Ras Systems used Fabtech to introduce the debut of the UpDownBend folding system. The machine folds blanks up and down without the need to flip the part.

A student in the American Welding Society’s annual competition works behind a screen designed to protect convention attendees. The contest included the top six participants in the 2004 and 2005 SkillsUSA national welding contests.

ATLANTA - A new location for Fabtech didn’t lessen the noise from machinery - and for attendees, that’s good - and it didn’t lessen the crowds, either.

More than 21,000 attended the Oct. 31-Nov. 2 event, which, for the first time, was held in conjunction with the American Welding Society’s annual convention. The site, the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta, was a new venue for Fabtech.

After disappointing attendance at the 2002 and 2004 shows in Cleveland, where even-year shows were traditionally held, organizers decided to move the 2006 show to Atlanta.

It appears to have been a good decision. There were 873 exhibitors in Atlanta, a slight increase over the number in Chicago in 2005.

“The move to Atlanta from a traditional Midwestern region was a culmination of many factors, including input from exhibitors and extensive research to determine new markets of metal fabricators and welders that had previously never been to our event,” said Mark Hoper, a show manager with the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, who sponsored Fabtech with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the welding society.

The manufacturing society’s show manager, John Catalano, agreed.

“We are very pleased with the turnout in Atlanta, which far exceeded our expectations,” he said.

Robert Rausch, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and president and founder of 1 Executive Energy, explained baby boomers and younger workers have much in common during his Nov. 1 session.


Several exhibitors on the trade show floor seemed to be similarly impressed.

“All three days gave us solid leads,” said Rick Wester, vice president of Peachtree City, Ga.-based Ras Systems LLC. “We were very pleased with the quantity of people we saw in our booth and we talked to a lot of principals and decision makers.”

Apart from the busy, noisy trade show, a Nov. 1 breakfast forum on motivating employees of all ages was also well attended.

Hypertherm Inc. held a press conference Nov. 1 at its booth to introduce the Powermax30, a compact, portable plasma-cutting system. Bruce Altobelli demonstrated the machine, which weighs less than 20 pounds and cuts up to 10 times faster than traditional methods, company officials said.

Robert Rausch, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and president and founder of 1 Executive Energy in Norcross, Ga., explained some of the differences - and similarities - of workers from the baby boom and “X” and “Y” generations, along with ways all could work together.

Rausch cited figures saying there were 73 million “boomers” in the United States, which he said refers to those born between 1943 and 1960. The next generation, “Xers,” were born between 1960 and 1980. Rausch said there are 70 million of those.

Regardless of age, motivating workers comes down to productivity, skills and talents, and energy.

The floor of the Georgia World Congress Center was packed with Fabtech attendees and visitors. At the Roper Whitney of Rockford Inc. booth, Blaine Backman demonstrates the company’s computer-controlled Auto Brake 2000.

“You can have the best skills and the best-talented people, but if they don’t have the energy, they’re not making it,” he said. “Energy supplies the fuel for the skills and the talent.”

He said some people might, consciously or otherwise, be draining their workers’ energy and “fuel” by criticizing or belittling them.

More than 21,000 people attended this year’s Fabtech, which was held Oct. 31-Nov. 2 in Atlanta.

“If you are a baby boomer and you are criticizing a gen Xer, stop,” Rausch said. It kills energy.

He gave quotes attributed to ancient Greek philosophers about teen-agers thousands of years ago, and pointed out the same things are said about today’s young people. In general, he said, Xers are unimpressed with authority. They will “draw lines in the sand easily.”

Ken Shannon (left) stays busy at the Advance Cutting Systems booth.

Still, like baby boomers, generation-X members have a lot to offer as workers, Rausch said. While boomers bring experience, Xers are more likely to have new ways of thinking.

“There’s a lot of wisdom in years, but there’s also a lot of wisdom in youth,” he said. “Unless we’re too hard-headed to listen to each other.”

Former Michigan Gov. John Engler, now president of the National Association of Manufacturers, gave the Oct. 31 Fabtech keynote speech. He told attendees that governments must pay more attention to the manufacturing industry’s concerns.

Sidebar: Former Mich. governor addresses Fabtech attendees

Congress needs to focus on manufacturing and increasing the number of available skilled workers, a former Michigan governor told Fabtech attendees Oct. 31.

The keynote speaker for this year’s show was John Engler, a three-term Republican governor who has served as president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers since 2004. A constant advocate of business-friendly policies, he now lobbies for federal policies that help companies deal with taxes, health care and regulations.

With the midterm U.S. elections coming only a week after his speech, Engler urged Fabtech attendees to support candidates who understand their needs as business owners.

“I hope you’ll all choose wisely. We need people in Congress who care about manufacturing,” he said. “At the NAM, we think the right focus for Congress is manufacturing - and we believe it’s important that the talk be backed up with actual votes.”

He called Fabtech “a testament to the importance of the manufacturing economy in the United States,” adding that output by U.S. companies in 2005 was a new record.

When talking about manufacturing, Engler said, there is a tendency among experts to discuss jobs without considering the money the sector generates - and that’s a mistake.

“If the $1.5 trillion manufacturing economy stood up all by itself, it would be the eighth largest economy in the world,” he said. “Do you realize that’s two times larger than our largest competitor, Japan?”

He said the manufacturers association is concerned with reducing U.S. production costs, making international trade fair, growing the number of manufacturing workers, and promoting investment, innovation and productivity.

“I would hope that both Democrats and Republicans will be willing to work on these goals in the next Congress,” he said. “No matter how the elections wind up, there are some serious challenges facing U.S. manufacturers and we need people in Washington who will listen to us.”

A special concern is the lack of skilled workers, Engler told the crowd, calling it “one of the most daunting challenges facing manufacturers.”

He called it “the skills gap.”

“More than 80 percent of NAM members report difficulties in hiring employees with the necessary skills. Nationally, the American Welding Society expects a shortfall of 200,000 skilled workers by the year 2010,” Engler said.

Industries and politicians must work to change the perception that “only losers work in factories,” he said.