We need a Hannover Fair USA

Senior Tech Editor Rich Merritt implores the industry to hold ISA Expo, National Manufacturing Week, Promat, Sensors Expo, IMTS, Pack Expo, AM Expo, and Quality Expo all at the same time and in the same place.

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Rich MerrittBy Rich Merritt, Senior Technical Editor

RECENTLY, while I was riding in a taxicab in Chicago, the cabbie pointed out a construction site near McCormick Place, and told me, “That’s where they’re building another exhibit hall. This will make McCormick Place the biggest tradeshow hall in the world!”

Obviously, that cabbie had never been to Germany’s Hannover Exhibition Center, which really does have the world’s biggest exhibit hall. Adding another hall to McCormick Place will just move it up in the rankings a bit.

Hannover Fair, which features automation and process control, is simply amazing. It’s like going to 10 different trade fairs all at the same time. Imagine a show 17 times the size of ISA with more than 5,000 exhibitors from 66 countries! Unlike the “bowling ball” tradeshows in North America (where you can roll a bowling ball down the aisles and not hit anybody), Hannover Fair teemed with 155,000 visitors.

Unlike the 10-ft booths at U.S. tradeshows, Hannover’s exhibits are huge. Also unlike in the U.S., all the vendors who put on their own “company shows” are present at Hannover, including Rockwell Automation, Invensys, Siemens, ABB, Schneider Electric, Omron, and so on. Even Emerson was there, but not with its process automation equipment.

Like the old “Alice’s Restaurant” song says, “you can get anything you want” at Hannover Fair. And that’s probably the key to its success. You can, literally, find anything you want. Any automation technology, equipment, solution, vendor, expert or information you seek can be found somewhere on Hannover’s show floor. High-ranking company executives, technology wizards, product managers, and actual hardware are all there. Exhibitors don’t hold back, they don’t send the VIPs home after the second day, and they (gasp!) actually sign orders on the show floor.

Consequently, going to Hannover Fair is useful and informative. Attendees find what they’re looking for. That’s why they attend in hordes.

This is so unlike shows such as ISA and National Manufacturing Week, where the benefits are marginal. Half or more of the attendees have exhibitor badges. Companies don’t send attendees unless they’re presenting a paper. Why? Because there’s no benefit in sending people to these shows. They don’t see anything new, hear anything useful at paper sessions, or meet anybody that can help them. They can find the same stuff on the Internet. More importantly, they can’t see or touch new equipment, such as a control valve, fuel cell UPS, or a redundant fieldbus network because it’s simply not there. “We’ll send you literature,” says the rep in the 10-ft booth.

What we need is a Hannover Fair USA. Hold it at the expanded McCormick Place or in Las Vegas, where thousands of exhibitors from around the world can set up huge booths. Hold shows within the show, complete with their own whitepaper sessions, press conferences, and themed exhibits, just like Hannover Fair. Hold the ISA Show, National Manufacturing Week, Promat, Sensors Expo, IMTS, Pack Expo, AM Expo, and Quality Expo all at the same time and in the same place. Invite the “company shows” from Rockwell, Emerson, Invensys, ABB and so on, to hold their shows within Hannover USA.

Actually, that’s not a bad idea. The “company shows” have to book exhibit space anyway, so why not hold the company show the week before, and then keep the exhibit and paper sessions around another week—in the same location—and show the same stuff to 150,000 more visitors?

There is only one organization in the entire world capable of pulling off something like this: Deutsche Messe AG, the folks who bring you Hannover Fair every year. Somebody should give them a call before the last U.S. tradeshow gets sent to the place where tradeshows go to die.

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