In planning my travel for April, I realized how important this month is for manufacturing and quality professionals. It's spring and "quality" is in the air. This month brings three major trade shows that are key quality events.

Westec returns to Los Angeles April 4 to 7.

While this show has machining and metalworking as its primary focus, many measurement, test and inspection equipment, software and service suppliers will be there. Despite what any machine builder might claim, you can't build parts without verifying them and so quality will play a highly visible role at this event.

But my work on the road really gets going the last two weeks of April with Quality Expo 2005 in Rosemont, IL, and Control in Sinsheim, Germany. From April 19 to 21, more than 5,000 manufacturing professionals will descend on the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center for Quality Expo 2005 and check out the latest in quality technology, techniques and services. Readers can find a sneak peek of those offerings starting on p. 42 of this issue. Then, one week later, manufacturing professionals will gather in Europe for what is by far the largest quality-related show in that part of the world-Control, which runs April 26 to 29. I look forward to seeing what European innovations will make their way to the United States and vice versa.

Many manufacturers and suppliers might question the effectiveness of trade shows in influencing purchasing decisions. However, trade shows have proven to be one of the best places to see advances in technology and applications. And, I expect to see a positive atmosphere at all these events. Why?

These shows are expected to build from their successes from 2004 when visitors bought products off the show floor-something we haven't seen happen in many years. Outside research also points to a continued positive trend in manufacturing.

According to the AMT and the AMTDA, machine-tool consumption increased 43.6% during 2004, compared to 2003. According to Metalworking Insiders' Report, U.S. durable goods manufacturers boosted their machine-tool installations 26% during 2004. The U.S. Commerce Dept. attributed the stronger-than-anticipated 3.8% growth rate experienced during the final quarter of 2004 to more robust spending on capital equipment.

Long-time industry analysts will tell you that any time machine-tool consumption increases, other capital equipment sectors, including measurement, test and inspection equipment, are positively affected. Our 2005 Quality Spending Survey supports this correlation. As pointed out in the December 2004 issue of Quality magazine, spending on quality-related technology, software and services is expected to increase 8% from 2004 spending levels. Westec, Quality Expo 2005 and Control should prove to be a positive testament to all of these reports.

For those with budgets to spend on quality equipment, software and services, it's time to become, or continue to be, a part of this expanding and exciting economy. These shows are some of the best places to meet your quality needs.

I am keeping my suitcase packed and by the door, ready for all of these key shows.

I encourage you to do likewise.