There’s a reason why EASTEC is considered the East Coast’s premier manufacturing event. With 12,000 business owners, engineers, designers, production managers, and purchasing executives gathering for three days of educational sessions and exhibitions, EASTEC offers attendees insight into the latest manufacturing trends and technologies.
“EASTEC is committed to keeping New England manufacturers competitive by bringing the human ingenuity needed and manufacturing brilliance demanded together in a face-to-face environment,” says Kimberly Farrugia, senior event manager for event co-sponsor SME.
During the week of May 12 – 14, the Lista team traveled to Springfield, MA to get in on the action at EASTEC. We were there every day of the show, showcasing our storage and workspace systems and discussing with customers and industry partners how manufacturing ideas, processes, and products make an impact in the northeast region.
Here’s what our own Scott Wood, Lista International territory sales manager, had to say about this year’s show, including some of the broader trends in manufacturing as well as the future of the industry:
Lista: What are some of the most important trends shaping manufacturing this year?
Scott Wood: I would say 5S and the different efficiencies that companies are looking for. They’re looking for lean manufacturing and to improve their inventory control to maximize efficiency. So we’re always talking to them about how much floor space costs and how much we can save them on floor space.
Lista: What are some of the most important trends shaping distribution this year?
SW: Our distributors are looking for tools to help them sell (videos, pdfs, anything that they can bring to their customers). So one of the things we’re beginning to look at is mobile, which is becoming a big media for the industry (i.e., how we can show our product on a phone or an iPad to the customer and then they can spread that word within their realm of influence).
Lista: That seems to be in line with the infiltration of the Internet of Things and people increasingly looking for digital technologies.
SW: Yes. Some of our older customers still like the hard copies of brochures, catalogues, etc. but a lot of the younger customers want Internet-based media.
What I like to see is a way of building product right on the website. You can say “I want this, I want that,” and it shows you a picture of what it will look like.
Lista: Customers want what they want and they want it fast – it’s that sense of instant gratification. If you can’t get it in one place, you’re going to get it elsewhere.
SW: That’s absolutely true. Lista has always been sort of a customized brand, and there are people who want that, but there are other people who want to click a button and buy the product they’re looking for.
We’re a mature industry, but I still see a lot of application for new things. Take the Vidmar Tower automated storage and retrieval system, for example. It’s a good product and it’s got a lot of applications – it’s all about floor space. Cabinets save about half the space in shelving. In all honesty, you can save four times your floor space – 1,000 square feet goes down to 250.
Lista: Not to mention the increased efficiency.
SW: That right – less travel, tied right into your inventory control system, so now you’re not doing a lot of manual work, so it saves time, space, and it really falls into what we do.
Lista: How will shifting workforce demographics affect the manufacturing industry this year? One thing we heard a lot of people talking about at ProMat was this sort of skills gap as Baby Boomers look to retire and the younger generation of workers comes into the labor force.
SW: To people 25 or so years old, the idea of working in a machine shop is like something their dad or grandpa would do. But that’s changing – companies are starting to lure people with higher-paying jobs, people coming out of the Navy, Air Force, or Army.
But we still have to take a hard look at shifting demographics. There are more women who are buying our product than ever before, for example. What are their likes and dislikes? How do they look at the product?
Lista: It seems like a lot of the focus is the shifting workforce demographics, so it’s interesting to hear you talk about the shifting demographics in terms of customers.
SW: That’s exactly it. It’s not the same industry it was a decade ago – for workers or for customers.
Lista: How does your product line relate to safety and how is it an area of focus for you?
SW: Especially in manufacturing, you’re dealing with cutting tools – and by nature cutting tools are sharp. So keeping them in a cabinet is critical for safety and for keeping tools cleaner and more organized (CNC tool storage and custom inserts, for example).
Lista: What are you hearing customers talk about during the show? What are the key takeaways?
SW: People want to know why Lista and Vidmar are together in the booth, so we’re explaining that Stanley bought Lista a little over three years ago and they own both brands and now the whole salesforce sells both brands. It’s a big change. Customers are trying to understand how we’re going to market and the biggest question we get is how have we changed (in terms of quality)?
The perception is a big company’s going to come in and reduce the quality. That hasn’t happened because the quality is what we pride ourselves on. Our customers know they can depend on our products.