ATExpo 2003 returns to Chicago, and attendees will again have the opportunity to view more than 600 exhibits.

Two recent studies indicate that the U.S. economy may be ready to emerge from a long slump. According to a survey by the Institute for Supply Management, manufacturing activity did shrink in June despite signs of a tentative recovery in the overall economy. Its purchasing managers’ index, based on a survey of supply executives, rose by a smaller-than-expected margin to 49.8 points in June from 49.4 points in May.

But the pace of the slide was clearly slowing, and a breakdown of the data showed new orders, production and new export orders rising at a faster pace than in May. If the slide continues to slow, this will be good news for the exhibitors and attendees at next month’s ATExpo 2003 in Rosemont, IL.

Even though the economic situation may still be up in the air, ATExpo is still a unique opportunity for manufacturing professionals to see and evaluate the full spectrum of products and services used in manual or fully automated assembly. “ATExpo makes it convenient for visitors to locate the solutions they need to increase productivity, enhance product quality and reduce cycle times because everything is located under one roof,” says Kelvin Marsden-Kish, vice president of Reed Exhibitions. The conference program (Sept. 22-25) has scores of technical sessions. And hundreds of new products will be on display at the expo (Sept. 23-25).

Keynotes Are Highlight of Expo

This year’s ATExpo features three keynote speakers. And attending a keynote is a good way for attendees to hear insights on the value of cutting-edge assembly.

On Tuesday, Sept. 23, at 9 a.m., Gerald Palmer, vice president of Caterpillar Inc.’s Wheel Loaders and Excavators Div., will lead off the expo with his presentation “Six Sigma Is About Success.”

By implementing Six Sigma, Caterpillar has achieved breakthroughs in quality and financial performance. In his keynote, Palmer will share his company’s success with its implementation of design for Six Sigma. Caterpillar uses the Six Sigma set of strategies, statistics and methods in everything from manufacturing to marketing.

On Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 9 a.m., attendees will have the unique opportunity to listen to F-15 fighter pilots discuss “Afterburner: Flawless Execution.”

This presentation will address how fighter pilots operate in a combat environment using the Flawless Execution model—and how to apply those tactics to your daily challenges. Rare cockpit footage and state-of-the-art computer graphics will make for an unforgettable and exciting presentation.

On Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m., Yasuo Tanigawa, vice president of production engineering at Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America, will deliver the final keynote. Tanigawa will discuss how Toyota approaches the challenges in planning new process layouts and equipment specifications within the Toyota Production System. He will also address the flexibility that is required to work successfully in a lean environment.

Free Special Events

Tuesday, Sept. 23, is filled with free special events. From 10 to 11 a.m., Eric Miscoll, senior consultant and COO of Technology Forecasters Inc., will discuss “Outsourcing Strategies for OEMs.” Attendees will learn how to avoid the five most common outsourcing pitfalls. Attendees will also receive direct help in optimizing outsourcing strategies for today’s assembly challenges.

Miscoll will again speak from 1 to 2 p.m. about the “Global Pricing Model of the Electronics Manufacturing Services Industry.” Technology Forecasters has developed a model for assisting original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to understand what they should by paying for contract manufacturing in dozens of countries around the world.

Miscoll will reveal why most OEMs lack accurate and detailed total pricing information for choosing global locations for design, manufacturing, procurement, assembly, test, and after-sale services.

Later on Tuesday, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., is the Networking Reception. Mimicking the ever-popular “Taste of Chicago,” the reception follows suit with “The Taste of Rosemont,” featuring complimentary hors d’oeuvres and beverages from area restaurants. This annual event is the perfect opportunity for attendees to unwind and expand their circle of industry contacts.

On Wednesday, Sept. 24, from 10 to 11 a.m., Dan Dooley, Jim Ross, Bob Wanat and Bob Morris of Morris Anderson & Associates will present “Spotting a Troubled Situation: Reducing Underperformance.” This presentation will provide practical tools that will help companies see the financial and operational warning signs of underperformance. Attendees will leave the session with a plan that could improve their company’s bottom line.

For the second consecutive year, ASSEMBLY magazine will host a panel discussion. This year’s discussion, to be held on Wednesday, Sept. 24, from 2 to 4 p.m., will focus on fuel cell manufacturing challenges and opportunities. Austin Weber, senior editor at ASSEMBLY magazine, will moderate the event.

Fuel cell production is predicted to grow at rates exceeding 40 percent per year over the next decade. The market for these trend-setting devices is expected to reach $20 billion by 2010. As a result, hundreds of manufacturers and suppliers are investing millions of dollars in fuel cell development.

The panel discussion will focus on the mass production issues that need to be addressed before fuel cells become cost-effective for transportation and stationary applications. The following topics will be discussed by a group of leading experts: design challenges, materials, joining processes and controls.

Expo Sights and Sounds

After listening to the mornings’ opening presentations, attendees can wander through the 200,000 square feet of exhibit space. The expo, which opens at 10 a.m. each day, provides a great opportunity to discover and learn more about the newest and most advanced equipment, tools and software.

The potential of discovering existing or new products can make a substantial impact on streamlining costs and production time. Exhibitors provide assembly solutions for such industries as automotive; industrial equipment; computers and peripherals; household appliances; motors and generators; aeronautical and aerospace; medical equipment and devices; fiber optic components; and telecommunications.

Along with the exhibits, the expo will host three pavilions and two working assembly lines.

Technology Pavilions

Dedicated technology pavilions make it easier for attendees to locate the specific products and suppliers they want to see.

The Electronics Assembly Pavilion is the largest electronics manufacturing showcase in the Midwest. It features more than 200 suppliers that can provide access to innovative solutions for every stage of the manufacturing process.

As part of the electronics pavilion, the EASi Line, coordinated by Electronics Manufacturing Solutions Inc., allows visitors to see a working assembly line. This year, a memory game will be assembled using the latest in state-of-the-art equipment. The game will feature double-sided surface mount technology and a programmed microcontroller. The line will incorporate typical equipment in the areas of board handling and transport, stencil printing, adhesive application, component pick and place, reflow, wave solder, test and inspection, robotic point-to-point soldering, packaging, and factory modeling and simulation.

The Robotics Pavilion houses state-of-the-art robotics and machine vision products.

The Wire Harness Pavilion, supported by the Wire Harness Manufacturers Association (WHMA), will feature new products and services for electronic cable assemblies, cord sets, wiring harnesses and other products within the wire processing industry.

Like the EASi Line, the Wire Processing Assembly Line is a live demonstration of new products for automatically cutting and stripping diverse sizes of wires and cables rapidly. It includes equipment for creating a drawing from a prototype and quick-change tool techniques.

Continuing Education

Improvements in processes and innovative assembly techniques never stop, so why should learning? And in today’s manufacturing environment, it is essential that each employee possesses the knowledge and skills required to perform his or her job effectively. And there is no place better than ATExpo to obtain the necessary knowledge to meet these ever-changing needs.

The conference program offers cutting-edge educational sessions for every level of employee. Sponsored by such organizations as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Adhesive and Sealant Council, Edison Welding Institute, WHMA and the American Production and Inventory Control Society, these sessions are taught by leading manufacturing experts.

Five tracks are available at the conference: automated assembly, lean manufacturing, manufacturing management, materials joining and wire processing. Attendees can create their own curriculum from a broad range of technical sessions or update skills in full-day workshops.

A First-Hand Look

To complement Gerald Palmer’s keynote presentation, on Thursday, Sept. 25, a morning tour (8:30 to 11:30 a.m.) and afternoon tour (1 to 4 p.m.) will take participants to the Caterpillar facility in Aurora, IL. While there, participants will see how the company’s use of Six Sigma discipline leverages its entire value chain to achieve growth, cost reduction and quality improvement targets.

Throughout the guided tour, visitors will observe the manufacturing, assembly, test and painting of Caterpillar’s wheel loaders and hydraulic excavators.

Availability is limited to 40 persons per tour, and advanced registration is required. The cost is $125.

More information about ATExpo 2003 can be found by calling 888-267-3796 or ATExpo is also offering an early-bird special. By registering before Sept. 19, attendees can receive a free exhibits admission badge in the mail prior to the show. After Sept. 19 and on-site, the registration fee is $45. Registration opens daily at 7:30 a.m.