LAS VEGAS - Fabtech International is possibly the only trade show that is louder during the actual event than its setup.

LAS VEGAS - Fabtech International is possibly the only trade show that is louder during the actual event than its setup. Wandering the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center Oct. 5, the day before the start of the three-day show, the only noises were the beeping of forklifts backing up and the rumble of their engines.

For many shows, that would be far louder than the event itself. But Fabtech features dozens of full-size metal-forming machines pounding, punching and hammering out shapes, which is far noisier than setting up or tearing down exhibits.

Las Vegas was a new venue for the show, which is held in conjunction with the American Welding Society and the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. The location was a hit, according to show officials. Despite a national economy that is likely in recession, Fabtech attendance surpassed expectations. More than 12,000 attended opening day, with totals surpassing 21,000.

Quinn Smith of Canada-based Norlok Technology Inc.(left) explains the company’s Surelok II to Dan Meeboer, vice president of Desert Sheet Metal Works Inc. in Tucson, Ariz.

Pleased people

Several exhibitors said they were happy to see many attendees were still in a buying mood, despite a down economy.

“If you were to buy into what the media is telling us, you wouldn’t have expected anyone here today,” said Tony Caruso, vice president of sales and marketing for ISB. “But just take a look at the hall - it’s amazing.”

Machinery maker Megafab agreed.

“It was a big show for us,” said Al Julian, vice president of marketing at Megafab. “We had the largest number of leads from any trade show we’ve been in going back to 2000.”

Fabtech’s first trip west of the Mississippi River brought a large number of attendees from the West Coast - 32 percent, show organizers said. Overall, 55 percent of those who came to the show were first-time attendees.

Organizers couldn’t be happier - they’ve already booked a future show for Las Vegas.

“It’s clear that our effort to expand the reach of the show for both attendees and exhibitors was successful,” said John Catalano, show manager from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. “It exceeded the expectations of the partner organizations, and we’ve committed to return in 2012.”

Besides the busy trade show, Fabtech offered attendees numerous educational sessions on everything from employee legal issues to welding tips.


Mark Ernst of Ernst Enterprises gave tips on motivating workers in an Oct. 6 Fabtech session.
One such seminar was hosted by Mark Ernst of Ernst Enterprises LLC: “Driving Up Productivity With Engaged and Committed Employees” Oct. 6.

Ernst told the audience that ensuring loyalty is not easy - at least from the workers you want to keep. They’re often targeted by competitors.

“If (employees) don’t feel good about what they’re doing, they’re easy to pick off,” he said, adding that lousy employees never leave, even though you probably wish they would.

A higher salary doesn’t usually solve the problem, Ernst added.

“You can’t throw enough money at somebody to make them feel good for very long,” he said. When employees are engaged, “The quality of their work is better. It meets the company’s expectations.”

Ernst suggested a list of questions managers should ask themselves about their workers. How would your staff answer these questions:

•    Is this the best job you’ve ever had?

•    Are you proud of this company and its products?

•    Do you have the right equipment to do the best job possible?

•    Have you been trained correctly?

•    Do you know how you’re performing?

•    Do lazy workers get dealt with quickly here?

Patrick Hurlock (center), northwest regional manager for Nordfab, discusses the duct company’s products.


“I know that (industry) tolerates a lot of poor performers,” Ernst said.

He asked the audience to remember back when they were starting their careers and recall if they worked with any “slackers.”

Many in the audience nodded in agreement.

How did those people make you feel, he asked.

Considering that it costs at least an amount equal to an annual salary to replace a worker, “There’s a lot of money to be saved by not losing key people.”

He suggested using anonymous surveys to gauge employees’ happiness.

Other tips to ensure engaged employees:

•    Have a clearly defined - and followed - mission, vision and values. Define “success.”

“(Employees) give extra effort because they believe in what the company stands for,” Ernst said.

•    Only recruit workers who fit your company’s culture and train correctly.

“I would argue that a poor hire is worse than leaving a position vacant,” he said.

•    Set clear performance expectations for everyone.

•     Train workers and verify they have the skills to do their best work.

•     Train mangers.

“The supervisor is the single-biggest factor that influences employee morale in the workplace.”

•    Have an accountability culture and remove poor performers.

•     Align rewards and recognition systems.

“I can’t stress how important it is that there is an alignment between the payment and the work,” he said.

•     Communicate and celebrate success.

“This is the nonfinancial stuff that is incredibly powerful.”

For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail