Organizers estimate that 22,000 attended Fabtech, which was held Nov. 2-4, 2010, in Atlanta.

ATLANTA - Any talk of the demise of U.S. manufacturing is decidedly premature, according to Fabtech’s organizers.

Officials with the annual metal-forming and fabricating event, which was held Nov. 2-4, 2010, at the Georgia World Congress Center here, said attendees and exhibitors had good things to say about this year’s show. It was the second time Fabtech has come to Atlanta.

We are quite pleased with the show’s positive attendance figures; the manufacturing industry is alive and well,” said John Catalano, Fabtech’s co-manager. “Attendees told us there is no better place to see the latest innovations, products and equipment demonstrations, to talk shop with suppliers and to build relationships with exhibitors who can help them make wise business decisions and achieve better results.”

The positive comments extended to those showing their products, Catalano added.

“Exhibitors were impressed with the quantity and quality of attendees who visited their booths, and how their businesses will benefit from the experience,” he said. 

On the show floor, Spiral-Helix employee Gil Martinez (left) explains the company’s Stitchwelder 320 to Fabtech attendees.


Officials pegged the attendance at 22,000, a 12 percent increase from 2006 - the last Atlanta show. There were 1,138 exhibitors, a 23 percent improvement from the last Atlanta show. They took up 371,000 square feet of exhibit space.

“Our 2010 show brought together industry leaders from more than 50 countries to share the best and the brightest metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing ideas,” said Mark Hoper, also a Fabtech show manager. “This year’s show also included the successful debut of the finishing technologies pavilion and conference that allowed visitors to review finishing equipment, processes and services, and gain valuable technical insight.”

Attendee Andree Begneaud of Begneaud Manufacturing said he was glad he came to Fabtech.

“It was a great show. I saw a lot of people interested in purchasing equipment,” Begneaud said. “Everybody’s positive about the future and things look and feel a lot better than they did a year ago.”

First-time attendee Russell Bingham had similar comments.

“Attending Fabtech was well worth my time because of the industry information gained that I could bring back to fellow co-workers,” Bingham said. “I now know this is the one place I need to go if I want to find the latest technology to help improve processes, reduce costs and stay competitive. Plus, the networking opportunities Fabtech provides were invaluable.” 

Consultant Mark Ernst stressed the importance of succession planning for family-owned businesses at his Nov. 2 seminar.

Family planning

In addition to the exhibits on the show floor, the show attempted to fill out the schedule of attendees with numerous business seminars. One such session was hosted by Mark Ernst Nov. 2.

You might want your son or daughter to eventually take over your company, but have you asked them about it? Or do you think you’re irreplaceable and will live and run your business forever?

Mark Ernst has dealt with both types of owners in his many years of working as a succession planning consultant.

Regardless of what type of person an owner is, there is this truth: “At some point, it’s very clear we’re all going to exit our businesses,” Ernst told the audience of his seminar, “Developing the Next-Generation Leaders.”

Although death and giving up control are not topics many people like to discuss, it’s imperative that any company whose owners hope to keep it going plan for their eventual replacement, he said.

“If you don’t prepare the next generation, they won’t be ready,” Ernst said. “I can guarantee that.”

He said 60 percent of all U.S. businesses are family-owned or controlled. About 40 percent of those are always considering an ownership transfer, but only half of those will be given to the next generation. 

Plasma Automation’s Paul Villar (center) tells a group of Fabtech attendees about the company’s coil-fed roll-forming line. 

Tax issues

Without proper planning, Ernst said, your survivors may have to sell the business just to pay estate taxes.

Sometimes, other family members may want to take over the business but lack the training or are scared of failure.

It’s up to the owner or chief executive officer to decide if anyone in the family has the motivation to succeed.

“You can’t teach motivation,” he said. Many other management skills can be learned, however.

“When you’re looking at those next-generation leaders, you have to say: Do they want to do it? Do they skills and capacity to learn it?”

If they don’t have the right tools, it’s not going to work.

Update your strategic plan as part of the preparations. Ask yourself and those who oversee your firm:

• What size will the company be?

• What services will be added or deleted?

• Is the company going after new markets?

• Are there likely to be new competitors?

• What new technology will be used?

Advance Cutting Systems demonstrates the Jetmaster 55, a water-jet machine, at its booth.

Prevent conflicts

To minimize conflict, be sure to keep family members informed of changes or plans being made.

Unfortunately, some owners refuse to decide on any succession plans. They refuse to let go.

“That puts a huge burden on the survivors,” Ernst said.

As part of any succession plan, the owners need to decide which family members will be involved in the day-to-day business operations and which will not. Considerations also need to be made for non-family employees, whom may leave if they sense opportunities are closed to those who do not share the same surname as the owners.

Determine what the strengths and weaknesses are of family members who are to stay in the business. Once the likely next-generation leaders have been determined, ask them to help prepare plans that will allow them to learn the skills they will need to succeed. Be sure the plan has benchmarks to determine they will be ready to assume their roles on time.

“(You) don’t want to sit with a plan that says ‘I’ll be ready in three years’ and say ‘OK. See you in three years,’” Ernst said.

Ensure that future leaders are supervised or monitored by a nonfamily member.

Ernst acknowledged that such planning can be difficult for many people.

“Some of this stuff is pretty heady and it’s way outside what most of us do for a living,” he said.

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