While some grasped the Plantworx opportunity, others appeared alarmingly underprepared.
At the time of writing, Plantworx 2013 is a day old and the UK has a viable new construction and demolition equipment exhibition in its annual diary. Sure there were gripes. The organizers had employed the usual gate Nazis who, armed with a high vis’ vest and a walkie-talkie, went power crazy and tried their level best to ensure that no-one set foot inside. And the person responsible for organizing the weather on the opening day needs to take a long, hard look at themselves.
But such minor criticisms seem churlish when set against the numerous positives from the exhibition. The venue is central and easy to find for all but the congenitally lost; parking was easy and – astonishingly – free; and the show aisles are wide and spacious affording plenty of room to marvel at and admire the highly-polished and tyre-blackened kit on display. Best of all, the organizers and the exhibitors managed to recreate the welcoming feel of a county fair that was all too sadly absent in the latter days of the terminally-bloated SED.
So you would have thought that the equipment manufacturers – those poor multinational companies that have spent the past five years fighting the twin terrors of rising steel prices and dwindling demand – would have grasped the opportunities afforded by Plantworx 2013 like a drowning man grasps at driftwood. You would have thought that the stand and sales staff had slept with the new product spec sheets under their pillows for the past six months, that they had all been ordered to dust off their shiny suits and rather less shiny shoes and given a customer care refresher course before heading for the Stoneleigh Park show ground.
In far too many cases, however, this was clearly not the case. In fact, even though the exhibition has been looming on the industry’s collective calendar for some two years now, it seemed to have taken a good many exhibitors completely by surprise. And instead of greeting Plantworx as an opportunity to shake off the recessionary shackles, a good many treated it as an unwelcome intrusion into their expense account-funded beer, service station lunch and golf-centric social lives.
Before I tell you what I mean, let me explain that I toured the opening day of the show with a camera slung around my neck and a sandwich-board sized name tag that shouted PRESS.
Now compare and contrast these visitor experiences. One of the first stands I visited was that of Volvo Construction Equipment GB which just happened to have on display the single most innovative piece of kit at this or any other show of recent years; the Step Safe Cab. I was greeted by a smiling receptionist, passed smoothly to the marketing manager and, subsequently, to the product specialist who not only explained the system but gave me a complete guided tour in a manner as smooth and efficient as the company’s excavators.
Such welcoming engagement was not the sole preserve of the large manufacturers. Nearby was the stand of Steelwrist, a one-trick pony of an importer offering nothing more earth-shattering than an excavator tilt rotator. What could have been a flying visit, however, turned into a passionate explanation of the product’s feature and benefits, an iPad demonstration of just how the system works followed by a full working demonstration. In 15 engaging and informative minutes, Steelwrist converted a career skeptic and gained a new fan.
Now compare that to my experience with several other unnamed but industry household name manufacturers.
One was displaying a new mini excavator so, as my job requires, I asked what was new about it. Salesman #1 explained that this was the first time he had seen the product. Not great but I gave him the benefit of the doubt as a lot of new machines arrived hot-foot from a Bauma launch just last month. Salesman #2 agreed that the machine was new (the sign on the machine was probably his first clue) but explained that he hadn’t been briefed on it. ”Don’t worry,” he said cheerfully. ”I’ll fetch someone to help you.”
Almost 20 minutes later, that person had failed to materialize and salesmen #1 and #2 were in a conspiratorial huddle trying desperately to avoid eye contact like an overworked diner waitress. I gave up and left.
I then went to check out a new wheel loader on another stand. All was going swimmingly well until I asked a question about the technical specification of the machine. The response? “if you were going to ask questions, you should have phoned ahead.”
I am rarely at a loss for words but on this occasion I was utterly stumped. Having now slept on it, I have a suggestion for the “professional” I had the misfortune to encounter.
“Have you considered a career as a gate Nazi?”