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Southern Manufacturing & Electronics 2020 Review

Sarah Venning

2020’s calendar of engineering exhibitions began this week with Southern Manufacturing & Electronics, which took place from the 11th to the 13th February at the Farnborough International Conference Centre. Every year, this event draws in the crowds from across the southern counties and even further afield, with visitors enjoying a day of networking and industry-focused seminars.

Southern Manufacturing 2020 - An Overview:

Southern Manufacturing is an event that has grown exponentially in terms of both size and stature in recent years. Having ascended from a comparatively small regional event into a fully-fledged engineering & manufacturing hub, it has become one of the key shows for anybody involved within the industry. Southern Manufacturing’s growth serves as testament to its quality, with both exhibitors and visitors enjoying comprehensive - yet intricate - insight into what the South’s engineering elite has to offer.

Southern Manufacturing is particularly famed for its dedicated electronics zone which hosts a range of companies offering electronic services and products. However, I feel it’s important that visitors refrain from pigeonholing Southern Manufacturing as an electronics-centric show, as there really is something for everyone at this three-day event. Whilst the electronics zone is vast and really quite impressive, Southern Manufacturing also plays host to almost every other manufacturing niche, including (but not limited to) precision machining, machine tools, additive manufacturing, toolmaking, printing, materials & composites, fabrication, sheet metal and many more.

Southern Manufacturing 2020 was preceded by Storm Ciara, leaving many to wonder how this would impact attendance figures. However, the show still enjoyed a strong turnout from the moment that doors opened on the first day - a great relief considering how much work the organisers have done to make Southern Manufacturing 2020 a success.

Click here to read our guide to the best engineering exhibitions in 2020.


Southern Manufacturing certainly boasts the capacity to host a large number of people - I was taken aback by just how large the floorplan has become.

Making my way into Southern Manufacturing & Electronics, there was already a queue for badge collection - a positive indication that this year’s show was likely to draw a similar - or better - crowd size than its predecessors. Indeed, Southern Manufacturing certainly boasts the capacity to host a large number of people and once inside the hall, I was taken aback by just how large the floorplan has become.

The dedicated electronics zone was my first port of call, spanning the left side of the hall. As well as the huge variety of electronic components and services on offer behind the stands, this zone also houses an electronics seminar room, where a number of conferences were taking place over the course of the event. In addition, a second seminar room was situated across the hall in the engineering zone, meaning that a range of topics could be covered including lean manufacturing, space travel, additive manufacturing, Industry 4.0 and many more.

Getting to grips with the show map covering three pages of the guide, I stopped to speak with Chris Hughes from Rebound Electronics. As the largest independent distributor of electronic components within the UK, Rebound Electronics have returned to exhibit at Southern Manufacturing after a number of years away.

‘It’s the first time in a long time we’ve exhibited here,’ Chris explained. ‘Southern Manufacturing is one of a couple of shows that are really suited to our industry, so we felt it was an important event for us.

‘We’ve become quite a large company, so we really wanted to show our faces here this year.’

And what about the footfall so far on the first day?

‘It’s too early to say whether or not the footfall is up to our expectations,’ Chris continued. ‘We’re really just hoping to learn a thing or two while we’re here and have a presence at the show.’

Slightly later, I spoke with another company situated within the electronics zone about their experiences so far. Gem Cable Solutions are specialists in the manufacture of cable assemblies, wiring harnesses and wiring looms, including bespoke products for UK industries. Sales engineer Matthew Davis provided a friendly face to the company and although this was his first year at Southern Manufacturing personally, he explained that Gem Cable Solutions are no stranger to the show.

‘We’ve been exhibiting here at Southern Manufacturing since at least 2011,’ Matthew said. ‘Historically, this has been one of the best trade shows we do and we’re hoping for a repeat performance this year.

Many of the major machine tool manufacturers have stands at the event, providing visitors with plenty of live demonstrations.

‘We usually speak with lots of companies who are in need of products and services like ours, such as cable assemblies and sub-assemblies, which means we return to the show year after year.’

Matthew was also very positive about the turnout on the first day. ‘We were worried that the weather over the weekend might stop people from coming to the show, but that hasn’t been the case,’ he explained. ‘It’s been busy this morning so far, so we’re very pleased.’

Moving into the engineering zone, there was plenty to see. Many of the major machine tool manufacturers such as Colchester Machine Tool Solutions, Hurco, Haas and Matsuura Machinery all have stands at the event, providing visitors with plenty of live demonstrations. In addition, many of the subcontract machining, fabrication and additive manufacturing visitors displayed a variety of interesting components, meaning that it was possible to spend hours at the event exploring new ground.

Qimtek’s own stand certainly fared well and every time I stopped by, there were visitors engaged in conversation with our sourcing account managers. Qimtek used Southern Manufacturing to launch our Interactive Manufacturing Directory - a printed directory with the details of hundreds of subcontract engineering suppliers, as well as a range of sourcing resources - meaning that this show was particularly important. In addition, we were also giving away phone holders and drinks coasters produced by our subcontract members, demonstrating the quality that buyers can expect to receive.

After walking the floor of the engineering zone, I spoke with Matthew Cross and Graham Walsh from Elesa UK Ltd. As a major designer, manufacturer and distributor of standard mechanical components, Southern Manufacturing provides Elesa UK Ltd with access to the correct target market.

‘It’s been a busy first day for us actually,’ Graham explained. ‘It’s almost definitely on par with last year’s show in terms of footfall.’

‘We weren’t sure how it was going to go due to the weather, but it’s been good so far,’ Matthew elaborated. ‘We exhibit at all of the major shows as they’re really important for us - we’re also exhibiting at MACH and PPMA later in the year.’

And what were Elesa UK’s objectives for the show?

‘We’re looking to get as many quality leads as possible,’ Graham said. ‘We will need to review the badges we’ve scanned after the show, but we definitely feel that it’s been a success so far.’

Indeed, it seemed as though almost everyone exhibiting experienced a productive first day. As far as Southern Manufacturing is concerned, the proof is almost certainly in the pudding; it would be difficult for a show to grow at Southern Manufacturing’s velocity if it wasn’t for the amount of returning exhibitors and a solid reputation - something that this event deserves wholeheartedly. The inclusive nature of Southern Manufacturing means that all walks of visitors will find something of interest and respectively, exhibitors are bound to come away with plenty of new leads under their belt. 2020’s show has followed in the footsteps of the past few years’ instalments, delivering a thoroughly worthwhile experience for both visitors and exhibitors alike.

Seminars & Conferences

With a range of conferences on offer, I was spoilt for choice when it came to selecting topics of interest. During my time at Southern Manufacturing, I attended three different seminars - all of which were both engaging and extremely educational.

Additive Manufacturing Landscape - Prototype to End Use Parts - Kevin Askew, GoPrint3D:

Kevin explained that AM is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.

Additive manufacturing is one of the fastest-evolving areas within the manufacturing sphere. As business development manager at AM specialist GoPrint3D, Kevin Askew has his finger on the pulse of additive manufacturing and delivered a fascinating conference about the progressions of AM technology. As well as explaining the various 3D printing methods available and their advantages and disadvantages, Kevin also gave his audience a fascinating insight into where the industry is headed next. There was also plenty of advice on offer for those who are interested in incorporating additive manufacturing within their production portfolio, with Kevin explaining that AM is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution and that certain variables need to be taken into account to ensure that a company implements the correct additive manufacturing technology for their business.

Product Compliance For Global Markets - Pitfalls & How To Avoid Them - James Tingay, Eurofins E&E:

James had plenty of advice for those looking to sell a new product on an international level.

There’s no getting away from the fact that international testing and certification can be a difficult minefield to negotiate, especially when bringing a new product to an overseas market. James Tingay’s conference was invaluable for companies looking to do exactly that and answered many of the questions surrounding certification in a post-Brexit Britain. As well as explaining the different certification and testing required in major countries, James also had plenty of advice for those looking to sell a new product on an international level, as well as highlighting the common reasons that the certification procedure can fail. I certainly learnt a lot from James’s seminar, as I’m sure the rest of his audience did as well.

30 Years & Beyond Of Changing The Economics Of Space - Rob Goddard, Surrey Satellite Technology:

Rob’s conference detailed some of their previous missions and highlighted the challenges traditionally experienced within satellite design.

I was very much looking forward to Rob Goddard’s seminar, although I may be slightly biased due to my fascination with space! However, it certainly did not disappoint and actually became one of my highlights of the day. Surrey Satellite Technology are involved in the design and manufacture of satellites and to date, have launched over fifty into orbit. Rob’s conference detailed some of their previous missions and highlighted the challenges traditionally experienced within satellite design, such as intense radiation, alongside modern struggles such as the processing of large amounts of data. With the dawn of ‘new space’ upon us - that is, the costs of launch rapidly decreasing and increased use of commercial-grade parts - we’re sure to see big things from this sector over the years to come.

Southern Manufacturing & Electronics 2021 - Should I Attend?

If Southern Manufacturing & Electronics isn’t on your radar already, then it’s well worth taking the time to visit in 2021. The dates for 2021’s event have yet to be announced, although given the show’s continued growth in recent years, this promises to be a fantastic event which brings together every corner of the industry.

Moreover, companies based within the north will benefit from Northern Manufacturing & Electronics - Southern Manufacturing’s counterpart which, although smaller, is a great regional show that follows the same ethos. This will take place in Manchester from 7-8th October 2020.

For more information, please visit www.industrysouth.co.uk. Alternatively, information relating to Northern Manufacturing & Electronics can be found at www.industrynorth.co.uk.


About Sarah Venning

Sarah is a sales & marketing content writer, with six years of experience within the engineering & manufacturing industry.  Working both at Qimtek and on a freelance basis, she can usually be found hammering away at a keyboard or with her head in a pile of engineering drawings. 

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