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Trade show round up: November 2015

17 November 2015

As a trade specialist PR industry, very little is as important to Bridge as supporting our customers and keeping up on the latest trends in the industries we serve. One of the most effective and exciting ways to do this is to attend some of the many exhibitions, conferences and seminars that our clients both host and take part in. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been to many engineering and IT calendar events that point towards the future of the industries and reveal exciting developments to watch out for. Here’s a quick round-up of where we’ve been.

If you needed proof that the UK manufacturing industry is thriving then you need to look no further than the NEC during the Advanced Engineering Show. Split again this year into different areas for aerospace, automotive, composites and performance metals, the halls were full, the exhibits diverse and the gauntlet laid down to the bi-annual MACH exhibition, as this yearly show takes strides towards dominating the manufacturing calendar.

This year, there was a huge emphasis on the automotive sector, and it's not surprising considering that this particular industry has long been the most profitable aspect of UK manufacturing during recent difficult economic times. There were a range of automotive OEMs present both behind the exhibits as well as going round and visiting them. And what's nice and unique about this show is that the many supply tiers that feed into these OEMs are also well represented, not least with our client MarchantCain exhibiting in the main hall.

It seems fitting, with MarchantCain showcasing some of its innovative active aerodynamic products on its stand, that there was also a popular zone for early stage innovators to showcase their own breakthrough ideas, products and processes to the audience of advanced engineering specialists, no doubt building a number of new innovative engineering partnerships.

There's a large interest in marketing this year, both to catapult companies’ own engineering brands and to better connect engineering businesses with academia, and other cogs in the supply chain. Indeed, Made In The Midlands themselves gave an extensive presentation on the importance for engineering businesses to take marketing seriously in order to engage their supply chains and encourage innovation throughout the value chain.

Advanced Engineering, for a while, has been one of the annual highlights of the manufacturing exhibition calendar, but the high footfall and the fact that the NEC got away with charging people for entry when they hadn't pre-registered demonstrates how quickly the show's appeal is starting to grow. As MACH returns next year and gives the opportunity for some of the larger UK manufacturing businesses to showcase their own innovation, Advanced Engineering will continue to be the sourcing ground for major OEMs, where SME manufacturing businesses network, collaborate and take the first steps to driving innovation throughout the industry.

Just as Advanced Engineering is fast becoming the key show for the UK engineering sector, there are few IT trade shows as big, or as interesting, as Microsoft's Annual Conference. This year's sold out event was entitled Future Decoded and gave insights into future technological trends being driven by the IT powerhouse and its network of partners.

The messages to businesses in attendance was clear – the future of technology is about better collaboration, heightened connectivity and greater productivity, and Microsoft solutions will be the enablers of this.

It was great to see lots of interest in the K3 CRM stand, and the K3 Group's wider, ‘one K3’ message.  CRM and customer engagement was high on the agenda, with lastminute.com's founder Martha Lane Fox revealing that the secret to the company's overwhelming success was simple – do what your customers want.

And what do customers want from the technology industry? The message at Future Decoded was clear – we want everything all in one place. We want the digital world to be integrated into the analogue world. We want endless possibilities at our fingertips and we want the opportunity to create, innovate and inspire using technology at any place at any time.

Say what you like about the relevance of Microsoft in today's business world but the brand and its partners have had a phenomenal year. And if Microsoft's House of the Future that was on display is anything to go by, the company is heading towards even more impressive feats.

In keeping with Microsoft’s vision of the future, Microsoft Partner Columbus was urging businesses to embrace change at its inaugural Transform 2016 event at London’s Royal Horseguards. MD Mary Hunter opened the conference with the stark realisation that a large proportion of businesses today are only surviving for an average of 15 years, according to data from the S&P 500 Index. By the 2020s, she warned, it could be even less, highlighting the need for businesses to embrace change.

The conference then shined a light on the manufacturing industry and its servitization trend, looking at technologies such as the Internet of Things and 3D printing, and how this is enabling manufacturing organisations to make the transition from being a product orientated sector to one that delivers products as a service, with maintenance and ongoing customer relationships. Hennik Research CEO Nick Hussey and Iain McKechnie, Aston Business School’s director of Strategic Partnerships, both looked at the future changes that are coming for the manufacturing sector, including how businesses can gain a competitive advantage by embracing the circular economy, and becoming even leaner.

But it’s not just the manufacturing sector that is embracing change. As we saw at Future Decoded, Microsoft is spearheading this change, and Vanessa Kyte, Microsoft Dynamics’ Partner Director, outlined Microsoft’s future vision, highlighting the importance of embracing digital to delegates, with the news that consumers share a good experience 5-6 times on social media, but will share a bad experience 9-15 times. Those businesses not embracing and monitoring social media, are risking the reputation of their brand.

And few sectors know of the importance of delivering a great customer experience as the retail industry. Indeed, JUST EAT and Dominos were both present at Transform 2016 and spoke for their own digital transformations. From JUST EAT the message was to “be jammy” – be frank, have awkward conversations and be open to innovation. And if you’re going to fail, do it quickly, get out of the negative space, learn from it and try again. Dominos had a similar message, relating to its own ERP journey with Columbus. According to CIO Colin Rees, it was vital the business had strong relationships both internally and externally, and a strong vision for ERP in order for the team to embrace change and see the benefits of its investment.

The event was rounded off by an excellent speech from Olympic Gold Medal winner Ben Hunt-Davis MBE, a man who changed his training regime in order to win gold in the 2000 Olympics. He spoke of the importance to have continuous change in a business and its individuals and keep analysing every process to assess whether or not it makes the boat go faster, and brings people to their overall common goal.

And just as change was the topic for Microsoft and Columbus, so too was it the topic at this year’s K3 Syspro customer event. Held in the centre of the UK in Meriden, the event welcomed over 65 customers of the business solutions provider and inspired them to consider the art of the possible. It was opened by Group MD for Manufacturing and Distribution, Andy Latham, who looked at the ways technology is changing the world, and how SYSPRO ERP is embracing these changes to remain ahead of the curve. And the message throughout was very much that the effectiveness and efficiency of SYSPRO ERP depends very much on how the application is used. During the morning, delegates were shown interesting case studies on how businesses are evolving their business processes through the use of SYSPRO, experiencing cost and time savings, and all down to the way they are utilising the technology.

But this wasn’t just an event designed to showcase SYSPRO as a single, standalone solution. It also looked at the technologies that can enhance SYSPRO. Millbrook Industries talked about how it was self-serving its team for holiday forms and saving hours in the HR administration process through its use of the Equator HR solution. Bright-Tech investments also told the story of how it is saving up to £9,000a year, just by implementing AutoMail into the business, K3 Syspro’s email automation system.

Throughout the afternoon delegates were introduced to the many technologies that integrate with SYSPRO to deliver even more powerful functionality, giving a glimpse into the art of the possible. The message from K3 Syspro was clear – if you have a question about SYSPRO, then ask K3 because, the chances are, they can deliver the art of the possible to help you grow and develop your business.

Speaking of the art of the possible, the business also gave an exciting glimpse into the roadmap of SYSPRO ERP, which includes such things as social media integration, HTML5, enhanced business intelligence and reporting, and greater mobility functions.

As the trade show calendar starts to draw to a close, it’s clear that it has been saving some of the best events until last. The rumour that trade shows are dying out is more of a myth judging by the huge attendance at these four events alone and as businesses start their planning for next year, some of the key themes and messages from events like these will play a huge part in shaping 2016 strategies. If you’ve recently exhibited at a trade show, read our tips to make the most of your investment by reading our blog post here.

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