I don’t know what it is with these European Trade Shows, but I must tell you that I made more and better North American contacts at IFFA than any other major show in North America. Makes you wonder why that is. Here is my crack at it.
I believe that a tradeshow for manufacturing equipment and supplies happening in three year intervals has clear advantages. Exhibitors as well as Attendees make an extra effort to make it a success, and innovations in that segment are not as blistering fast as e.g. in technology.
As a result, Exhibitors provide their full line-up of equipment to touch and feel and see in in action. They are present for 6 days, 9 hours each day to answer your questions – and they bring everyone, sales people, product managers, engineers and maintenance staff. Everyone that provides something meaningful for the global meat industry is present at the show, as the more than 60,000 attendees prove.
Attendees know years in advance about the event. For meat executives it turns out like a pilgrimage to the latest innovation, which they normally combine with visits to the research and development centers of the leading German equipment manufacturers for sausage production, the Dutch and Danish slaughterhouse automation specialists etc. There is just no other location in the world, where so much skill and knowledge can come together.
Not only knowledge comes together. Vendors as well. The main theme of the show was around automation. On basically any booth at the show, you were able to see how information systems integrated, controlled and managed equipment. Whether it was Robotics and fully automated pack lines or simpler integration of equipment to monitor Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) – the trend is clear. We cannot look at any of our systems, whether these are computer systems or manufacturing systems, isolated anymore.
As an attendee, you are actually working this show different. There are hardly any educational sessions provided by anyone. You can find all the education on the floor. Let’s face it – if it is not commercially available, you cannot use it. Here you can work the floor, get solid education of competing technologies and interface right then and there with other partners to develop uniquely designed automation concepts for your business. You literally wind up getting more and better education, where you can decide al`a carte what to learn, how to learn and from whom to learn. It almost feels like a live version of the internet, where everything is connected and you hyperlink from one booth to the next – it just takes way longer to walk than to click.
I still believe that there is some value in the smaller educational conferences the ones that NAMA, CMC, US Poultry & Egg etc. provide. Especially if the educational program is led by industry leaders, scientific leaders and great speakers in general. We need to think though about frequency and duration of these shows, and we need to think what exhibitors pay for and what they don’t. The US concept of filling the coffers of certain trade associations via vendor’s booth fees lead to the demise of some shows already. On the other hand, the only show that is at least in attendance still growing in North America is the Process Expo – hosted and paid for by the vendors to the food industry. The process expo is closer to the concept of the European tradeshows, and perhaps herein lies their success.
I really look forward to the next major shows for the year. In October is the biannual Anuga Show in Cologne, which expects to see between 150,000 and 200,000 executives within the food manufacturing, food distribution and grocery retail arena for 5 Days in October in Cologne. This will be followed by the largest North American Food Equipment Show, the Process Expo in Chicago in November. I hope to see you there, and I hope that these exciting tradeshows provide an example for others to follow.