Manufacturers are back! Not that manufacturing has been on a hiatus by any means, but the International Manufacturing Technology Show—traditionally held every two years—was back in action, in Chicago, and in-person for 2022 after a pandemic-induced hiatus. Billed as the largest manufacturing trade show in the Western hemisphere, IMTS 2022 did not disappoint!

This year’s event drew some 85,000 attendees and 2,400 exhibitors spread over a million square feet of McCormick Place. Although most discussions revolved around manufacturing technology, it was energizing to hear so many attendees sharing their renewed optimism about American manufacturing.

Here’s what else we saw and heard at IMTS 2022.

Rootstock Customers in the Spotlight

Rootstock was thrilled to have a large booth in a great location at IMTS where our team chatted about cloud ERP with a record number of manufacturers. We were also honored to get strong support from Salesforce as we help them push into the manufacturing space with Rootstock’s manufacturing ERP on the Salesforce Platform.

We were also proud to see a breakout presentation by Andrew Russo from Rootstock customer, BACA Systems. Andrew regaled an audience of more than 50 with his company’s story of digital transformation using both Rootstock and Salesforce.

Speaking of customers, Boston Dynamics’ robot Spot was the star of the show at the company’s booth. Spot also showed off his dance moves across the expo floor.

For our part, we leaned into our theme of “Digital Manufacturing. Implemented.” Our message of “Connected top floor to shop floor—and everything in-between” clearly resonated with attendees, and ERP on the Salesforce Platform was a welcome solution for the many companies recovering from the pandemic and supply chain disruptions. More and more, people have realized the need for cloud solutions to keep people, production, and partners connected no matter where they do their work.

Higher Tech for Better Manufacturing

IMTS is, as the name says, focused on manufacturing technology, which was well represented at the show. Software solutions are more widely integrated across the entire landscape of manufacturing as continually more sophisticated solutions pop up to solve challenges for design, engineering, and operations. We’re even seeing highly specialized ERP solutions being tailored for manufacturers of all sizes.

Automation was everywhere at the show, with innovations being shown for automated in-process inspection of parts, automated data solutions for quality control, and fully integrated production environments for complete part manufacturing. The result is more time for manufacturers to focus on strategic efforts as automation minimizes the need for humans to intervene at every turn or toil on slow, mundane, manual tasks.

Automation is also increasing ease-of-use for manufacturing technology. That then helps front- and back-office workers overcome the skills gaps that have exacerbated our ongoing labor shortages. We noticed a strong trend across IMTS to bring technology and talent together to increase productivity and grow the bottom line.

Agility Via Modernization

Although supply chain issues remain, we heard many manufacturers explain how they continue to thrive through agility. Many of those we spoke with say they are relying more on newly connected business systems for greater end-to-end visibility so teams can quickly recognize and respond to change. And, for unplanned disruptions, new technologies continue to mature. Additive manufacturing, for example, was a popular topic at the show with manufacturers explaining how they made the jump from prototyping to production with more material options and greater precision for more and more applications.

The global growth of the electric vehicle (EV) industry was also apparent at the show. The growth has sparked new innovations in manufacturing, process, and quality as demand for motors and better battery technology increases. Plus, since EVs require fewer or different powertrain components, that industry’s growth promises to disrupt the traditional automotive supplier network.

Ecstatic To Be In-Person

We couldn’t have had a better time at IMTS 2022. Thanks to our dozens of customers for showing their support and stopping by to say hello, the thousands of attendees who asked questions and shared their manufacturing challenges, and all who made the event possible, including our many partners.

It was truly great to be together again with our colleagues in this industry, and that sentiment was shared by nearly everyone. “While the excitement and electricity were clearly evident in every aisle of the show, what was most gratifying for the industry and the country was the scope of commerce taking place as visitors sought out, and found, key technologies and productivity solutions to move their businesses forward,” said Douglas K. Woods, president of The Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), which owns and produces IMTS. Peter R. Eelman, chief experience officer at AMT added, “At IMTS 2022, the manufacturing community achieved something that hasn’t been done since World War II: it brought our industry back together after a worldwide disruption. We proved our resiliency, but we achieved much more.”

All in all, the best part of IMTS 2022 was the flurry of handshakes, hugs, and high-fives with colleagues and friends we haven’t seen in person for years. It was also fun to add the fist bump to the mix of greetings.

Manufacturing is back! And here to stay!