The engineering and manufacturing industries eagerly anticipated the arrival of Subcon 2022 this week. Returning to its pre-pandemic time slot having previously taken place in September 2021, Subcon is a key event for bringing the UK's subcontract engineering community together under one roof.
As 2021's show was a scaled-down affair in light of lingering COVID restrictions, I was keen to see how Subcon's latest instalment would compare. Taking place at the NEC in Birmingham, Subcon 2022 offers visitors an exciting lineup for their time at the show, including hundreds of subcontract specialists to meet, a comprehensive seminar schedule and a VIP Buyers' Lounge - an aspect of the show that Qimtek is proud to have sponsored. In addition, Subcon also co-located with TCT3Sixty, The Engineer Expo 2022 and the Manufacturing Management Show 2022, providing access to multiple events in one visit.
Indeed, the appeal of Subcon 2022 was evident from arrival at the NEC on day 2, as the car park quickly filled up with visitors. It certainly seemed that Subcon was back in its full swing, but how would it compare with the show's previous offerings?
Qimtek & Subcon 2022:
Qimtek is proud to have once again featured as show partners for 2022's event.
As long-standing sponsors of Subcon, Qimtek is proud to have once again featured as show partners for 2022's event. As sponsors of the extremely popular VIP Buyers' Lounge, it allows us to offer buyers a place to escape the busy atmosphere of the show and to grab some complimentary refreshments. The VIP Buyers' Lounge is always a firm favourite amongst Subcon visitors, as it offers an opportunity to network and exchange ideas, as well as to relax and regroup. Acting as a 'hub' throughout the course of the event, the VIP Buyers' Lounge is a unique feature that Subcon offers.
In addition to sponsoring the VIP Buyers' Lounge, Qimtek were also able to offer a range of benefits to our exhibiting Supplier Members, including exclusive rates and personalised introductions. This meant that as in previous years, our involvement as show partners was beneficial to both the buyers and suppliers within our network.
Subcon 2022 - The Show:
Upon arrival, it was immediately apparent that 2022's Subcon show was much bigger than the previous instalment. The floorplan boasted a large number of stands, featuring suppliers offering all of the services you could think of under the subcontract umbrella. From machining, fabrication, casting and subcontract electronics services, through to ERP and analytical software, marketing services and bespoke tooling, the scope of offerings Subcon 2022 brought to the table meant that buyers were almost guaranteed to find what they were looking for - no matter what their requirements.
The floorplan boasted a large number of stands, featuring suppliers offering all of the services you could think of under the subcontract umbrella.
Making my way over to the Qimtek stand, it was a positive start to the day to see that there were already plenty of visitors in attendance, with my colleagues all engaged in conversations with those who had stopped by to see us. The VIP Buyers' Lounge was also thriving with activity, with many buyers stopping for a bite to eat and a chat with other visitors. There was certainly a buzz in the air that reminded me of the pre-pandemic Subcon shows and signalled a relieving return to normality.
As I wandered around the show, perusing the various stands - many of which proudly displayed some extremely intricate components and assemblies - this atmosphere prevailed. Although the show seemed to quieten down in the afternoon, there was no shortage of visitors and morale remained high amongst exhibitors, with many impressed at how the show had gone so far.
One such exhibitor was Swansea-based Harlech Engineering, who are specialists in precision machining services. Offering both precision milling and turning services, as well as presswork and toolmaking, Harlech Engineering are a great fit for the audience that Subcon attracts. I stopped for a chat with managing director Steve Watkins and technical director Sam Watkins, who were happy to tell me about their experiences so far.
'We have exhibited at Subcon several times in the past, but this is the first time we've exhibited here in about five or six years,' Steve told me. 'As Subcon is purely for subcontractors, it's a great place for us to meet new customers.
'It doesn't need to be really busy to be successful, because we've had people approach us who have researched our company and given us drawings - it's a case of quality over quantity.' - Steve Watkins, Harlech Engineering.
'Even though it has been quieter than previous shows, we had three really good enquiries yesterday and a few today as well. It doesn't need to be really busy to be successful, because we've had people approach us who have researched our company and given us drawings - it's a case of quality over quantity.'
And what about their aims for the show?
'We're here to pick up a couple of new customers,' Steve continued. 'We're hopeful that we'll pick up two or three over the course of our time here, so it's definitely been worth it.'
Click here to visit Harlech Engineering's website.
Steve's comments echoed the general consensus of everyone that I spoke to at the show, in that the quality of visitors was extremely high and this was the key to Subcon's success. The target audience that Subcon attracts is more streamlined than in pre-pandemic events, but loses none of the quality or the buying power that makes the show such a staple part of the engineering industry's calendar.
I also stopped to speak with Russell Levell, managing director of Flexible Machining Systems, as well as Rob Dennis, engineering & projects manager. Based in Horsham, West Sussex, Flexible Machining Solutions offer customers a complete turnkey service - a plethora of machining services supported by fabrication and sheet metal capabilities, as well as electromechanical assembly, cleaning and design services that make them a one-stop shop.
'This is our second time exhibiting at Subcon,' Russell told me. 'Our first year at the show was 2021 and by comparison, this year is busier.
'We're not looking for lots of new customers - we simply need a couple of new accounts to develop long-term relationships with.'
'Our time at Subcon is also to give us more of a presence. Not many people know about the complete range of services we can provide - we've reinvented ourselves in the last couple of years with new people, new processes and new assets, so it's a good opportunity to highlight that to potential customers.' - Russell Levell, Flexible Machining Systems.
'It has to be the right sort of work for us as well,' Rob added. 'We're looking to speak to companies who are a good fit for our business.'
'Our time at Subcon is also to give us more of a presence,' Russell explained. 'Not many people know about the complete range of services we can provide - we've reinvented ourselves in the last couple of years with new people, new processes and new assets, so it's a good opportunity to highlight that to potential customers.'
And how did they feel that 2022's show had gone so far?
'It's perhaps been a bit quieter than we've expected, but we've had some good quality conversations,' Rob told me. 'It's in the weeks that follow that we'll really get to measure the show's success.
'Based on the conversations we've had and the people we've met, we're hopeful that we'll be able to bring on a couple of new accounts as we'd hoped.'
Click here to visit Flexible Machining Systems' website.
The feedback I received from the numerous companies I spoke to, as well as visitors in the VIP Buyers' Lounge, suggested that Subcon 2022 was a worthwhile event for everyone involved. Visitors were pleased with the range of services on offer and the co-location of numerous other events meant that they were able to address a range of needs in one visit; meanwhile, exhibitors were given the opportunity to showcase their services to those in a position to make business decisions, which meant that their objectives for the show were well within their grasp.
Subcon always delivers a varied, yet informative seminar lineup and 2022 was no exception. With two conference stages - The Engineer and Manufacturing Management Theatre and the Subcon Supply Chain Theatre - there was plenty on offer for visitors who wished to take the load off of their feet and hear from some of the industry's leading experts.
Seminars provide a rare opportunity to find out about developing technologies and trends within the industry, from the people that know the most about them.
I love to attend seminars at any show I go to, as they provide a rare opportunity to find out about developing technologies and trends within the industry, from the people that know the most about them. Although I didn't get time to attend as many as I would have liked to this year, the programme promises insight into everything from sustainability and green initiatives, through to additive manufacturing, nuclear fusion, big science and marketing techniques.
A personal highlight was Ajay Lukha's seminar 'Pushing the Boundaries of Engineering Manufacturing'. As chief commercial officer of Evolito - a brand that is utilising YASA electric motors for use within aviation - Ajay's conference brought to light the considerations that need to be taken into account when developing automotive technology for use within the aerospace industry. As well as commercial strategy, in an industry where safety is intrinsic, there are various other considerations to be taken into account. This includes quality and standards, well as MRO - an aerospace acronym for maintenance, repair and overhaul, which routinely need to be undertaken in order to guarantee safe operation. Ajay's presentation of the potential of electric-powered flight certainly gave those in attendance plenty of food for thought about the future of the aviation industry and the possibilities that these developments could bring.
Should You Attend Subcon 2023?
The comprehensive range of subcontract companies exhibiting will be appealing to manufacturing buyers from organisations large and small.
Subcon is well-regarded as one of the key events in the UK engineering and manufacturing industry's calendar - and for good reason. The comprehensive range of subcontract companies exhibiting will be appealing to manufacturing buyers from organisations large and small, with something on offer for everyone, no matter what their objectives for visiting. Supported by an excellent seminar programme, with some of the biggest names within the manufacturing industry delivering their insight, it's hard not to justify a visit to Subcon in 2023 as it will certainly be a worthwhile day out.
For exhibitors, Subcon offers an opportunity to reach some high-profile purchasers, as well as to expand your outreach amongst the manufacturing industry as a whole. The show's popularity almost guarantees an impressive visitor roster, with both big corporate names and smaller OEMs in attendance and ready to meet potential new suppliers. Subcon's networking focus means that it's easy to get in front of buyers who are actively looking for your services, bring your target market directly to your stand.
Whether you're looking to exhibit or simply visit, Subcon 2023 is an event that is not to be missed. Make sure to look out for upcoming date announcements to avoid disappointment!
For more information, please visit www.subconshow.co.uk.