11 August, 2022

Fluid Power & Systems and Air-Tech 2022 pack a punch after unprecedented challenges

16 May, 2022

After all the pandemic-related constraints our industry has endured, along with just about every other walk of life over the past couple of years, Fluid Power & Systems, Air-Tech and their co-located shows made a bravura return to the NEC in April. While many had in part adjusted to the necessity of Zoom or Teams to keep in visual and aural contact with customers, partners and associates, it was clear from the moment the doors opened to the shows at 9.30am on Tuesday 5 April that the desire for traditional face-to-face interaction, the opportunity to see state-of-the-art equipment up-close and the chance to be directly involved in expert discussion and debate was very much alive and well.


Since Fluid Power & Systems made its inaugural appearance at the NEC in 2014, it has established itself as the only exhibition in the UK that is focused comprehensively on hydraulic and pneumatic equipment, along with products that facilitate better electro-mechanic system design and application for improved process automation, control, monitoring and analytics. Indeed, the 2022 outing further reinforced the exhibition’s reputation as the go-to even for all that’s cutting-edge and forward looking in the world of fluid power and related solutions. As well as the raft of established and new traditional hydraulic and pneumatic equipment on display, it was clear that our industry is continuing to embrace digitally transformative technologies.

Fully supported by the British Fluid Power Association (BFPA) and Hydraulics & Pneumatics magazine, Fluid Power & Systems continues to offer the largest gathering of leading companies from around the world displaying and demonstrating the latest innovations in mechanical and electro-mechanical equipment. Whatever visitors’ industrial sector – whether engineering, construction, offshore/marine, oil & gas, agriculture/farming, automotive, aerospace etc – Fluid Power & Systems provided them with a convenient one-stop shop for all their fluid power and system requirements.

Similarly, since its launch back in 2006, Air-Tech – fully supported by the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS), together with Hydraulics & Pneumatics and Plant & Works Engineering magazines – is the only exhibition dedicated to covering comprehensively the very latest in compressed air, vacuum technology, generators and ancillary equipment from the UK's largest gathering of world-class companies.

Co-located shows

Co-located shows Fluid Power & Systems 2022 and Air-Tech 2022 were again co-located with Drives & Controls, Plant & Asset Management and Smart Industry Expo exhibitions. These 5 exhibitions showcase the best of British manufacturing and engineering excellence with regular quality visitor attendance. These co-located events were staged alongside MACH and were held in association with BCAS, BFPA, BVAA, GAMBICA, AEMT, CEA, BARA, PI (Profibus, Profinet) and BPMA.

Knowledge Hub

The Knowledge Hub, sponsored by Pilz, fully reflected the ongoing global transformation to the smart manufacturing era and provided a fascinating insight into the potential plants of the future, covering all aspect of the digital transformation across the manufacturing spectrum. Leading experts addressed information around Industry 4.0, and discussed the practicalities, technologies and issues surrounding transition and implementation of digitalisation in UK manufacturing.

The Talking Industry Live

This year’s event also saw the popular Talking Industry webinar events move temporarily from the digital sphere to live panel discussions under the Talking Industry Live brand during the three days of the shows. As with the Knowledge Hub, many of the sessions covered the digitalisation theme in various contexts. One example was a panel discussion chaired by Paul Cooke, interim CEO at the British Fluid Power Association (BFPA), which covered the topic of Fluid Power and the Factory of the Future. To open the session, Cooke explained that, like traditional factories, the future factory will have four walls, the floor and the roof. However, everything else will be flexible. “All the production and assembly machinery will be smart, connected, configurable and fully automated,” he said. “Moreover, in this factory of the future will be the next generation of production and maintenance managers and engineers. These people have been brought up in our digital world and are used to getting what they need using their smart devices.”

Leading associations support our industry

As usual, many of our industry’s leading associations were in residence, supporting the event and their membership. The British Fluid Power Association (BFPA) promoted a range of services to both members and other industry stakeholders, including its range of training courses. The Association’s Distributor Zone at Fluid Power & Systems 2022 was a popular focus for distributor members, including Approved Hydraulics, Hopespare and Magnet Schultz who were on hand to promote their products and services. The British Compressed Air Society (BCAS) utilised Air-Tech is an ideal opportunity to keep members and visitors up to date with all the latest developments in our industry. BCAS views the show as the perfect opportunity to engage with manufacturers, distributors and end users alike, and for the Society to provide impartial advice about legislation, standards and technical issues. The British Valve & Actuator Association (BVAA) exhibited at Fluid Power & Systems, introducing visitors to the Association’s many members comprising suppliers, users and customers of the fluid power industry and its products. The BVAA also advised visitors of the many products and services available from membership.

Major announcements

Many companies took advantage of the shows to unveil new products, initiatives or partnerships. One such announcement at Fluid Power & Systems was that Steve ‘Baggsy’ Biagioni, the Champion Drift driver, has recently signed a further two-year deal with the global, hydraulic components manufacturer Stauff. As a very welcome bonus, Stauff requested that the car and Baggsy could be present to make the announcement. The Nissan GT-R, with 1500 horsepower took centre stage at the entrance to the exhibition. Stauff champions several motor sports teams and enjoys being part of these top athletes’ development. In turn, the drivers and riders highlight exposure of the premier brand with their role as Stauff Sporting Ambassadors.

Some companies took the opportunity to launch their new catalogues at the exhibition and even unveil their new ecommerce websites – a trend that is fast growing much needed momentum in our industry. A few companies also began celebrations for milestone anniversary years. As an example, Tom Parker Ltd launched its 2022-2023 product catalogue, unveiled its enhanced user-friendly ecommerce website and also celebrated its 50th anniversary on its stand. To help mark this milestone the company was also a primary sponsor of Fluid Power & Systems 2022.

Walking the dog

While visiting the shows’ hospitality suite, Fluid Power & Systems and Air-Tech exhibitors, visitors, presenters and delegates alike were able to see a welcome visitor from the co-located Drives & Controls exhibition – namely, Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot dog in action. From time to time, Spot took a well-earned break from his travels around the shows to his very own pen positioned at the entrance to the hospitality area. Spot was in residence courtesy of the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC).

Omnichannel

At Fluid Power & Systems, Hydraulics & Pneumatics spoke with Ian Simpson, managing director of Flowtech, about a number of current trends in the fluid power industry, including his view that it is very important that our industry embraces the omnichannel sales model. “We have to be aware that times have changed,” he said. “Many years ago, people didn’t trade through Internet access, there were basically trade counter models or a salesperson knocking on a door or a sales office receiving a telephone call. But now, like the way the Amazon model has evolved customers want the ability to trade with the supplier in various ways. They still want the trade counter, and they also want the salesperson knocking on the door, but now they also want the ability to trade online through a fully integrated e-commerce platform.”

Rising to the lead-time challenge

Simon Parsonage, chief executive of Flowfit, spoke of current lead time challenges in our industry and explained that this is one of the main reasons that over the past couple of years the company has substantially expanded its stock levels in the UK. He added that Flowfit is also increasing its warehouse capacity by 3.5 to 4 times. “The industry is suffering on lead times so we're investing heavily in stock and warehousing infrastructure,” said Parsonage. “Customers are often being quoted 12-month lead times, but manufacturers can't wait - they need to find companies with good stock levels.”

The continuing relevance and value of hydraulics

Tim Gessner, European director of business development at Delta Motion, gave his views on how hydraulics are faring in the current technology age. “Since I started in the industry back in 2000 we've been hearing the rumours that hydraulics are dead and that motors are going to take over. There’s certainly a place for motors but there is still a great need for hydraulics in the market. It has the ability to provide high levels of force, shock absorption and energy density that motors and linear systems simply can't yet provide. At Delta Motion, we continue to grow and enhance the products, making them provide precise, even better control.”

Gessner also made the point that there remains the believe in some quarters that hydraulics is a dirty technology. “Well, we've been running hydraulics in our booth here the whole time and there’s no problems. Hydraulics have become very reliable, very clean and are necessary in the industry. Moreover, our products achieve absolutely precise control. I recently posted a video showing we’re achieving 69 µ accuracy on position and another video where we’re holding 100,000 pounds of force within 1000 pounds of variance. Those are very tight tolerances that often people think hydraulics can't match, and we've done that successfully time and time again.”

Living up to expectations

DFA Media’s managing director, Ryan Fuller, comments: “Looking back at the success of the event, it was clear that our industry had been eagerly anticipating the event for some time and missed the benefits of in-person interaction. The past couple of years have proved challenging for everyone, but the shows rose to the occasion and proved themselves still to be highly valued. The team at DFA Media is now busy preparing for the exhibitions’ next outing in 2024.”

Testimonials

Just a few comments from exhibitors include:

Fluid Power & Systems 2022

“The show was a great success. It was excellently organised and the team at DFA Media provided fantastic support – both during the planning stages and over the course of the event itself. This was our first opportunity, as the ‘new’ Flowtech, to meet so many key industry decision makers in one place and the show proved to be a superb platform. We took over 250 enquiries and had numerous high-quality discussions, which are developing into excellent opportunities.” – Ian Simpson, Flowtech

“It was great to see current customers face-to-face again, but also new and prospective customers. Sometimes, you're a little uncertain who's going to come through the door, but this show has proved to be fabulous for us. One of our current focuses is to position ourselves as an organisation that is ready and able to support companies, automation development structures or engineering design teams in their desire to offer the best automation solutions and machine manufacturing, and the reception for this was fantastic. It's great to be back out in the physical show environment.” – Neil Turnbull, Metal Work UK Ltd

“Fluid Power & Systems proved beneficial for Allswage in terms of lead generation and networking. We had missed the overall ‘buzz’ the show provides and our team on the stand were glad to be back welcoming people in person. It was a very welcome return to normalcy following all the constraints we have faced over the past couple of years.” – Adrian Crawley, Allswage

“We found the show a little quieter than normal, however, we were a very busy stand by all accounts and gained unknown customers and substantial enquiries, which is the whole reason we attend. Our analysis shows that our new wireless communications zone was the most popular display with our stand visitors.” – Pete Humphreys, SMC Pneumatics (UK) Ltd

“The show was excellent for us. Over the three days we secured a high number of promising leads. In fact, one particular enquiry – if it comes to fruition – would be worth in the region of £0.5 million. That would be a great start to our financial year. 2021 was good as well in terms of turnover and net profits, so if we can continue to do what we're doing this year then we'll be very happy.” – Stefan Gunter, Abdex

“We attracted many quality visitors to our stand at Fluid Power & Systems 2022 and we were pleased to catch up with industry friends, customers and prospective customers once again. Our industry needed a show like this after all the challenges over the past couple of years.” – Stuart Robertson, Johnson Valves

“As usual, Fluid Power & Systems provided us with the opportunity to meet existing and prospective customers face to face, as well as network with the industry in general. We attracted some promising leads, which we are currently following up. It was good to be back at the epicentre of our industry after all the recent challenges we have all faced.” – Oliver Farmer, Leader Hydraulics

“This year’s long awaited FPS show was a real success and exceptionally well attended. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting with so many existing and potential customers face-to-face and came away with a wealth of strong sales leads. We would like to thank everyone involved in the planning and execution of such an excellent event and we look forward to the next show in 2024 (pandemics allowing)” – Alex Hoyle, Tom Parker Ltd

“The ability to showcase new technology and innovation in person were fundamental to the success of our attendance. Having quality visitors and substantial new business enquiries shows that there is a place for industry-focused exhibitions even after such a long break.” – Craig Bastable, Hayley Group Ltd

"2022 has been a great success. The variety of visitors from such different industry sectors made it a fantastic show for us. We are very pleased with the prospects generated and look forward to returning to Fluid Power & Systems in 2024" – Zoë Fearnley, the Ashton Group

“After a couple of years of uncertainty, it was good to be back at Fluid Power & Systems 2022, and yet again it has proven its worth. Under one roof we were able to re-engage and develop with many of our existing customers and also to exhibit our range of products and services to new business.” – Darryl Spencer, NERO Pipeline Connections Ltd

“Despite Covid affecting both exhibitors and visitors, it was good to catch up with customers, suppliers and potential new clients after a 2-year delay. This was the first time AB Components exhibited at the show and it was definitely worthwhile.” – James Edgar, AB Components

Air-Tech 2022

“We attracted many quality visitors to our stand at Air-Tech 2022 with several positive lines of enquiry throughout the event. The exhibition was a fantastic opportunity for us to promote the Sullair brand and reconnect with so many of our UK and European distributors and prospective end customers once again.” – Marie Kerrelle, channel, aftermarket & marketing manager (EMEA & CIS), Sullair, LLC, A Hitachi Group Company

“Air-Tech 2022 was livelier than many of us could have imagined, which is a good indication that the British economy is recovering pretty well. We are confident that the compressed air industry will experience a boom there. At the show, many of the interested visitors were enthusiastic about our new developments, improvements and innovations.” – Florian Buchner, CS Instruments

“In uncertain times, it was great to see a good number of genuine visitors to our stand. Having had the 2020 and 2021 show postponed, people were eager to see the SCR machines and meet the team. We’ll be booking for 2024, that’s for sure,” – Nigel Cook, SCR Air Ltd

“Air-tech 2022 provided Prevost with a platform to present our innovative products to many potential & existing customers under one roof. It also enabled us to continue the development of our brand within the UK & Irish fluid power markets. The show exceeded our prior expectations, confirming that our participation at the next show in 2024 show is guaranteed.” – Richard Maulkinson, Prevost.

“We were delighted to be finally back face-to-face meeting with industry colleagues, distributors, suppliers and end users of our products at Air-Tech 2022. The show had a great energy, attracted quality visitors and as a result we have plenty of encouraging leads to follow up.” – Matthew Butters, Pneumatic Components Ltd

“ATC (Italia) took part for the first time at Fluid Power and Systems. This was an important opportunity to meet partners and present our brand and products to new companies interested in AirTAC International Group and pneumatic components. This show has been a success. We would like to thank all our visitors, and we are looking forward to establishing a collaborative and concrete professional relationship with them in the months to come.” – Tania Lardo, AirTAC International Group/ATC (Italia) S.r.l.

“PDM Analysis Ltd exhibited for the first time on Air-Tech this year. Despite lower-than-expected overall number of visitors, the position of our stand was excellent, which helped us to have a good number of visitors passing by the stand and interacting with us. The support form administrative and technical staff of Air-Tech was exceptional, and we are thankful for the opportunity to present our company at this important event.” – Ahmed Kovacevic, PDM Analysis Ltd

“After two years into the pandemic, taking part in Air-Tech 2022 in Birmingham was a positive experience for us at Teseo. We think that resuming trade fairs in person is an encouraging sign of recovery for the whole industry. Indeed, it was great to meet up in person again with our dealers and long-standing customers. In addition, we are happy with the number of new contacts we made in this edition. We look forward to finding out more about Air-Tech 2024.” – Paolo Nardi, Teseo Srl

www.fluidpowersystems-expo.com

www.airtech-expo.com




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