Eastec 2008, the most active of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) regional trade shows, had a great run in West Springfield, MA, this week. Large crowds (estimated at more than 14,000) filled the six halls of the Big E exposition grounds, housing more than 600 exhibitors showing more than 2000 products. ILS walked the halls visiting about 50 companies offering laser related products (a dozen of these were showing lasers for metrology). What we heard was good news from this industry sector. Business for the first half of 2008 is good for the most part, especially among those companies that are taking advantage of the weak dollar to boost their export sales. Even those companies that are importing products from Europe told ILS that sales were holding up even though their equipment now sells at a premium here. One supplier from the UK told us that U.S. sales for the first quarter were double first quarter of last year even though he has had to increase selling prices. He compensates by offering more automation products.
We received many reasons why the U.S. manufacturing economy is holding at anticipated levels but the overarching reason seemed to be that exporting companies are strong and that sales of laser equipment into that U.S. manufacturing sector remains strong. Those U.S. customers that are also exporting are meeting 2008 plans. For example, agricultural equipment, oil drilling, aerospace and energy. These are all key markets for laser processing so suppliers of the lasers used are benefiting even in what is predicted as a slow total manufacturing economy.
Eastec is heavy on laser marking/engraving. This year 18 companies showed products and in one hall 6 of them were clustered together making it easy for visitors to comparison shop. Everywhere we visited booth action was strong on the show's second day and we were impressed by the level of inquiries companies were receiving, many of them high quality.
Eastec remains as the show for laser markers, even though it has distinctly regional roots. We expect that other industry suppliers will want to review plans for next year; one told us that he had paid his dues by being assigned to an annex overflow tent and that he was looking forward to moving into one of the big halls where all the action was taking place.--DAB