New Guy Jumps in Head First at IMTS

Sandvik Coromant yellow bags are everywhere

Stepping off the escalator, I immediately begin searching for something recognizable to ease the anxiety that has been building over the 5 hour trip from northern Kentucky.  I am having a little trouble dodging and diving through the current of an estimated 100 thousand plus patrons who all seem to be toting a bright yellow messenger bag with their heads slightly bowed and eyes fixed intently on whatever information was just piped into their phone. Am I supposed to have a yellow bag?  I didn’t see it when I picked up my badge.  I know I am not one of them yet, but at least I can look the part, right?

As I continue to stutter step and juke my way through the steady stampede, I catch a glimpse of a vehicle that looks like Mad Max meets the X-games. So I dip off to the left to get a closer look.

Photo from

There are people buzzing around the vehicle, partial vehicle at this point, with ratchets, wrenches, and other tools.  In an effort to find out exactly why this group of guys was working on their car in the middle of crowd like this, I pick up a piece of literature and discover that these men are trying to build this machine in 5 days. From a set of plans and a heap of material, to a quasi-war machine looking ride in 5 days. It has taken me longer to properly install wiper blades. I silently wish them good luck and set off into the room ahead of me.

Halfway hoping to see the source of the yellow bags I can’t help but notice I am in a room the size of Times Square. And if my guide serves me right there are three others just like it. I just keep moving. Whoa! I finally see something familiar, a blackjack table. What a way to kick off this event. Nothing like smokin’ the house to get a trip started in the right direction. I belly up to the table and see I am to make my decisions on a tablet device. I am cool with that. All the cool people use tablets nowadays.  A sign reads: win three in a row and earn a prize. What a deal!  I risk nothing to get something…It just keeps getting better! First hand rolls out and I have 17, dealer has 16 and has to hit. Dealer draws a 6 and busts. Bam!  The mojo is flowin’. One down, two to go for the prize. Next hand I get a 9 then a Jack. Dealer has a 7 showing and flips a 10. “Gotta stay on seventeen” a guy beside me chimes in.  I concur with a nod. Woohoo! That’s 2. This is the one for all the marbles.  The coveted “prize” is near. Here comes the final hand. King then…king. Yahtzee! My mind is on the prize now.  What could it be?  Maybe a tablet? Everybody is giving those away these days.  I’m counting my winnings, which in this case is a mystery, but I want whatever it is nonetheless. I like my position. Dealer has a 3 showing and flips a queen. Thirteen is great to be playing against when you have 20. No eights, I say out loud. Dealer goes to the shoe and flips another 3. Great!  That’s sixteen and the rules say the dealer hits on sixteen.  At this point I feel like a football team that has the game wrapped up with only seconds on the clock.  All I have to do is snap the ball and take a knee and the spoils are mine.  All of those low cards tell me the probability of a 5 here is not likely…Dealer flips a 5. AAWW! OHHHH! The crowd sounds off behind and beside me.  Wow, I must have really drawn a crowd in those 3 hands. I hope I wasn’t being too loud. As I back away from the table, the crowd behind me is pushing closer and ignoring me completely.  They don’t seem to have the slightest interest in playing the game. It is clear now.  They are all here to see the dealer.

That’s also when it became clear to me.  I was just dealt 3 hands of blackjack by a Motoman robot.  Not a digital game, but hardcopy cards dealt from a shoe by a robot with fingers, elbows, shoulders, and a visor that gave him, her, or it just enough of a wise guy look to make me feel like I was at a table in Vegas.

I realized why I was here now. IMTS wasn’t just another acronym thrown around in the Tech world.  This was where the who’s who of the manufacturing world comes from all over the globe to see the latest and greatest in automated machines.

My instruction prior to leaving for Chicago was to take in all I could.  No sweat. Only, now I realize that visiting a trade show this size with booths as large as city blocks was going to take some time.  I quickly thank the gambling gods for a good match and set off for the depths of the room…still in search of the yellow bags because now I am seeing more and more of them and I am starting to think I didn’t get the memo.

Booth after booth I stop by and gaze into the machines performing various tasks. Trying somehow to wrap my head around a block of steel being reduced to a useable part in minutes, I am sure I have the look of a green horn.  It must have been clear to most of the booth workers as well. They all approached me with their eyes fixed on my badge and say: “you’re with Balluff, we use your products all over our machines. C’mere and let me show you”.  I am fairly certain I was exposed to every product in our catalog in my three-day visit.

My particular interest was to see how RFID was being used.  My background in marketing Auto ID products lead me to Balluff, and the challenge of convincing the manufacturing world that Industrial RFID was not the big hairy monster that the commercial world has made it out to be prompted me to accept the role as the RFID marketing manager.  Judging by the enthusiasm and feedback from just about every booth I stepped in, Balluff Industrial RFID products have been adopted as the brand of choice by most manufacturers in the automation industry.

IMTS 2012 – FANUC M-2000iA/1200 Train Wheel Machining Robot

From the Motoman Blackjack-dealing robot, to the Fanuc weight lifting Robot, to the extremely clever RFID demonstration in the our booth, this show was both impressive and inspiring. Impressive in a sense that humans are capable of not only thinking and dreaming of such machines, but capable of bringing these ideas to life. Inspiring in a sense that I have chosen to jump on board with a company that is recognized and respected all over the world by the best of the best, nothing breeds success like success.

Ultimately, I accomplished my mission.  I took it all in. I got a feel for what the people in the market need and want. And yes, I found my bright yellow bag. The wonderful crew at Sandvik Coromant was responsible for that marketing buzz. Their goal of brand awareness probably went much further than they expected.  My son claimed the bag when I arrived back home and insisted on using it for his school bag.  Who am I to object?  I was captivated by it as well.  I am not sure if generational marketing was in the plan, but it was certainly the result.

I am proud to be a part of this industry and look forward to many more great experiences…and I am dying to know what the prize was for beating the Motoman robot at blackjack. Did anyone win? What was your opinion of the 2012 IMTS show?

Leave a Reply