This article is being written in the departure lounge of Hamburg Airport, waiting for a flight back to the UK. The third running of 3DMC has drawn to a successful close, and a hundred metrologists are tonight redistributing themselves around the globe to return to their day jobs. Tomorrow will inevitably be spent discussing the event with colleagues, while sifting through newly-acquired business cards to follow up on half-finished conversations.
There are many reasons to attend conferences: a chance to build our networks, to learn about new systems and new applications of metrology, to push forward the academic cutting-edge of the field, or to build an awareness of the products and services that are on offer to the industry. These are just a few of the obvious ones.
Autumn is a busy season for conferences and trade shows relevant to our industry, and pressures of time and money force attendees to be selective – only going to events that can genuinely serve our needs. For INSPHERE, the mix and quality of material being presented is a key factor in deciding where to go, as is the expected delegate list – we all know it is the conversations that make these events come to life, and that is where the true value lies.
Manufacturing is changing, and with new applications come new instruments, software and sensors to meet those challenges. The pace of change remains rapid and there is no real match for seeing these things up close and personal to get an idea of their capabilities. Seeing equipment demonstrations from vendors is undoubtedly valuable, but at recent events there has perhaps been a lower attendance for industrial metrology users – the potential customers who will decide what equipment to buy for their applications. Too many sellers and not enough buyers is obviously unhealthy; there is a risk that vendors will not see a payback for placing stands at conferences, which would make entire shows difficult to finance. There is a view that attendance for a vendor is no longer a big opportunity to sell equipment, but more of a necessary way of showing that business is good generally – that is, a way to avoid the whispers of “why isn’t such-and-such a company here this week?” If conferences can find ways of attracting more of the right industrial representatives, it seems this problem could be overcome.
As a profession, we do not spend enough time talking to one another, debating good and bad practices and weighing up new theories and ideas. There is no better place to network than at a conference, and 3DMC this week has been an excellent example of the friendly collegiate atmosphere of metrology. Conference organisers appear to go way beyond the call of duty, propping up the conference bar with a veritable “last man standing” sense of duty!
It is staggering to think of the amount of work that goes into making an event a success, including the organising committee, the vendors’ stand preparations, the research-focused presentations, and of course the detailed logistic and administrative planning that goes into making everything look simple.
For new researchers and those of any age who have stumbled into metrology (i.e. most of us!) it is often at the first big event that things start to click and we get a clearer understanding of the scope and purpose of our specialism. With that in mind, those longer in the tooth should always remember to champion our work and inspire others with what can be achieved. There is clearly a “speed-dating” element to conference season too – we face a real skills-shortage in our niche, and a conference is the perfect place to build a network – whether seeking new researchers, new distributors, or even a new employer.
It is obviously a cliché, but like so many things in life, you get out only what you put in, and that is so true of these major networking events. For INSPHERE, maintaining close links throughout industry is critical to our success, but surely that is true for all companies. On that note, I’d like to say a word of thanks to all of the organisers with the determination to keep these events afloat, and to each of us who, in whatever way, contribute to their ongoing success.
Craig Davey, INSPHERE’s Chief Operating Officer.