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Global Industrial Show Highlights Innovation
April 17, 2007
Tuesday, April 17. I'm finishing my second day at the Hannover Fair in Hannover, Germany. In its 60th year, it is a collection of 13 industrial trade fairs at one site. The scale and scope of this global event is amazing, humbling and exhausting. That's from someone who sometimes feels like half of life is spent at trade shows and conferences. Manufacturers, distributors and customers may in fact be consolidating, but this week is proof that the world of industrial products remains extremely fragmented. First impressions: I did not know there were so many manufacturers of electric motors, bearings, seals, and a long list of other products. The robotics and factory automation systems on display are simply incredible in terms of the combination of software with a range of technology. And global markets are more fluid than ever.   ; Let me try to put a little perspective on this. There are 6,400 exhibitors from 68 countries here this week, with more than 200,000 attendees expected. One U.S. distributor who has been here several times says it feels like about ten McCormick Places plus a little more in terms of total size and exhibit space.  ; The 27 different exhibit halls on a big fairgrounds campus make the buildings feel busy to sometimes crowded, but never packed. My feet hurt. I really want one of the glowing, golden German pilseners I see many exhibitors serving to prospects from breakfast on but know that would make for one of the longest days of my life if I don't stick to my fivish o'clock rule.   ; There is a strong U.S. distribution contingent here from the Power Transmission Distributors Association, which has sponsored a trade mission for members for several years and serves as a hub for several U.S. manufacturer exhibitors, and a distributor or two as well. The group is in one of several halls devoted to 1,300 motion, drive and automation product exhibitors. The National Fluid Power Association has its own booth section as well for a contingent of its members in another building. There is also a group here from the Association for High Technology Distribution.   ; One manufacturer commented that this show five or six years ago was really focused on European companies. This year, 47 percent of exhibitors come from outside Germany, with the largest contingents from Italy, China and Turkey. Turkey is a designated partner this year, and so has special emphasis. Several people commented how the number of Chinese companies has increased significantly the past few years.   ; I've focused largely on North American distribution markets the past 15-plus years of my life. I'm committed to increasing the coverage MDM provides on distribution trends and best practices in Europe and other parts of the world. I think it is critical that North American distributors gain a better understanding of how global markets are shifting and some of the key international players. I think everyone has to at least ask, What are the impacts in my market, and what are my opportunities with customers and/or suppliers elsewhere?"   ; This show is a great next step in my learning about some of the fascinating ways distribution channels are shifting globally. I'd love to hear your comments on global impacts on your business (or not) so we can focus our expanded coverage to your needs. Thank you in advance.