Editorial:'Index'-ing Current News

July 1, 2004
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Dow Jones. Nasdaq. Producers' Price Index. Many of us have followed these indices, and others, to determine whether manufacturing would rebound.

Dow Jones. Nasdaq. Producers' Price Index. Consumers' Price Index. Durable goods orders. Machine tool orders. Many of us have followed these indices, and others, to determine whether manufacturing would rebound. I used these indices as you did, however, I also had my eye on another measure of manufacturing's health.

I call my index, the TSA Index. No, it's not related to those folks who screen luggage at airports; TSA in this context is "Trade Show Activity." This index is multi-tiered. It measures how many people actually come to the show-many sign up for a show but don't attend. Second, it measures the caliber of trade show attendees. Are they in a position to purchase equipment? It's great to offer students an opportunity to see the industry tools they may some day buy (Note to exhibitors: Remember, before you chase them out of your booth, that today's students are tomorrow's buyers), but when a show has low attendance, not having real buyers upsets exhibitors.

Third, my TSA Index measures what attendees do at the show. Do they bring parts or drawings? Do they ask for quotes or talk about specific projects? Or, do they just collect the freebies given out at booths and keep their badges when you try to scan them for leads? Finally, my index measures what attendees do when they leave the show. Do they buy? This last factor tends to require a longer period of time to gather data.

Recent attendance and activity at the Control Show (Sinsheim, Germany, May 11-14) and Quality Expo Detroit (Novi, MI, June 9-10) seem to prove the validity of the TSA Index as a measure of a recovering economy, at least as well as the other indices. The recovery is underway.

At Control, which draws primarily German manufacturers, more than 950 companies focusing on quality were kept busy by attendees whose numbers I have not seen at a U.S. trade show in 10 years. Suppliers were in lengthy discussions with attendees who had drawings, parts and projects. The first three parts of my TSA Index were in positive evidence.

Quality Expo Detroit was similar. Those who were in a position to buy equipment showed up in exceptional numbers. They had drawings, parts and projects. My colleagues and I were hard pressed to find an unhappy exhibitor among the more than 250 that were there.

These two trade shows are only the most recent signs of a bettering economy, using the TSA Index, that I trace back to September 2003 and the Midwest Machine Tool Show in Novi, MI. However, despite all the good news, and my confidence in the TSA Index, there is one element of the multi-tier system that needs more satisfaction. What is happening once the attendee leaves the show? Are purchases being made based on the information gathered at the show? Some casual conversations have led me to believe the answer to that question is "yes," but I want more information to see whether the TSA Index is holding up.

So, here is my request. If you have attended, or exhibited at, a trade show within the past 9 months and have purchased or sold quality-related equipment, software or services, in part, because of your attendance at that show, let me know. Send your experiences at trade shows and contribute to the TSA Index by writing me at williamst@bnpmedia.com.

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