Education a focus at this year’s Advanced Manufacturing Expo | #education | #technology | #training

Next week’s Advanced Manufacturing Expo will feature more educational opportunities than in past years, one of the more noticeable differences to an event entering its sixth year.

This year’s installment of the annual trade show, which features over 200 vendors while highlighting the latest innovations in the world of manufacturing, will be held at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids on Aug. 26-27. This will be the first year that the event has been staged at DeVos Place after spending the previous four years at the DeltaPlex Arena.

The event will feature a long list of speakers, a bit different from previous years. Presenters are scheduled to speak throughout Aug. 26 in the automation, technical and metal working halls.

“For us, we traditionally have shied away from speakers,” said Mark Ermatinger, who is both the founder of the Advanced Manufacturing Expo and the CEO of Zeeland-based Industrial Control Service Inc., which provides factory automation solutions, products and training.

“This year, we really stepped up. We have speaker rooms because DeVos Place allows for that. That’s probably the biggest change for us. I think, because of the needs that are out there — the shortage of labor — there will be increased traffic. This (event) is bringing learning opportunities that didn’t exist before.”

A stronger focus on education is one of a few new attractions to this year’s event.

The Advanced Manufacturing Expo will also feature a FIRST Robotics competition involving 20 teams from area high schools. For these competitions, teams design, program and build robots to complete various tasks.

The infusion of students will no doubt be a welcome sight to an industry that is focused on engaging the younger generation in order to funnel candidates to a talent-deficient industry.

“People are going to come in and see the kids going crazy in the back corner — that’s sort of our background music,” Ermatinger said with a laugh.

In the venue’s metal hall, a handful of vendors will be operating CNC machines live on the premises, producing chips and other parts. The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC) will also set up an area called the Smart Technology Zone, featuring vendors that offer high technology capable of improving operations for manufacturers.

Also, U.K.-based Gravity Industries is scheduled to demonstrate its jet suits, often referred to as Ironman suits. Pilots are slated to fly along the Grand River on Thursday but the fate of their visit is in flux due to newly implemented travel restrictions put in place at a federal level to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Ermatinger said that if Gravity is unable to attend this year, the company will present a video and reschedule its visit for 2022’s event.

This year’s Advanced Manufacturing Expo is another steady step forward in this growing event’s evolution. Ermatinger said, though, that he wants to keep this a local event while encouraging organizations throughout other parts of the country to emulate it.

“Originally, it was a Grand Rapids thing,” Ermatinger said of the event’s origins. “But, I think now we’re seeing regional interest — from Chicago, Indiana and Ohio, people coming up to the show. 

“Our hope is that this format of a show — a local show — can then propagate through other states. Ultimately that’s the goal.”

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