DETROIT - Manufacturing technology is a critical cost area for auto companies. So the SAE intends to bring technology from around the world to broaden the impact of its International Automotive Manufacturing Conference and Exhibition.
Even with a new global emphasis, the show will stay firmly rooted in Detroit, said David Amati, manager of the SAE Engineering Meetings and Exhibits Division. He said it will have more applied business focus for manufacturing technology than in past years.
The conference brings manufacturing engineers together with vendors of the latest factory systems, including computers, safety sensing equipment and assembly line robots. This year, more than 200 exhibitors reserved space for the May 13-15 show, which in 1996 saw attendance of 10,000.
Amati said the SAE has a long-term commitment to the IAM event in Detroit. It intends to promote the 1998 conference extensively while broadening overall involvement by the Big 3.
Frank Ewasyshyn, Chrysler Corp.'s vice president for advanced manufacturing engineering, will be the chairman of the 1998 conference.
NEW SHOW FOCUS, NEW NAME
SAE purchased the former International Programmable Controllers show from the Engineering Society of Detroit two years ago for an undisclosed price. This year it changed the show's name to reflect a new automotive focus.
This year's show was chaired by Joseph Spielman and Daniel Juliette, executives at General Motors' Metal Fabricating Division.
Under the IAM banner, SAE intends to heighten supplier contact with the Big 3 and boost knowledge of widely applicable auto manufacturing technology in other industries.
For some show participants, the change is unwelcome. Lance Miller, marketing vice president at Nematron Inc. in Ann Arbor, Mich., said exhibitors are worried the automotive emphasis may push away general manufacturers.
'The core guys are always going to come to the show, but by changing its focus, the new people who would come may not,' said Miller.
Indeed, presenters for at least one technical session outnumbered their audience 5-2.
The conference changes are a response to automakers who felt their manufacturing needs and advances had been overlooked.
'The OEMs are sending a very strong message to SAE that we're moving in the right direction. It's one that's needed; they're feeling they're finally being recognized in manufacturing technology,' said Amati.
He said the IAM show is part of SAE's service to an industry that must deal with the total life cycle of products, from design through recycling.
With the international focus, technology used by overseas firms can be compared to North American systems, Amati said.
While the international element of the show may be controversial, 'SAE feels that a little controversy is going to be good and healthy. The North American OEMS will learn a lot,' Amati said.