Attendees seeking technical information and state-of-the-art solutions will find them at Assembly Technology Expo 2002.

According to BusinessWeek magazine, capital spending looks like it is starting to rejoin the economic recovery. For months, capital spending was limited by many problems, including the tech bust, a profits recession and overcapacity. Add in never-ending Middle East troubles, rising oil prices and a constant terrorism threat, and it’s easy to see why corporations haven’t been shelling out the big bucks for new assembly systems.

Though the signs are small, it looks like purse strings are starting to relax. Key areas of business-equipment investment, especially high-tech equipment, posted modest gains in the first quarter of 2002 for the first time in more than a year. Those gains continued in April, according to the latest report.

Don’t get too excited though. Capital spending is not expected to see a repeat of the late 1990s, which were boom years. For one thing, the telecommunication industry remains awash in excess capacity. Business construction is in a steep downturn and will be hampered by high office-vacancy rates and low factory-operating rates. However, equipment investment is four Arial larger than construction outlays, and it is here where the turnaround is most evident. Total durable goods orders increased 1.1 percent in April.

This is good news for assembly professionals who will gather on Sept. 23 to 26 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL. Following the horrifying events of Sept. 11, 2001, ATExpo attendees could use some good news. Despite last year’s tragic events, more than 12,000 assembly professionals attended, browsing the exhibits and searching for suppliers and solutions to help reduce assembly costs and improve quality and productivity.

This year, ATExpo 2002 attendees will again have the opportunity to view more than 700 exhibits. ATExpo is always evolving, and visitors can expect to find much that is new and informative at this year’s expo and conference. The conference program (Sept. 23 to 26) has scores of technical sessions. And hundreds of new products will be on display at the expo (Sept. 24 to 26). A New Addition On Wednesday, Sept. 25, from 1 to 3 p.m., a panel of industry leaders will discuss lean manufacturing.

To become more profitable, many companies are turning to lean manufacturing. Lean manufacturing comes from the Toyota Production System. The ultimate goal of the system is to produce quality products by reducing costs and empowering employees.

The discussion group will allow executives from six noncompeting manufacturers—Boeing, John Deere, Freudenberg, Rockwell Collins, Ross Controls and Toyota—to discuss the challenges and issues involved in setting up and managing a lean production environment. Panelists will explore the pros and cons of lean manufacturing, share success stories, implementation tips and lessons learned.

Topics will include:

  • Communicating lean manufacturing principles upstream and downstream.
  • Matching the pace of production to customer demand.
  • Getting operators to buy into the lean manufacturing concept.
  • How to avoid buying more machine capacity than needed.
  • Accounting practices for lean manufacturing—what works and what doesn’t.
  • Right sizing vs. balancing the line.
Leading Off the Expo Gerald Elson—vice president of General Motors Corp. and general manager of vehicle operations—will open ATExpo 2002 on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 9 a.m. His keynote address is entitled "Emerging Technologies in Automotive Manufacturing."

Elson began his career at General Motors as a design engineer, and has served as an assembly engineer, plant manager and executive director of advanced manufacturing engineering, as well as many other senior management positions with the company. He is currently responsible for manufacturing engineering, manufacturing engineering services, project management and worldwide facilities.

On Wednesday, Sept. 25, at 9 a.m., Anne Stevens—vice president of North America vehicle operations for the Ford Motor Co.—opens the show’s second day with her keynote address "Technology as an Enabler for People and Quality." Stevens is responsible for overseeing the operations of eight stamping and tool and die plants, as well as 21 assembly plants in Canada, Mexico and the United States. She joined Ford as a marketing specialist, and has served in various positions, including manufacturing manager for Ford Automotive Components Div.’s plastic and trim products operations. She later became Ford’s first female plant manager in Europe and director of the manufacturing business office for Ford in North America. What to Expect 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, services, adhesives, fasteners 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 two pavilions and two working assembly lines. Pavilions and Assembly Lines If you think robots are the stuff of movies, think again. Right now, robots are on the move. They are painting cars at Ford plants, assembling Milano cookies for Pepperidge Farms, walking into live volcanoes, driving trains in Paris and defusing bombs in Northern Ireland. As they grow tougher, nimbler and smarter, today’s robots are doing more things humans can’t or don’t want to do. And the best place to see robots up close and in action is the robotics pavilion.

The robotics pavilion at ATExpo has become one of the show’s most popular highlights. This is where you’ll find state-of-the-art robotics technology and vision inspection equipment for today’s assembly processes, and for the future.

The electronics assembly pavilion is the largest electronics assembly show in the Midwest. It opens 1 hour before the general assembly halls and features the ever-popular Electronics Assembly Suppliers’ Initiative (EASI) line.

The EASI line is a fully conveyorized manufacturing line that demonstrates how assembly technologies can be linked to increase productivity and efficiency. The line incorporates stencil print, pick and place, reflow, adhesive dispensing, adhesive cure, wave solder, test and inspection, point-to-point solder and robotic packaging processes. And each year, to demonstrate the equipment being used, a fully operational product is produced. This year, the EASI line will produce a Tic-Tac-Toe game for visitors who stop by.

The Wiring Harness Manufacturers Association (WHMA) will again feature a working wire harness manufacturing line. Visitors can choose which harness type they want by scanning its bar code label. By following wire harnesses through their several production stages, visitors can watch as the correct wires are automatically measured, cut, stripped and terminated. Visitors have the option of assembling the harnesses themselves on the guided assembly stations, or they can leave it up to an expert. Either way, once the harnesses are completed and tested, they can be registered for a chance to win a prize. Education Is a Must State-of-the-art assembly changes, increasing global competition, changing workforce expectations, and growing governmental regulations present ongoing challenges to today’s manufacturing workforce. Versatile and highly skilled employees are needed if these challenges are to be met. It is essential that each employee possesses the knowledge and skills required to perform his or her current job effectively and to support the future needs of the employer. 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. These sessions are sponsored by such organizations as the Society for Manufacturing Engineers, Adhesive and Sealant Council, Edison Welding Institute, WHMA and the American Production and Inventory Control Society, and 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.

The Surface Mount Technology Association (SMTA) is also co-locating with the show. The SMTA International Conference features 15 new courses, and 36 courses and workshops on such technologies as optoelectronics, high-density interconnections, flip chip, 0201 assembly, ball grid arrays, chip scale packaging, automatic optical inspection, lean manufacturing, automotive electronics, surface mount technology and microelectromechanical systems.

More information about ATExpo 2002 can be found by calling 888-267-3796 or ATExpo is also offering an early-bird special. By registering before Sept. 13, attendees can receive a free exhibits admission badge in the mail prior to the show. After Sept. 13 and on-site, the registration fee is $35. Registration opens daily at 7:30 a.m.