Yankee shoppers hit Eastec

Last week I did Eastec, the SME's biannual manufacturing technology show held at the old Big E showgrounds in West Springfield, MA. I like Eastec—it’s a smallish show, with 500+exhibitors in five buildings, and it draws very well in the eight-state Northeastern area. One can always judge the success of the show by viewing the vast parking area at noon on day two. This year, it was nearly full, which to me meant the show was drawing at its old pace.

It's not a big laser system show—mostly machine tools. This year, there were three dozen industrial laser suppliers, mostly marking/engraving systems as usual. It was maybe down a bit in the marking area, which is concentrated in one of the buildings where most of the companies occupy space in four rows of exhibits—cheek by jowl with their competition. It reminds me of that old Jewish deli maxim, "there's always room for competition across the street—helps to draw crowds."

There are two other shows I do—one here in the US and another in Germany—that are about the same size in the number of exhibitors, and never seem to be able to expand. Having been involved with both, I can recall their salespeople bemoaning the fact that laser companies did not like to locate across the aisle from their competitors as the reason for not exhibiting at these shows. I guess Eastec is the exception because, over the course of two days, I followed groups of potential buyers making the rounds of vendors comparing each with the others.

What I heard at the show was that buyers were there to spend—not unusual for Eastec, which has a reputation as a buyer's show. But in somewhat unsettled times, it was good to see representatives from small companies shopping for systems and ready to buy. Maybe it was something the air, as the Northeast's largest flea market—the Brimfield Antique Show, held a few miles away—coincided with Eastec and hundreds of shoppers, maybe thousands, were trudging the acres of exhibitors there also looking for bargains.

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