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Gear Expo 2011

Staying the Steady Course

by Jack McGuinn, Senior Editor

Gear Honing Machine

Gear Expo 2011 took place Nov. 1-3, 2011 and attracted 3,100 attendees and exhibitors to the Duke Energy Center in Cincinnati.

Well, another Gear Expo has come and gone, crating its wares and folding its tents. We're all back at our desks, machining stations or on the road trying desperately to catch up with its aftermath. We did make time, however, to contact some of the show's major players with hopes of determining a consensus over the event's success. Given the responses that follow, Gear Expo 2011 was an unqualified winner; and no wonder, given the rosy picture presented by keynote speaker Tom Runiewicz, principal and economist for HIS, the global information and consulting firm now working with AGMA. Show attendance was 3,100, including exhibitors.

"From Mitsubishi's perspective, the Expo proved to be a good investment," says Ian Shearing, vice president of sales. "The traffic and attendees (seemed slow and low) belied what turned out to be an excellent show in regards to machines sold during the three-day period. We concluded that the attendees were decision-makers that were serious about pursuing the various offerings with the view to purchasing."

And this from David Goodfellow, Star Su president, "Gear Expo 2011 attracted a relatively good turnout of qualified gear companies, with many people ready to purchase equipment."

For our cousins across the pond, the show's success was indicative of the relatively good health of the U.S. gear industry.

"Due to the attendance, this year's AGMA Gear Expo gave a very positive impression on the state of the gear industry in North America," says Scott Yoder, vice president of sales for Liebherr Gear Technology's Michigan facility.

And for Delta Gear Inc.'s (Delta Research Corporation) Tony Werschky, sales/partner, all-good as well.

"Good experience overall. Foot traffic appeared to be larger at this show and customer questions were direct and purposeful. Many of the gear show exhibitors that sell gear equipment did not have much to show. This was probably because they don't have anything to sell currently that is not already in someone's facility. This is definitely a good problem to have."

For Fred Young, owner of Forest City Gear, the show couldn't have been much better.

"Gear Expo was fantastic for Forest City Gear. First, we got to catch up with many of our industry compatriots and suppliers; second, we were pleasantly surprised at the number of visitors to our booth; third, we got to compare a number of machines up close and in person; and fourth, we made many of the show companies happy with our purchases."

Happy, indeed. Read on.

Excel Gear

N.K. "Chinn" Chinnusamy of Excel Gear explains his products to Gear Expo visitors.

"We had not expected to buy all the machines we ended up purchasing," Young says. "We are replacing our Klingelnberg P65 with a brand new one due this coming February…we are taking delivery of a new Koepfer 200 automated hobber that we ordered earlier in the year…we also ordered a Koepfer 300 automated hobber…and bought the Bourn & Koch 400 hobber off the show floor…on the spur of the moment, we ordered another Mitsui ST40 shaper to join one we got just a few months ago.

As usual, comparisons to last year's show are of course inevitable, so here's a sampling.

"The Cincinnati show was on a par with others in previous years," says Shearing.

Taking the "it-was-a-small-crowd-but-a-quality-crowd approach, "Fewer new prospects visited the booth than in previous shows, but the quality was much better," KISSsoft U.S.A. LLC general manager Daniel Kondritz says.

"It was a positive change from the last AGMA show," says Goodfellow.

"The feeling between other members of the gear community was that things are headed in a much more positive direction than during the Indy show in 2009," says Werschky. "Most shops are busy but continue to expand their customer base as well as learn the new technologies that are available at the show."

"Speaking from a historical standpoint, one of the founding members of the AGMA, dating back to the first ever meeting at Pittsburgh in 1917, is from Cincinnati (the Cincinnati Gear Company), Liebherr's Yoder points out. "Today several additional, important gear manufacturers are located in and around the metro area, including Ford Motor Company. Therefore, Klingelnberg and Liebherr both believe that Cincinnati was a very nice choice for this year's Gear Expo."

But for some, all was not beer and skittles.

"Cincinnati is easy to get to, but the expo hall was out of space," Young states. "Hotels were reasonably close, but rooms small and expensive. (But) I am a firm believer in moving the AGMA events around so that we can attract more people to attend that might skip because of the geographic location."

But in the final analysis, the question is always whether showing at The Show was worth it.

"The goals of both Liebherr and Klingelnberg were to display the newest versions of well-known gear machine models, such as the LCS 500 gear grinding machine and the Klingelnberg P40 gear measurement center," says Yoder. "At the Gear Expo we were able to further address North American customers' gear manufacturing application needs."

"To that end, our goals were definitely accomplished at Gear Expo."

For Young, it was mixed bag of highs and lows, with the highs outnumbering the lows.

"It was a very pleasant surprise to see some old faces return to Gear Expo, plus a lot of new customers and suppliers participate," he says.

On the other hand, the veteran gear maker felt compelled to take some of his MIA colleagues to the woodshed.

"At the same time, I was disappointed as there were a number of gear folks who ask me my opinion about various pieces of equipment who were not there," he says. "Even though many of us are extremely busy, I cannot fathom why people would skip this opportunity to keep abreast of the latest developments. Perhaps it should not be surprising that some folks always have their heads stuck in the sand."

And just one more must-ask question was put to our panel: How can the show be improved?

"That is a good question," says Mitsubishi's Shearing. "Personally, I have always wondered why the AGMA feels the need to change from city to city with every show. I think—like the IMTS—they should select one venue and stay there until there are extenuating reasons why they should move. It is a fact that the Detroit shows always have more attendees than any other, but there is always resistance to go there. I think the AGMA should give this more thought and provide our customers with a home instead of the nomadic face it is currently given."

As for Star Su's Goodfellow, it's all about location, location, location.

"The show could be improved and would attract more attendees if it were held in a city that has more going on," he says. "Although the hall facilities were fine, Cincinnati often seemed deserted-especially at night. Moving the show back to Indianapolis is a good move; Indy has a vibrant and friendly downtown."

Adds Liebherr's Yoder, "Since the AGMA Gear Expo has partnered with the ASM Heat Treat Society for this show, one recommendation would be to have the same number of show days—and opening/closing hours—for both groups of companies."

Fred Young, however, has a post-show dilemma that any gear company would relish having.

"Our printing press ran out of ink for the checks and we are out of room in our building or we would have ordered more."