Editor's note: Gov. Henry McMaster will no longer be speaking at the conference. The story has been updated.
More exhibitors, more speakers, more opportunities. Organizers of the state’s largest manufacturing conference say to expect more when this year’s conference begins at Greenville’s TD Convention Center on Tuesday.
The 2018 S.C. Manufacturing Conference and Expo is produced by GSA Business Report and the S.C. Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The event will include insight from industry leaders and a chance for exhibitors to find out how to fill the needs of 16 top original equipment manufacturers in the state.
The conference also includes the annual Salute to Manufacturing Awards and the largest collection of exhibitors in conference history.
“Since its inception in 2015, we’ve referred to this conference as the most significant manufacturing event in South Carolina, maybe even in the Southeast,” said GSA Business Report Publisher Rick Jenkins, conference director. “And this year’s conference will certainly do nothing to damage that designation.
“We are proud to partner with our colleagues at SCMEP — the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership — to produce our third manufacturing conference. And this time, it will be bigger than ever,” he said.
The conference and expo will take up the entire main hall of the only convention center in the state large enough to accommodate it, with more than 250 exhibitors filling a space larger than four football fields.
After an invitation-only reception for vendors today, the conference kicks off officially Tuesday morning with a Workforce Development Breakfast and closes Sept. 12 with the annual Salute to Manufacturing Awards Luncheon.
Fourteen short courses are associated with the conference and expo, most of them taught by SCMEP representatives. Topics include cybersecurity, Kanban, Lean logistics, advanced robotics and effective marketing for manufacturers.
“We challenged ourselves to provide attendees with more to do and see than ever before. We succeeded,” Jenkins said. “In addition to more than a dozen workshops, we are offering panel discussions, insight from industry leaders, a speech from the state’s top elected official and something new that we’re really excited about — a B2B matchmaking event.”
Sixteen of the state’s OEMs and first-tier suppliers will be on hand through most of the day Tuesday to give exhibitors an opportunity to meet and talk. They will answer questions and give exhibitors a chance to pitch their wares in a fast-paced meet-and-greet format. OEMs committed to the B2B Matchmaking Event include AFL, BlueCross BlueShield, BMW Manufacturing, Continental Automatic Systems, DAA Draexlmaier, Flex, Giti Tire, Honda of SC, Jtekt/Koyo Bearings, Komatsu, Michelin, MTU America, Proterra, PurePower Technologies, Robert Bosch and Sonoco.
“Someone who takes full advantage of this could get a year’s worth of quality networking done in a few hours,” Jenkins said.
The panel discussions include a keynote address from Megan Pollock, vice president of communications for Samsung Electronics America. She will speak at the Workforce Development Breakfast with a follow-up panel discussion that includes panelists Jody Gallagher of AFL Global, Steve Townes of Ranger Aerospace, Rick Eitel of Duer/Carolina Coil and Joerg Klisch of MTU America Inc. That discussion will be moderated by Cheryl Stanton, executive director of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.
Suzanne Dickerson, director of logistics initiatives for the S.C. Council on Competitiveness, will moderate a panel called “Exceptional Executives: Women Who Are Leading the Way.” That event, at 9 a.m. Wednesday, includes panelists Lou Kennedy of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp., Pamela Evette of Quality Business Solutions, Sherry McCraw of BMW Manufacturing and Paige Simpson of Itron Inc.
Thomas Makosch, director of IoT for the Americas for Bosch Group, will be the keynote speaker for the awards luncheon, when 25 S.C. manufacturers are honored in 10 categories.