytics providers were consistently messaging Collect, Analyze, Deliver. Analytics is an immature space, where the majority of analytics are still done on MS Excel. The delivery piece of Analytics vendor messaging will resonate with manufacturers looking for quick impact in their business from insights generated in the Analytics package.
Hyperscalers were Absent...Except for One
Amazon Web Services (AWS) was the only Hyperscaler with a presence at IMTS. AWS themes for this show were centered on Machine Builders and demonstrating to that audience that AWS can enable:
“Smart Connected Machines” as a service
Conveyance as a service
Robotics as a service
Engineering Design as a service
Amazon is leveraging its own in-house models for supply and forecasting and pointing them at customer use cases. AWS demonstrated several technology offerings in their booth around simple, easy-to-deploy sensors for vibration and temperature monitoring connected to their Monotron service through an edge device that is a very “IT-Light” deployment model - connecting cameras to their capabilities around training and managing vision cameras.
Connected Frontline Workforce Applications Growing in Prominence:
We had several briefings related to Connected Frontline Workforce applications. The Future of Industrial Work research that we cover at LNS Research shows that connecting workers to the supporting technology from an Analytics or Machine Learning platform, and instructions through an MES or EQMS platform or learning through AI-enabled teaching methods enables the worker to succeed. Some examples that we saw in briefings in this space were:
Tulip demoed their “Lean Assembly” poka-yoke solutions bringing together camera systems, assembly instructions, and error indication tools to mistake-proof an assembly station concept.
TeamViewer showed us their Connected Worker applications using headgear and heads-up displays for remote operations assistance and training new associates on simple manual tasks.
Guardhat shared their plans for moving beyond hardware, into the Connected Worker safety software space.
Connected Frontline Workforce applications are a growing space in Industrial Transformation (IX) as companies shift focus away from technology towards bringing people along for the IX journey. CFW use cases are the top use cases in Quality 4.0, and the top use cases for CFW include training and qualification, assembly assistance, and availability of instructions for a variety of manufacturing tasks.
IMTS is growing. While I don’t think that IMTS has achieved the vision represented by its name International Manufacturing Technology Show yet, it is moving in that direction with some representations of technology outside the Machining and Machine Builder space.
IT showing up to this show is an interesting development that perhaps represents IT leaders recognizing that they need to reach across the IT/OT divide to learn how to deliver value-add solutions into the OT space.
As IMTS moves beyond machine builders and machining solutions, more Hyperscalers and related technology providers will find it impossible to avoid representing at IMTS.
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