Like many of you, I survived a whirlwind week at IMTS 2010 (The International Manufacturing Technology Show) where I saw a lot of new products and a lot of smiling faces. Keep an eye out for some of those smiling faces and new products in the coming weeks on Quality’s QTube page at

Attendees totaling 82,411 from more than 100 countries came to Chicago’s McCormick Place last month to see and buy the equipment, tooling and services they’ll need to maintain the competitive edge to compete in their area of manufacturing.

Unlike many trade shows of the past few years, it seemed everyone attending IMTS was happy. Exhibitors were happy with the foot traffic in their booth, and they were happy with the number of people coming in with actual parts in which they could provide the solutions. Attendees were happy to be able to roam freely among all of the latest gadgets and gizmos knowing they finally have the ability to spend a few dollars. The good news doesn’t end there.

In a time that is typically slow in manufacturing, some of the companies I talked to report their best sales numbers in quite a few years occurred during the summer months. One company is doing so well that they’re looking to double the number of manufacturing employees and then double that number.

At the show it was quite evident that people are no longer looking for equipment, software or services. They’re looking for solutions. And the company that can provide the best solution wins the customer.

Given the current economic climate, many companies are finding it difficult to be solutions providers.

In his Face of Quality column this month, Jim Smith takes a look at how one manufacturing company is taking advantage of the downturn in the economy not by laying off employees but rather by ramping up their employees in two ways.

Training and skills development of their employees so that when conditions improve, it will have a better trained and more capable workforce in its operations.

Assigning multidiscipline teams of employees, including their factory floor specialists, to work on quality and efficiency problems. Priority was given to field quality problems in order to improve customer satisfaction and reduce external failure costs due to warranty issues.

Jim’s column addresses what only one company is doing to make sure they are a solutions provider, but there are a variety of ways to be part of the solution.

As the tide begins to turn, are you ready to provide your customers with the solutions they need? What is your company doing to make sure it is ready when the customers come knocking? Share your thoughts with me at[email protected], with other members of the Quality community at theQuality Magazine LinkedIn Group page, thethe Quality Facebook pageand onTwitter .