2022 marks a return to normality for the UK's engineering exhibitions calendar in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Southern Manufacturing & Electronics opening its doors this week for the first time in two years. As the largest regional show dedicated to subcontract engineering and electronics manufacturing, Southern Manufacturing & Electronics is an extremely popular choice amongst engineering suppliers and manufacturing buyers, and boasts an impressive visitor sample from some of the UK's top OEMs.
Although 2020's show managed to go ahead merely weeks before the UK's first national lockdown, Southern Manufacturing & Electronics did not experience the same good fortune in 2021. Originally scheduled for October, the show had to be postponed in light of the uncertain health climate, instead returning to its usual slot at the start of the year.
As a fixture that was sorely missed, Southern Manufacturing & Electronics popularity was evident on day two of the show. With many of the UK's engineering exhibitions having scaled back their offering post-pandemic, I was very interested to see how Southern Manufacturing & Electronics 2022 would shape up by comparison. Indeed, the attendance numbers looked extremely promising upon arrival; however, it would be enlightening to see how this would translate when it came to the show itself.
Southern Manufacturing & Electronics 2022 - Show Overview:
It was reassuring to see that this year's instalment was just as big - if not bigger - than in previous years.
Upon entering the designated hall at Farnborough International Conference & Exhibition Centre, it was reassuring to see that this year's instalment was just as big - if not bigger - than in previous years. As an event that is renowned for its size in the context of being a regional show, Southern Manufacturing & Electronics has always been a large-scale affair and this year was no different. The floorplan was as convoluted as it was vast, offering visitors the opportunity to browse subcontract fabrication, machining and additive manufacturing services, machine tools, software & equipment and of course, electronics services.
It felt very evident that most people were keen to be getting back in the swing of networking.
With the maze of corridors already packed with visitors within half an hour of doors first opening, the second day of 2022's show looked to be extremely promising from the get-go. The atmosphere was energetic, with lots of conversations taking place between buyers and suppliers and most stands busy with hovering visitors. It felt very evident that most people were keen to be getting back in the swing of networking after almost two years of restrictions and digital substitutes - face-to-face contact is always the optimum way to form new connections and those in attendance wasted no time in getting back to it.
Southern Manufacturing & Electronics always offers visitors plenty to do and see, with a seminar programme featuring a range of conferences led by industry experts, as well as 3D printers and machining centres in action. With a few seminars pre-booked (more on that later) and plenty of interactive displays to browse, I felt confident that my time at Southern Manufacturing & Electronics was going to be as productive as it was interesting.
Even though I'm not an engineer myself, I always find it fascinating to take a look at the latest technology in action and after spending some time doing just that, I found myself at the stand of Kidderminster-based VLB Group UK Ltd, who specialise in providing state-of-the-art tube bending equipment. Marvelling at the size of the tube bending machine they had displayed on their stand, I got talking to Hannah Smith-Hughes about her experiences of Southern Manufacturing & Electronics so far.
'Southern Manufacturing & Electronics is a great way for us to showcase everything we offer.' - Hannah Smith-Hughes, VLB Group UK Ltd
'Southern Manufacturing & Electronics is our first big show, as VLB Group UK Ltd is brand new - we only started trading in the summer of 2021,' she told me. 'We offer a wide range of machines, so it's brilliant to be here and get our name out there. There's so many companies here, so it's great to network and get a good feel for the market.'
When it came to VLB Group UK's objectives for the show, Hannah informed me that their aim is to grow their brand awareness. 'Our focus this year is marketing - we want to let companies know that we're here and that we can get machinery out to them as quickly and effectively as possible.
'Southern Manufacturing & Electronics is a great way for us to showcase everything we offer. It's been really busy - especially in the mornings - and it's been really interesting to see the amount of people coming through and just to talk to everyone.
'Since the pandemic, it's been really nice to be a bit more human and have those conversations face to face again!'
Southern Manufacturing & Electronics is named so thanks to its dedicated electronics zone.
With the turnout seeming to increase all morning, the show really did deliver for those exhibiting. As per Hannah's predictions, the crowd did seem to thin out somewhat after lunchtime; however, there were still plenty of conversations taking place across the floor. The show was so large that it was hard to know if I had covered the entirety of the stands - it seemed that there was more to be found around every corner, which kept the experience refreshing even hours later.
Southern Manufacturing & Electronics is named so thanks to its dedicated electronics zone, which provides the perfect place for electronics manufacturers and subcontract electronics suppliers to get directly in front of their target audience. The size of this zone is sprawling, with electronics companies of all shapes and sizes showcasing their products and services.
I was keen to understand whether the benefit of a dedicated zone was what made the show stand out from the crowd for electronics suppliers and fortunately, David Duric and Paul Blundell from electronics subcontractor Nemco were happy to talk me through their experiences. Specialising in a range of services such as PCB assembly, production of wiring looms and harnesses, as well as full turnkey services, it would seem that Nemco were the perfect fit for Southern Manufacturing & Electronics - something that David and Paul were happy to confirm.
'This is our fourth year exhibiting at Southern Manufacturing & Electronics and we do so to pick up high-quality leads,' Paul told me. 'It's a great place to get in front of southern-based manufacturers who are looking for contract manufacturing services.'
'This is actually the best year we've had at Southern Manufacturing & Electronics,' David added. 'We had some quality leads yesterday and today they've also been good.
'This is actually the best year we've had at Southern Manufacturing & Electronics.' - David Duric, Nemco.
'This event has always been successful for us and we'll probably look to exhibit here next year as well,' he continued. 'As well as getting some insight into what our competitors are offering, it's a great place to network - especially for the first time face-to-face after two years.'
Both David's and Hannah's comments really summed up the general atmosphere of Southern Manufacturing & Electronics 2022 - there was very much a buzz in the air and a feeling of excitement amongst both visitors and exhibitors. Qimtek's own stand had a constant stream of visitors every time I checked in, which was certainly encouraging when it came to our own objectives of promoting both our free Drag, Drop Source! service and our Supplier Membership.
When it came time to leave, I really felt as if I'd got a lot out of my time at the show and that it was a worthwhile day out of the office. For those with purchasing authority, I am positive that Southern Manufacturing & Electronics would have provided unparalleled access to the entire spectrum of required services, whilst exhibitors would have benefited from an extremely high footfall and the opportunity to network with prestigious buyers across a range of vertical industries. Southern Manufacturing & Electronics really did come back with a bang in 2022 and I look forward to seeing what the next show has to offer.
Southern Manufacturing & Electronics traditionally boasts a great seminar programme and although 2022's schedule was perhaps less concentrated, the quality of the conferences on offer were still top-notch. The opportunity to gain insight directly from industry experts is invaluable, meaning that seminars are always an essential port of call whenever I visit a show.
Here are my seminar highlights from day two of Southern Manufacturing & Electronics 2022:
There is No Such Thing as 'Normal' - Steve McCarthy, MD, Fenix Business Solutions Ltd:
Neurodiversity is more common than most people realise - in fact, 15-20% of the population are classified as neurodiverse.
Steve McCarthy's seminar delivered something a little different than you would usually expect from a manufacturing show - nonetheless, it addressed a very important - yet seldom mentioned - topic within workplaces of all descriptions. Neurodiversity is more common than most people realise - in fact, 15-20% of the population are classified as neurodiverse, yet training programmes and KPIs in most companies remain rigid, adopting a 'one size fits all' approach. This inflexibility means that neurodiverse individuals often do not get the support that they need to exceed within their role.
Neurodiversity refers to a different way of processing information, which means that individuals who are neurodiverse may struggle to thrive under the instruction of traditional training and coaching methods. What's more, due to the lingering stigma surrounding neurodiversity, individuals are less likely to disclose such conditions, instead suffering in silence.
Steve raised a compelling argument that we should overhaul our current approach to training and evaluation in order to accommodate the needs of individuals. To do so would benefit not only those who are classified as neurodiverse, but also employers from a productivity and employee satisfaction standpoint.
Next Level Operations Excellence - Lean Meets Digital - Nigel Whittingham, Principal Director, BBN Nexus Ltd:
Digital lean is about using digital solutions that support the lean principles.
Lean manufacturing has long been a successful model for businesses to follow, but what happens when lean manufacturing and digital technology intersect? The answer, according to Nigel Whittingham from manufacturing management consultancy BBN Nexus, is digital lean. Digital lean is about using digital solutions that support the lean principles, in order to complement visual management and further reduce waste. With the use of digital workspace solutions increasing exponentially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has never been a better time for companies to consider digital lean within the day-to-day running of their businesses.
One of Nigel's recommendations is for manufacturing businesses to consider a platform which is specifically designed with lean manufacturing in mind. Team Assurance is one such platform, helping manufacturers to streamline their processes across all levels of the business, directly linking strategy management, project management and daily management together. Featuring a case study of a manufacturing business that had adopted Team Assurance, the audience were left with plenty of food for thought when it came to their own in-house solutions.
Southern Manufacturing & Electronics 2023 - Is It For Me?
Thanks to Southern Manufacturing & Electronics' diversity in terms of the suppliers and visitors it caters for, most people within a professional manufacturing buying capacity will find it to be a worthwhile day out of the office. Services of all types are on offer - with a strong focus on subcontract engineering, it also offers visitors the opportunity to peruse supporting services, machine tools and equipment.
Suppliers who are looking to expand their customer base and increase brand awareness should definitely consider Southern Manufacturing & Electronics 2023.
Thanks to its dedicated electronics zone and co-location with AutoAero, buyers who focus on the purchasing of electronic components and services - as well as those within the automotive and aerospace industries - will find Southern Manufacturing & Electronics particularly relevant to their needs.
Suppliers who are looking to expand their customer base and increase brand awareness should definitely consider Southern Manufacturing & Electronics 2023 as a potential springboard to achieving these objectives. Its footfall is impressive - both in terms of numbers and quality - which makes it a great place to get in front of prestigious industry buyers.
Southern Manufacturing & Electronics never fails to disappoint, so make sure not to miss 2023's event for plenty of opportunities to expand your buying and supplying reach.
For more information on next year's show, please visit www.industrysouth.co.uk