Trade fairs have had a tough time during the pandemic. After the cancellation of nearly all events in 2020 and 2021, most fairs scheduled for the first half of 2022 were moved to dates later in the year as a precaution. In Germany, the Hanover Fair was moved to June, and the triennial ACHEMA show in Frankfurt, already postponed from the previous year, shifted to an unconventional slot in the middle of August, prime vacation time for many countries. The results in both cases were reduced versions of fairs in terms of both exhibitors and visitors. Hanover only attracted around 40 percent of its 2019 exhibitors and just over 30 percent of the visitors of that last physical event. The ACHEMA show fared better at about 60 percent exhibitors (2,200) and 50 percent visitors (70,000), while maintaining its high share of visitors from outside Germany (50 percent).
Despite these sobering numbers, the mood at ACHEMA, just like at Hanover, was upbeat. After two and a half years of home office and online-only events, industry players can’t wait to get out again and network with their peers. The general feeling among ARC analysts was that industry events are back, but the uncertainty of Covid infections still literally hangs in the air, thus some people remain reluctant to attend large gatherings.
Who Exhibited at ACHEMA?
On the automation front, key players like ABB, Siemens, Emerson and Rockwell did not exhibit this year, subduing the mood in the hall normally brimming with automation solutions. This is a shame because these suppliers missed out on presenting their process solutions to 70,000 processing experts, who attended an event of this magnitude for the first time in four years and won’t gather again for another two years until ACHEMA 2024. With the dearth of automation supplier presence, the interesting parts of the automation hall were the network organizations (announcing the Ethernet-APL cooperation), the 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation (5G – ACIA), and a joint exhibit of suppliers of technology for Module Type Package (MTP). All three of these topics provide a look into future architectures for process automation.
For providers of processing equipment, ACHEMA is the chance to showcase their highly technical solutions once every three years to a global audience. It’s an equipment show, so exhibitors book substantial booths to set up live demos of process equipment. In the past, large providers like GEA Group rented entire halls for themselves and set up whole processing lines, but this year companies understandably were more modest.
ACHEMA Messaging: Application-specific and Technical
At image shows like the Hanover Fair, exhibitors message with high-level, big-picture concepts such as Industry 4.0 or Digital Transformation. At equipment shows like ACHEMA, the focus is on solutions, and the messaging of exhibitors is more application-specific and often more technical. For example, many exhibitors highlighted sustainability, showing practical solutions ranging from improving energy efficiency to reducing the size of your carbon footprint.
Catering to process industries like chemical, food & beverage, and pharmaceutical means taking into account the specific needs and requirements of these sectors. While innovations on the field level like sensors, analyzers and meters might be readily integrated, major changes are slower. The possible willingness to adapt new comprehensive concepts has to coexist with the necessity to keep customers, personnel and the environment safe and to comply with a host of laws, regulations and best practices.
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Keywords: ACHEMA, Chemical Industry, Equipment Providers, Ethernet-APL, Chip Shortage, ARC Advisory Group.