Did you miss out?

The overwhelming vote of confidence in the recent Machine Tools Africa 2017 exhibition – held in May 2017 at the Nasrec Expo Centre, Johannesburg – certainly flies in the face of the statistics on the economy in South Africa that have been released recently.

By all accounts the exhibition was acknowledged as one that was of a very high standard and comparable to international standards. Nearly 6 000 visitors attended over the four day period. As one of the exhibitors you must be congratulated in taking the time, effort and expense to portray a very professional image of your company and the products that you market to the South African metalworking/engineering industry. Most of the products on display were the latest technology available and are a crucial element in the development of the South African manufacturing industry. In a number of cases, these were products that had just been unveiled internationally. Well done I say.

Compliments must also be extended to the MTMA (The Machine Tool Merchants’ Association of South Africa) as well for resurrecting the exhibition and for endorsing it. Only five of the association members did not participate in the exhibition with a stand and I am sure they regret taking that decision now. Even non members who did not exhibit have expressed their disappointment that they did not consider their participation more carefully.

A big factor for having a dedicated exhibition like Machine Tools Africa is to attract the correct type of visitor. And this exhibition certainly did. No wasting time on explaining first what a machine tool is and giving away all those costly marketing materials that are normally thrown in the nearest bin. Judging by the comments from the exhibitors that are published further on in the magazine, the quality of the visitors was also a big plus – genuine machine tool users and engineering people that make capital expenditure decisions.

The only slightly negative observation from my side was that the exhibition could have been more encompassing with more halls filled with related industry suppliers and engineering companies. Where were all the steel merchants? If you go to the EuroBlech exhibition in Germany at least two halls are filled with companies that supply the different metals, whether they are the mills themselves or the merchants. This is for plate and sheet metal and processors of these materials.

Likewise you could say the same about metal shaping. Plenty of the visitors are machining components whether it is on a lathe or a machining center. They are visiting to see what new machines and technologies are available so why not give them the opportunity to talk to castings suppliers – foundries. Too often I hear the foundry owners complaining that they do not have enough orders and they are struggling. Well here was a perfect opportunity for them to connect to a broader general engineering audience and I did not see one foundry exhibiting. Sure, continue to exhibit at other specific industry exhibitions such as the rail or mining industries, but if you are not going to consider an exhibition where the visitors use your products every day then don’t complain.

The same could be said about the forging companies, those involved with hand tools, measuring/metrology equipment, systems for safety and environmental protection and many more, all an integral part of a successful engineering shop. These are just few of many more. Now that the organisers have three years until the next exhibition takes place let’s hope that they put more effort into attracting these companies and ensuring that the exhibition is really successful.