Back in the day...
There was a time when many of us in the industry headed to PackExpo to "see if there's anything new."
Back when there was a "Lakeside" building and a North Hall that was an exhausting but feasible task. A company's buying team could cover the show, stopping at any booth which seemed that it might have a pertinent product.
The show visit was built around the goal of learning about machines and discovering creative new consumable solutions.
In the age of a shelf full of green Thomas Register directories, that made sense.
But a couple key things have changed. First, while many industrial trade shows have stagnated, Pack Expo has grown...enormously. The biannual show in Chicago is projected to fill more than 1.2 million net square feet, and trade show industry experts cite PMMI's maverick approach for it's success. It's big enough that its really impractical to just walk it.
Of course, the other change is the internet. And while you can't necessarily gauge the fit and finish of a machine online, you can discover new vendors and even entirely new categories of solutions with a few keystrokes. So the role of a trade show has shifted.
But what's the key to maximizing the event?
Preparation is the key
While you can research specs and search for alternative suppliers online, you can't as easily engage in the kind of serious conversation that's so important to selecting the best vendor match or even discovering creative new solutions to problems.
Trade shows make those higher level goals feasible. In a compressed space and time, you have assembled at your disposal many of the top minds in your field.
You probably know who the thought leaders are, and you know what your challenges are. Map the former and clearly understand the latter, then work the show.
For instance, let's say you've got a persistent problem with workforce turnover in your end of line packaging. You could head to the show and set out to find the easiest pallet wrapper to set up. Or you could find a staffing agency that specializes in packaging related jobs, hoping that they'll bring you the perfect workers.
The better solution might be to define the problem:
- what it costs
- how long it's been going on
- what secondary and tertiary implications it has
- what you've tried so far to fix it
- what results you had
- what you've considered but not tried - and why
- what changes if you fix it / if you don't
Then, armed with that information, visit a variety of booths; for instance, stretch film suppliers, stretch wrapper builders, warehouse management system integrators, conveyor suppliers, staffing agencies, and 3PL firms.
Explain your problem and be quiet....see what they say.
At it's simplest this will help you compare vendors. These conversations will be valuable. These vendors and manufacturers are in many different locations observing many different companies. They'll have insights which may prompt entirely new perspectives. Great, creative ideas beget more creative ideas. Those discussions may meander, but the outcomes could be remarkable.
Maybe you'll leave having settled on the same solution you came expecting to select. But, you may leave with an entirely new approach to take to solve your problem.
Bearings or business issues?
What you need from the show is the breadth of expertise and insight that's assembled in one place.
Bearing types, motor sizes, HMI layouts, and other technical details are secondary to finding the best solution. But if you start your search focused on those details you'll likely miss the opportunity to find a better solution.
Are you wrestling with something in the warehouse operations or material handling space?
We'll have a big group on the ground at Pack Expo. Our team will include executive management, technical service, product specialists, marketing, and sales reps. Nearly all of them have experience across industries and business challenges. So if you're trying to improve some aspect of your end-of-line packaging, warehouse operations, logistics, pallet handling or conveying, let's set up a time to meet at the show. We'll match you with the right member of our team and you'll have our undivided attention.
This post was published on October 11, 2016 and updated on November 10, 2017.