Over the years, I've attended and taken part in what is now probably over a hundred vendor conferences, events and road shows. But one that will go down as the most memorable was MFG.com's Fusion road show this fall which swung through Los Angeles, Detroit, Boston, Chicago and Columbus. In each city, anywhere from thirty to over a hundred folks showed up. But here's what was so cool about it -- there was no "typical" attendee (and the number of IT types was virtually nil).
Usually at each stop on the tour, there were at least one or two more senior executives from larger organizations that attended. But there were far more manager and director types as well on the buy-side as well, not to mention numerous inventors and entrepreneurs looking for the most cost effective ways to bring their creations to life -- from prototyping to production. And the supply side was equally as diverse and included everyone from tiny job shops and trading companies to a handful of larger organizations more typical of the manufacturing middle market.
Speaking after my wife, Lisa Reisman, also made for an interesting experience. It helps having a spouse who is not only a financial partner, but someone whose business opinions and judgment are quite astute -- which coming from me is strong praise. Collectively, from our discussions and conversations, we were able to make a number of observations as the events went from city to city.
In the final Fusion event last week in LA, perhaps the most insightful observations we gleamed from the audience were the number of folks who were moving spend back from China because of savings erosion or other factors. Back in June and July just as the changes in the VAT rebate were becoming apparent, Lisa and I had collectively called this trend before many others caught onto it. And it felt good to see our predictions so quickly become true (quite often pundits get things wrong more than they get them right, and we're no exception).
Outside of the whole China sourcing issue, we also noted in our conversations the great variation of sophistication in the audiences when it came to such factor as total cost modeling, technology adoption and regional vs. global outlooks. Consider how at one event, practically no one on who attended the buy-side track had any interest or experience with global sourcing while in another nearly everyone had some experience on the China and Asian sourcing front. This type of diversity of perspective and experience speaks the differing levels of sophistication and experience within the procurement function in manufacturing -- for companies of all sizes. But above all, one observation stood out. And that's for the small and middle market manufacturers that attended the MFG.com road show, spend clearly matters more than it used to. And they're looking for ways to upgrade their technology, teams and processes.