Even as we continue to grapple with the ongoing challenges imposed by COVID-19 and the pandemic, business and industries continue to move forward. Things are starting to, hesitantly, open back up. This means opportunities as companies navigate a changed market and deal with supply chain disruption and labor shortages.
The GO2 team recently attended the 2021 AISTech Show in Nashville, TN. AISTech is the Iron and Steel Technology Conference, and the show features technologies and suppliers for the steel and metals industry. The goal of the conference is to help companies work and manufacture more efficiently and effectively.
The 2021 AISTech Show
With the pandemic, the 2020 show was cancelled, so this was an opportunity for many to meet face-to-face with industry contacts, suppliers, partner companies and customers for the first time in many months.
Here are a few insights from the show:
Attendance Still Down
According to the event leaders, attendance was only 50% of what it was before COVID. Much of this could be attributed to the international travel restrictions and continued apprehension to in-person events. Many companies have been slow to get back to normal, or even find what normal might look like in the future. For now, it seems like some companies are ready to get back to face-to-face meetings, but for others, virtual events and teleconferences provide them all that they need. While planning has started for the 2022 show, there are still questions about how event participation will be handled in the future.
Even with the lower attendance, the show was extremely productive. Attendees were very focused on finding solutions to the problems facing their business. They were ready to learn and look at new solutions. People were there to listen and network. After a long separation from their peers, attendees were ready to connect. RFID, and using automation in production tracking, was one area where industry leaders showed a lot of interest. Many came to the show looking to replace old, outdated or inefficient machines and systems. Improvement projects that were put on hold during the lockdowns were now a high priority.
Even as there is a push to get back to normal, there are still headwinds and challenges facing manufacturers. The labor shortage is one such challenge. Even as product demand is high and growing, finding enough labor to meet the demand is a struggle. Automotive is one area that is driving the increased demand. The strategies, processes and challenges around getting back to work safely and productively are another area where manufacturers and industry companies are looking for help.
As with any show, there were the trends, questions and comments that took the team by surprise. One area that is seeing more interest in the steel and metals industry is sustainability. Several attendees asked about reaching zero carbon footprint in the future. The United States is already the world leader in clean steel production. This interest only shows that the industry will continue to push what is possible with sustainability and technology in the future.
Looking to the Future: Key Takeaways from the 2021 AISTech Show
While everyone on the GO2 team left the show excited for the future, there were other takeaways.
- The steel and metals industry is growing, and the demand for product from steelmakers is increasing. As the automotive industry ramps up production to keep up with demand, and infrastructure capital improvement projects roll out across the country, manufacturers will be called upon to meet that demand.
- While many companies are excited to get back to normal, no one is sure what normal will look like. Despite our best intentions, COVID-19 continues to be a risk. Companies across the country have taken their own approach to getting back to work. As of now, when approaching work and events, it’s wise to review the risk factors and expectations a business will have on a case-by-case basis and adjust accordingly.
- Now more than ever, steel and metal manufacturers are looking to technology for solutions to the challenges they face. RFID for production tracking is one area companies are exploring. Sustainability and technology to reach zero carbon emissions is another area. Manufacturers are ready to collaborate, listen and learn as new technologies and systems are introduced.