The Road to Spark

By Travis Egan Vice President, Business Development

As the coronavirus pandemic made it increasingly clear that IMTS would not be possible this year, AMT and Gardner Business Media (GBM), together with Map Your Show (MYS), went into high gear, reimagining every aspect of the IMTS experience to make sure that this critical industry event would still take place and meet the expectations and needs of exhibitors and visitors alike. IMTS spark was born.

IMTS spark will connect IMTS exhibitors and visitors to each other and to the information they have come to expect at IMTS – thousands of product introductions, myriad sales and networking opportunities, and in-depth educational programming on the latest manufacturing advancements, manufacturing best practices, and industry trends and forecasts.

The partnership and collaboration between AMT/IMTS and GBM/MYS greatly streamlined and accelerated the development of IMTS spark. AMT/IMTS brings market access and intelligence to the manufacturing technology community, and GBM/MYS brings breadth of technical expertise, in-depth product and process technology applications knowledge, world-class manufacturing content, and community. Together, they have an unparalleled audience reach of about a half million manufacturing professionals.

In this time of disruption and digital transformation, the most successful organizations are those that embrace change and reinvent their business models for the future. This is what IMTS and GBM did in bringing IMTS spark to the industry. It was a highly collaborative effort, with each organization bringing its expertise to the project, and accomplished under a very compressed timeline.

One packed week has now become a six-month digital destination taking place Sept. 21, 2020 to March 15, 2021, when business travel, sales meetings, and conferences will be very limited worldwide. Once broadcast, all content will be available on demand for the entire six-month period, making it very easy for manufacturers to access and participate in Spark.

“The road to Spark has been both exciting and unprecedented, and we are confident that we are delivering an industry experience second to none,” said Peter Eelman, vice president and chief experience officer, AMT. “We are incredibly fortunate to have such an extremely talented and experienced programming, production, broadcasting, and marketing staff who were able to turn on a dime and create IMTS spark, all the while dealing with unprecedented challenges in their own lives.”

Sales opportunities, live product demos, and educational programming are comprehensive and diverse. Networking opportunities have been expanded and made easily accessible. IMTS spark has also developed extensive resources to help exhibitors be successful with product demos and promotions in the new format.

A quick summary of opportunities and content includes exhibitor showrooms, self-study paths, knowledge centers, conference presentations, product demos and showcases, Lunch & Learns, Happy Hours, podcasts, Coffee Chats, and many other engaging educational opportunities. Each day, there will be live exhibitor demos, interactive Q&A sessions, and exceptional conference sessions, all of which are then available on demand.

“We designed IMTS spark to take all the product demos, networking opportunities, and conference sessions that were planned for IMTS and make them available for six months on demand so that participants can set their own pace and schedule. To recreate the energy and spontaneity of personal interaction, IMTS spark also includes many opportunities for real-time interaction – Happy Hours, Coffee Chats, open mics, live Q&As, and public discussion forums,” said Bonnie Gurney, senior director - strategic partnerships, AMT.

The Spark Showroom is where exhibitors spanning the entire manufacturing technology ecosystem will live demo and discuss their new products and latest technologies. More than 15,000 products will be showcased, including multi-axis horizontal and vertical CNCs; grinding, boring, and 3D printing machines; EDM manufacturing; integrated CAD/CAM controls; world-class tooling; and ultra-precise inspections systems with AI- and ML-enabled sensors. Visitors can easily speak live to salespersons directly through the platform.

The showroom features a wide variety of sponsorship and promotion packages to suit any marketing budget, including print and online advertising in Gardner publications Modern Machine Shop, Production Machining, MoldMaking Technology, Additive Manufacturing, and AutoBeat; advertising in IMTS Technology Review magazine and the IMTS SourceBook; online sponsorship on IMTS spark; banner ads; print postcards; video promotion; and more.

The IMTS Conference series will include more than 70 deep dives into the newest manufacturing technologies, solutions, and industry best practices in automation, artificial intelligence (AI), cobots, process innovation, AM, IIoT, process reliability, the digital twin, and all aspects of plant operations. Select conferences also include Additive In-Depth, IMTS Investor Forum, Parts Cleaning Series, Sustainability, and MTForecast. Presenters include EOS North America, Siemens, FANUC America Corp., and many other global industry leaders.

“While we are confident that life will soon return to normal and in-person meetings will resume, we are reminded of the old adage that necessity is often the mother of invention. We hope that the IMTS spark experience will serve to advance the manufacturing ecosystem in ways that we cannot even predict right now,” said Eelman.

The Top Shops Sourcing Database and new Knowledge Centers

GBM is expanding its annual Top Shops benchmarking program to include an interactive Top Shops Sourcing Database to help manufacturers find new business opportunities. For those not familiar with Top Shops, data is collected annually from participants across four categories – machining technology, shop floor practices, business strategies, and human resources – and made available to enable shops to benchmark themselves in the industry.

“For several years, and certainly over the last several months, we have seen a new imperative placed on reshoring, strengthening, and shortening supply chains,” said Dave Necessary, director of strategic engagement, Gardner Business Media. “To help shops not just know their business but grow their business, we sought to evolve Top Shop from a business intelligence tool into being a business development tool. The data that we have collected over the past decade is very valuable to manufacturers in their efforts to rebuild and redefine the supply chain. We are proud to be part of a solution to help any business that wants to get work done in the United States to be able to quickly and accurately identify highly qualified and capable shops for their needs.”

Ten industry Knowledge Centers are also launching the week of Sept. 21. Each center is designed to give a holistic view of what is important on a topic and will include multimedia as well as links to key industry suppliers and other resources.

“Spark Knowledge Centers are a new resource to educate manufacturing professionals about what’s most important about a manufacturing technology or topic,” said Tom Beard, director of custom content, Gardner Business Media. “They aren’t intended to be an exhaustive examination of a subject, but a structured starting point for gathering information. For example, they can help buyers explore a topic or technology in preparation for conversations with prospective suppliers, akin to coming into a car showroom better informed. Importantly, all articles and content are written or vetted by Gardner editors in conjunction with AMT, so readers can be confident that the information is accurate and up to date.”

Knowledge Centers include Additive Manufacturing for Production, Digital Manufacturing, Five-Axis Machining, Moldmaking Issues Video Review, Multitasking, Parts Cleaning, Practical Approaches to Automation, Supply Chain, Top Shops, and Trends in Automotive. Additional Knowledge Centers may be developed in the future and content will be added over time.

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