This year’s Subcon show was always destined to be a jewel in the crown for its organisers, due to co-location with both the Advanced Manufacturing Show and The Engineer Design & Innovation Show. The allure of three simultaneous events generated a large amount of interest within the industry, resulting in footfall projections higher than those of its predecessors.
I’ve attended the past four Subcon shows – both as a visitor and an exhibitor. Having taken a smaller stand at the 2015 event, Qimtek became show partners with Subcon in 2016. Since then, we have been offering discounted stand rates to our members within the Qimtek village, as well as hosting a drinks event at which buyers and suppliers can network and form relationships. We have always advocated exhibiting as a key ingredient within any successful company’s marketing strategy and due to our alignment with Subcon’s target audience, we felt that it was the ideal event for us to get involved with.
Whilst some of my colleagues attended for the entire three days in order to look after our stand, as well as our members and our sponsored Buyer’s Lounge, I decided to visit on the Wednesday. I know from previous years that attendance is usually consistent across the entire show, although Wednesdays mark the mid-point and have a tendency to garner the highest visitor numbers. Arriving just before the opening time of 10am, the first car park had just been closed - a positive omen that the day’s turnout was to live up to expectation.
What is Subcon?
As one of the most well-known events in the engineering and manufacturing industry’s calendar, Subcon enjoys an impressive reputation as a key place to network with buyers and suppliers alike. What’s more, Subcon is incredibly well-established, with the 2017 show marking its forty-first year of existence.
Based at the NEC in Birmingham, Subcon places an emphasis on professional introductions, as well as the exchange of industry information. In addition to a wide range of exhibitors spanning fabrication, machining, electronics, casting and finishing, Subcon also offers its visitors free attendance to a host of seminars, as well as an advisory drop-in centre. Here, impartial advice can be sought from industry experts on all manner of topics, from finance through to exporting.
Thousands of visitors attend Subcon annually, representing industries such as aerospace, oil & gas, defence, automotive and electronics, to name but a few.
The Qimtek Effect:
Following our collaboration with Subcon as a show partner, we were able to introduce the Qimtek village – an area in which our members are able to exhibit exclusively.
We also sponsor the Buyer’s Lounge, which acts as a venue for purchasers to either discuss new opportunities with potential suppliers, or just to relax with a cup of coffee in between meetings. It is also here that we host our drinks event, allowing both buyers and suppliers from our network to make face-to-face introductions with each other.
Never being one to turn down a glass of champagne, the timing of my visit to Subcon may or may not have been influenced by the fact that the drinks event was also scheduled for the Wednesday. By eleven-thirty – half an hour into the event – the Buyer’s Lounge was almost full, the buzz of conversation audible from across the hall. In fact, the attendance to the drinks reception doubled from 2016 to 2017, meaning that its reputation must have grown amongst the Subcon visitors within our network.
What Do the Exhibitors Say?
‘It’s been very good so far,’ says Steve Watkins, Managing Director at Harlech Tools. ‘We’ve been exhibiting at the Southern Manufacturing show for a few years now and we’ve come to Subcon to put ourselves in front of new companies that we haven’t previously met with.’
Harlech Tools are one of six Qimtek members exhibiting alongside us within our village. Based in Swansea, they offer high precision machining services, alongside – as their name suggests – the manufacture of press tools and jigs & fixtures. Steve last exhibited at Subcon over a decade ago and feels that there is quite a contrast in the visitor sample of yesteryear compared to the present day.
‘Back when the Mach show was next door, there was an overwhelming amount of people attending, but they would only be passing through,’ he explains. ‘It’s been busy today and because this show is specifically for subcontract engineers, it attracts the right visitors.’
Kaby Engineers Ltd – another of our members within the village – provides precision machining solutions from their premises in Leicester, just over an hour away from the NEC. I spoke with their Sales Manager, Chris Taylor, who is returning for his second consecutive year at Subcon.
‘We hadn’t exhibited for some years up until 2016’s Subcon show, which coincided with our fiftieth anniversary,’ says Chris. ‘We had a lot of success and so naturally we wanted to exhibit here again – especially when we were approached about becoming a part of the Qimtek pavilion.’
‘A majority of our customers are from the earth moving industry and whilst we want to maintain that relationship, we are also looking to diversify,’ he elaborates. ‘Exhibiting puts us in front of a variety of sectors and we’ve had some high quality visitors on the stand today.’
I’m always keen to check out the seminars and conferences on offer, as it’s rare to have access to the knowledge of industry experts on a face-to-face level. Having pored through the show guide upon my arrival at Subcon, I had earmarked two in particular that I wanted to attend.
The first – entitled ‘The Benefits of Embracing Robotics and Automation’ – was presented by Jeremy Hadall from The Manufacturing Technology Centre. The impressive turnout proved testament to the prominence of robotics and automation as a current hot topic within the industry and indeed, the subject matter was highly interesting – even to someone such as myself who interacts with very little of either in their day-to-day life.
With a focus on how man and machine can work together to maximise manufacturing success, the seminar also revealed some shocking statistics surrounding how little we currently utilise automation within the UK, in comparison to other European countries. The half-hour session certainly gave me food for thought regarding the future of robotics and how we, as a country, need to welcome new technology in order to keep up with our counterparts.
The second conference on my agenda addressed digital and social media marketing within subcontract engineering. Dan Knowlton, founder of KPS Digital Marketing, portrayed some unique ideas on how manufacturing companies can maximise their return on investment within the social media marketing sphere.
Having woken up at five-thirty in order to make it to the NEC for the start of the show, Dan’s enthusiastic and energetic deliverance of the subject was refreshing, whilst also acknowledging that the subcontract engineering sector is somewhat complacent when it comes to embracing the offerings of digital marketing. I came away excited to implement some his strategies and see the results for myself.
2017 was another successful year for us at Subcon and certainly the feedback that we’ve received from our members has echoed this sentiment across the board. With attendance at the drinks event more than doubled since 2016, we are confident that our affiliation with Subcon is becoming more well-known – not just within our network, but also the industry at large.
In the coming weeks, we will be reviewing and collating the results from the show – both from our own perspective and that of our members. Be sure to keep an eye out for our follow-up post in which we will discuss these in greater detail!