Manufacturing the Future
AMICCON Event Will Spotlight Companies, New TechnologiesEllen Bemben said she wasn’t sure this past summer how many manufacturers were coming to AMICCON, but she’s no longer concerned.
“If you asked us five or six weeks ago, it was going slowly, but then in September, people were getting back from vacations, and this thing pretty much took off,” said Bemben, one of the event organizers. “What a lot of manufacturers are telling us is that they finally have their own personal forum. There’s a lot of enthusiasm. This is going to be a happening.”
AMICCON, or the Advanced Manufacturing & Innovation Competition and Conference, was conceived in the fall of 2009, when area business leaders began discussing the issue of manufacturers awarding contracts outside the region, in most cases because they are not aware of the qualified supply-chain members and innovators doing business in their own backyard.
The program’s initial stage is a Nov. 16 event at the MassMutual Center in Springfield that will bring together manufacturers in several different categories to make key business connections.
“The goal is to bring business to the region and increase awareness among local manufacturers about what other manufacturers in the area are doing,” said Eric Hagopian, president of Hoppe Tool in Chicopee and an AMICCON steering committee member. “Together, we can really build on our reputation as a region for precision manufacturing of all types.”
According to event organizers, despite the richness and diversity of the region’s manufacturing sector, many manufacturers and supply-chain members are not aware of all that is produced in the Springfield-Hartford corridor.
As a result, they look outside this area — to other regions of the U.S. or even internationally — to supply goods that are actually being produced locally. When that happens, they lose potential customers — and profits.
The Nov. 16 event should start to turn that around, Bemben said.
“Manufacturers are excited. I think it’s because we’re grassroots, bootstrapping, apolitical,” she noted. “I like that they’re coming in from all areas, not just Massachusetts and Connecticut; some folks are coming in from as far away as New Jersey, New York, and New Hampshire.”
According to the AMICCON steering committee, the program’s goals include:
• Soliciting and exposing innovation in manufacturing, in areas ranging from products, processes, and IT to nanotechnology, robotics, coatings, and advanced materials, integrated systems, inventory management, and order tracking;
• Identifying local, qualified supply-chain members and introducing them to the region’s manufacturers through a dedicated Web site and database;
• Introducing original equipment manufacturers, procurement, and government contractors to the region’s advanced manufacturers through a continuum of highly focused programs;
• Promoting the region’s strengths in precision machining, plastics, paper and packaging, green technology, electronics, and medical devices; and
• Creating the region’s first manufacturing innovation competition, designed to promote the sort of forward thinking that has lent the Springfield area its manufacturing heritage.
Event organizers say that, while Western Mass. manufacturers must compete to survive, they also benefit when the entire sector is healthy, and to create that robustness, they need to show each other what they have to offer, along with attracting customers from outside the region.
Bemben said companies will have a chance to spotlight new technologies on Nov. 16 at a venue called the Innovation Station. For example, FloDesign plans to discuss a prototype for water purification using sonic technology, while Poly-Plating will show off a closed-loop system it created to recycle acidic water. Meanwhile, Universal Plastics might bring a thermoformed birthing tub, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will be on hand with a variety of robotics.
“I think it’s going to be a very fast day,” Bemben said, stressing again that the event is only the first step in a long-term effort to boost manufacturing in the region. “It’s not going to be just one day, one event, where we walk away and say, ‘yippee, yay, we did something.’”
Hagopian, like Bemben, is pleased to hear that enthusiasm is rising.
“Any event like this is difficult to get off the ground in its first year,” he told BusinessWest. “But once you build up that momentum, people get excited and sign on. And when they see the value the show brings to the table for the region, they come back, and it’s a lot easier to get it done the next year. It becomes a bigger, more effective show.”
And a stronger, more robust region.
— Joseph Bednar