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Editor's Pick: FABTECH

Lincoln Electric is our Editor's Pick from last week's FABTECH show, as the welding technology and solutions supplier's giant expo booth showed off not only the company's extensive capabilities, but a great outlook for the future of the welding industry.

*IMPO's Editor's Pick series involves one of our IMPO editors unsolicitedly discussing their favorite exhibitor booth/s, educational session/s or other takeaways from a recent industry event.

The annual FABTECH show was Nov. 6-9 in Chicago, held at the cavernous McCormick Place downtown. As North America's largest metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing event, FABTECH hosted more than 1,700 exhibiting companies and a total of 44,935 attendees from 120 countries across McCormick's 750,000 square feet of exhibition space.

I had other travel later in the week, so, unfortunately, I was only able to there on the event's first day, which typically has the highest attendance. Because of that, I had time to see only a limited amount of the total show floor. I can only walk so fast. So, I fully acknowledge that this event's Editor's Pick is based on a smallish sample size.

Nevertheless, what I walked out of FABTECH that day most impressed by was Lincoln Electric. As one of the world's foremost suppliers of welding equipment, supplies and expertise, FABTECH is essentially Lincoln's super bowl. They ought to have a huge presence there, and that they did. The company's booth space took up a considerable amount of one of McCormick's halls, essentially seemingly like an expo within an expo.

Here's a look at just some of Lincoln Electric's booth space at FABTECH:

What impressed me about the company's booths wasn't the products, for the most part. There were literally hundreds of other FABTECH exhibitors showing off their own top-quality welding products. What set Lincoln Electric apart was its wealth of knowledge and total solutions offerings, and that's where its scale truly shows an advantage in the market.

I was given a booth tour of Lincoln's entire booth space, which included: a station where YouTube welding stars crafted cool pieces β€” such as a stool in the shape of a hand grenade; a product showcase room for distributors; an automation section that showed the company's involvement in the history of welding automation, a virtual reality welding training station and much more.

Here's a video of that virtual reality station:

In a time when industrial manufacturers are facing a major challenge of recruiting new, young talent to replace retiring employees with a ton of experience, everything about Lincoln Electric's FABTECH booth truly made welding look cool and an attractive job field. And the company is certainly doing its part to address the well-documented impending skills gap in manufacturing. Last week, Lincoln Electric announced that its new Welding Technology & Training Center in Euclid, OH will open its campus for class on Jan. 8. I thought the company's FABTECH booth education section provided a great preview of some of what students can expect to see at the training center.

On a broader scale, Lincoln Electric's booth β€” as well as FABTECH overall β€” further boosted my faith in the future of welding jobs. Obviously, automation has changed the way welding and all facets of industrial manufacturing are done. But at Lincoln's booth, I got to see first-hand that while automation may replace some jobs, it hasn't replaced the amount of human work being done. That human work is now redistributed to employees operating automation equipment. Today's welding students are learning how to operate welding robotics, program machinery and software and how to decipher analytical data gathered from them to maximize the efficiency and quality of every weld.

It's certainly a new age of welding, but the importance of the people behind it has not diminished. And Lincoln Electric's FABTECH booth exemplified that.

FABTECH 2018 will be Nov. 6-8 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA.