CHICAGO — Severe thunderstorms — and tornados — that hit Illinois the day before opening weren’t enough to affect attendance at Fabtech, as the show set records.

According to organizers, the Nov. 18-21, 2013, metal forming and fabrication event at McCormick Place convention center drew 40,667 people and 1,573 exhibitors. They filled up 650,000 square feet of trade show exhibit space.


It was great news to John Catalano, one of the show’s managers.

“While breaking our own records is impressive, most important were the reports we received from attendees and exhibitors,” said John Catalano, Fabtech show co-manager. “Attendees were impressed with the record size and scope of the show and the number of new products and innovative technologies on display. Exhibitors were enthusiastic and report that sales activity was brisk and leads were plentiful.”

Giving back

Although it didn’t affect the number of people who turned out for the show, Fabtech officials decided to raise money for the storm’s victims. The five Fabtech sponsors — SME, the American Welding Society, Fabricators and Manufacturers  Association International, Precision Metalforming Association and the Chemical Coaters Association International — along with attendees and exhibitors, raised more than $15,000, which was given to the American Red Cross to be distributed to the communities and residents affected by the storms.

“We send our condolences to the residents of Illinois, our host state for Fabtech 2013, and we know that many are struggling to recover from the physical and economic damage caused by these storms that hit on a setup day for the show,” Catalano said. “Some of our exhibitors and attendees were directly impacted by this tragedy, and we wanted to show our support. We are continuing to collect donations at cares and encourage the manufacturing community to contribute.”

As in prior years, show officials booked a number of educational seminars to fill time away from the show floor. One of the better-attended ones was a Nov. 18 session focusing on sustainable manufacturing in the 21st century. Presenters William Stough of the Sustainable Research Group and Charles Gerhardt of UL Labs — formerly Underwriters Laboratories — gave a presentation on how to respond to customer surveys on “green” issues.

Staying ‘green’

Customers really do care about sustainability issues, the men said. Green technology is driving the U.S. economy. It’s no longer a fad. The marketplace is full of green certification programs such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design administered by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The government’s General Services Administration now mandates LEED certification in its projects, Stough pointed out. The Obama administration is attempting to have 95 percent of its purchases be considered “sustainable.”

That represents an opportunity, Stough said.

“If you’re selling at all to the federal government and more and more to the state or local governments … it’s really driving the marketplace much faster than many people thought it would,” he said.

Many retailers are also looking to increase their green offerings and habits, Stough added. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has been aggressive in its sustainability efforts, which is forcing many of the discount retailer’s suppliers to change their operations.

“You have to remember, they’re selling a lot of products to governments, too,” he said.

UL Labs’ Gerhardt agreed. He urged attendees to have their companies undertake a full evaluation of its sustainability practices.

“You need to look in every nook and cranny and see where you are sourcing your products from,” Gerhardt said. “Everybody is looking for green products. Get your act together.”

This year’s Fabtech is scheduled for Nov. 11-13 in Atlanta.

For reprints of this article, contact Renee Schuett at (248) 786-1661 or email