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A First-timers Take on MD&M West

A First-timers Take on MD&M West

From artificial intelligence to the metaverse, MD&M West has it all.

I attended my first MD&M West trade show this week. I didn’t know what to expect. Have trade shows bounced back from the pandemic? What was the attendance going to be like? Were companies traveling to shows like they did in the past? Are trade shows still a viable marketing tool? 

I hopped on a plane early Monday morning to learn more about the latest trends in the medical design and manufacturing industry and visit some clients that were exhibiting at the show. I left Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and flew into John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California. So long, snow banks. Hello, palm trees. 

I met up with my friend and medical industry marketing pro Jessica Boden to take in the show. A big thank you to Motion Dynamics for hooking us up with passes.  

Here’s my recap.

What is MD&M

To avoid a blog full of acronym soup, I’ll start out with a definition of MD&M:

Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) is a term used to describe the process of designing and manufacturing medical products and devices such as implants, prosthetics, surgical instruments, and drug delivery systems. The process involves a combination of advanced engineering, material science, and manufacturing processes. MD&M involves a multidisciplinary approach and the collaboration of engineers, designers, and medical professionals to create safe and effective medical products.

About MD&M West


MD&M West is an annual trade show that takes place in Anaheim, California, that brings together engineering, design, and manufacturing professionals from the medical device industry. It’s actually five trade shows in one that covers an array of manufacturing, design, and engineering topics, including WestPack (packaging and logistics), ATX West (automation), D&M West (design and manufacturing), and Plastec West (injection molding). The show offers attendees the opportunity to learn about the latest medical device technologies, components, and services; network with industry peers; and explore new ideas and solutions.

MD&M West has educational opportunities, workshops, networking events, and of course, exhibition space for medical design and manufacturing companies to show off their wares and drum up new business. 

The Anaheim Convention Center touts itself as the largest convention venue on the West Coast—and It didn’t disappoint. With over 1.8 million total square feet, MD&M West hosted over 1,700 exhibitors over the three-day show. The floor was jam-packed with companies displaying everything from micro springs to 3D printers. 

Three states' (Michigan, Texas, and North Carolina) and two countries' (Dominican Republic and Costa Rica) economic development agencies were present at the show, with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation having the largest booth. Score one for the home team. 

Medical Manufacturing and the Metaverse


Christopher Lafayette, an emergent technologist and the founder of Gatherverse, a global ecosystem where communities gather, discuss, document, and share human-centered approaches to the metaverse and emerging technologies, kicked off MD&M West on Tuesday with a keynote titled "Medical Technology within the Metaverse – The Fundamental Shift.” 

His presentation gave insights into the implications of the online, virtual universe, where users can interact with each other, known as the metaverse, for the medical industry. Although I am far from an emergent technologist, I wrote about what businesses need to know about the metaverse in this blog

Lafayette submitted that we’d seen more disruption in the past 36 months than in the past 36 years. He said, "What used to take generations is now taking years. Your world is getting ready to change." 

He cautioned medical companies not to invest too much now because things are evolving so fast with technologies like AI.

Lafayette predicts that in the near future, we’ll see healthcare facilities with holodecks, holochambers, and holopods where specialists from around the world will perform procedures in a virtual environment. 

Artificial Intelligence Will Transform the Medical Industry 


Brian Evergreen, Global Head of Autonomous AI Co-Innovation at Microsoft, opened up day two with his keynote about "Clearing the Digital Fog: The First Step of Autonomous Transformation."

Evergreen walked the audience through a history of scientific management, including the Dehumanization of Work, which started with a factory management system known as Taylorism that was developed in the late 19th century by Fredrick W. Taylor to increase efficiency by evaluating every step in a manufacturing process and breaking down production into specialized repetitive tasks.  

The premise of his talk was that “leaders and managers around the world have aspired and attempted to harness artificial intelligence and its adjacent technologies for the betterment of their organization and society. Despite executive buy-in, alignment of core capabilities and resources, passionate leadership, and well-designed strategies, these initiatives inevitably fail (with few, notable exceptions).”

He said, “Businesses need to forget about existing systems in order to innovate.” He related a story about a Blockbuster employee who invented a streaming service for the video rental giant 13 years before Netflix. The project was killed because it eliminated 12% of the company’s revenue—late fees. 

corrThrough the rehumanization of work, we can automate repetitive tasks and elevate workers to spend time to focus on more creative endeavors.

After hearing Evergreen speak, it’s clear that medical manufacturing companies are just scratching the surface when it comes to artificial intelligence. 

Does Booth Size Matter?


I went into MD&M West with a preconception that the bigger the booth, the more traffic it would have. In reality, I saw just as much activity at 10’ x 10’ booths as at 20’ X 40’ ones, sometimes more. 

There was no correlation between the booth size and interest in the exhibitor. What made the difference was the enthusiasm of the people working the booth. The booths where workers were high-energy and making an effort to engage passersby were by far the busiest. I observed way too many people looking down at their phones while potential customers walked by.

If I were paying tens of thousands of dollars, even six figures in some cases, to send my company to a show like MD&M West, I’d have a simple rule—no phones in the booth except to scan badges. I’d estimate 1 in 5 companies exhibiting there wasted their money because their employees were so disengaged, which was a shame.

What Marketing Works for Medical Manufacturers?


As I was walking the trade show floor, I conducted an unscientific poll about which marketing works best. Opinions varied, although two types of marketing bubbled to the top: Websites and LinkedIn. 

  1. Website
  2. LinkedIn
  3. Tradeshows
  4. Referrals/Word of Mouth
  5. Email

The people I talked to said they get most of their leads from their websites, and LinkedIn was an effective tool for the salespeople there. Not surprisingly, since we were at a trade show, trade shows got a lot of votes, although one exhibitor said ten years ago they’d get 75 qualified leads from a show, while today, that number is closer to five. That was the exception rather than the norm, though. Referrals and word of mouth got a fair amount of mentions. Sales emails ranked last but were still an effective tool for many of the medical companies at the show.

As a first-timer not knowing what to expect, MD&M West had it all. The caliber of booths, quality of the exhibitors, and the number of attendees made an emphatic statement that trade shows are most definitely back. I left MD&M West feeling energized and inspired. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this industry, and look forward to attending the event again in the years to come.

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Jason is a Partner and the CEO at Revel, a B2B marketing agency. He is a diehard baseball fan who loves his Detroit Tigers. Family vacations often revolve around seeing games in different MLB ballparks around the country – they’ve been to 21 so far and counting. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.