Talking Points: Not headed to NPE? You might want to reconsider
Are you going to NPE?
If you are, a great professional experience awaits you in Orlando next month.
If you are not, there is still time to reconsider.
Anyone with plastics show experience knows that the top three things that draw attendees are equipment, equipment and equipment. There is no better place to kick the tires of the newest processing machinery and auxiliary equipment. There is great value to processors in having the newest machinery available in one place.
I once interviewed an injection molding plant manager who knew that a major expansion was in his company’s future and it would likely include a new materials-handling system. He took a team of his key production people to NPE and they visited every booth that offered complete materials-handling systems.
“We needed to see things like how the hoppers were welded so we could get an idea of each manufacturer’s quality standards,” he said. “We could do that at NPE.”
Whether you are inspecting welds or need to answer some “what-if” questions about your processing operation, you can do it at NPE.
Here are some things you might see or learn:
• How does Industry 4.0 apply to me? Industry 4.0 is no longer a vague idea that German machinery manufacturers are hyping. A lot of new machinery and equipment you see at NPE will be equipped with Industry 4.0 or ready to accept it. You can see it in action at numerous booths. Industry 4.0 is a game changer.
• Robots are making a huge impact in manufacturing. Whether you are considering buying your first robot or already have a fleet, seeing the newest models may spark an idea as to how they can make your plant more productive.
• Recycling equipment that can be incorporated into a processing plant to reclaim material is becoming more important for efficient operations. There will be plenty of new shredders and granulators to see.
• Controls on the latest processing equipment are becoming more intuitive and easier to use; at the same time, functionality is becoming more sophisticated. Some are incorporating artificial intelligence principles. Machinery makers will demonstrate plenty of unique features aimed at greater control of the process with less human intervention.
• 3-D printing has captured the attention of manufacturers, but not many have taken the plunge to consider it as a viable production process. It may be only a matter of time until that happens. There will be an entire 3-D printing zone showing the latest technology at NPE.
• Materials-handling systems are getting smarter. Processors who invest in the latest technology can make big gains in efficiency. Labor, downtime and waste can be significantly reduced if the right pellet arrives at the right machine at the right time. It is not as easy as it sounds, but new technology is making it easier to accomplish.
• Vision equipment is most often a component of a new robot or inspection system, but during plant visits we are seeing examples of processors buying vision components to use in their home-built quality and processing systems. Connect a camera to the correct software and you have a customized inspection tool perfectly designed for your requirement. There will be vision equipment at NPE to spark your imagination.
• Find new machinery and equipment suppliers. You are familiar with the suppliers you have used in the past, but with more than 2,000 exhibitors at NPE, there are probably more you should meet. NPE draws start-up companies, foreign companies and dozens of others manufacturing equipment just like you already use. It could be that the start-up company with just one product can solve a problem for you. You may never know unless you stop by the booth for a chat.
There is another significant value in attending NPE — the opportunity to talk face-to-face with experts willing to discuss your specific problems and recommend solutions. Technical experts are in most exhibits and they are always willing to listen and offer answers. Take your problem to three or four companies and there is no doubt you will get useful suggestions.
With this issue of Plastics Machinery Magazine, we departed from our regular format so we can bring you the most interesting new machinery, equipment and products you will see at NPE. There are a total of 183 new products in this issue and all of them, plus many more, will be on the show floor in Orlando.
Sifting through the information submitted by exhibitors and writing all the Product Innovations articles fell mainly to PMM copy editors. They are Karen Hanna, Kathy Hayes, Michael T. McCue and David Tillett. Designer/copy editor Marvin Brown put together the pages. This is the biggest issue we have published, and these five editors deserve much of the credit for the editorial production.
During the next five months, the PMM team will bring you the complete story of new machinery and equipment at NPE.
Ron Shinn, editor