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2016 Drives & Controls Show was a record-breaker

09 May, 2016

Visitor numbers at the cluster of exhibitions, including the Drives & Controls Show, held last month at the NEC set a new record, with a total of 13,115 visitors attending the three-day event. The number who registered to attend the Drives Show was up nearly 30% on the figure for the previous show in 2014.

“This was the best outing yet for the co-located shows,” says Ian Atkinson, managing director of the organiser, DFA Media, which also publishes Drives & Controis magazine and this Web site. “The response we received from exhibitors and visitors alike has been highly encouraging, which we believe reflects the continuing overall market strength and optimism felt within the industry sectors represented by these exhibitions.”

One of this year’s new features ­– a dedicated robotics demonstration area – attracted a lot of interest and was almost constantly busy. It gave show-goers the opportunity to see various robotic technologies in operation – including several examples of the new generation of “collaborative” robots, designed to operate safely alongside human workers, without needing a protective cage.

Many of the exhibitors commented on the quality and seniority of the visitors to their stands, and the fact that they were there to do real business. One exhibitor is reported to have made a contact that could lead to an order worth around £2m.

“The quality of enquiries was better than at the previous show,” says Carl Krajewski, CEO of HMK Automation & Drives. “We were seeing new people with real applications – not tyre-kickers. We have signed up for 2018.”

“We had a hit-list of ten customers, and six came to see us,” reports Paul Seale, sales director of Yaskawa UK.

One first-time exhibitor that had a particularly successful show was Active8, which drew crowds to see its “human-like” Baxter and Sawyer robots from US-based Rethink Robotics. “I was particularly impressed with the quality and volume of visitors – it’s rare to find a show where the majority of visitors to your stand are decision-makers, but Drives & Controls proved that theory wrong,” says Active8’s sales and marketing director, Becky Yelling. “Our team engaged with CEOs and MDs, right through to engineers, thus gaining valuable exposure and generating outstanding future project leads.”

The robotic demonstration feature included Rethink Robotics' Baxter and Sawyer collaborative robots in action on the Active8 Robots stand

Several exhibitors remarked that the reaction they received at the show indicates that there is a strong interest among UK manufacturers to invest in automation.

Mitsubishi Electric, for example, returned to the show after several years’ absence with a towering double-decker stand. “It was a very successful show for us measured purely on the positive interest we received and the number of leads it generated,” says the company’s marketing and operations group manager, Chris Evans. “The desire to invest in automation is certainly there in UK manufacturing industry.”

Many exhibitors who had a successful show took the opportunity to book a prime position for next event in 2018 – often requesting bigger stands. Exhibition director Doug Devlin reports that there have been more rebookings than at the previous show in 2014. “We’ve already got some big names,” he adds.

One company planning to return is Eaton Electric. “It’s been an absolutely excellent show,” enthuses UK drives sales manager, Stephen Takhar. “We’ll be looking for a larger stand in two years’ time.”

The next Drives & Controls Show will run from 10–12 April, 2018. The show and its co-located events ­– including the Mach exhibition ­– will be moving to halls in the “new” section of the National Exhibition Centre.

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