Posted on 14 Mar, 2016 by Neil Sharp

5126137767_1ae2ba5506_oDrives & Controls 2016 (12-14 April) is widely regarded as the UK’s leading trade show for automation, power transmission and motion engineering.

Taking place every other year, the show is co-located with a number of other industrial exhibitions including Plant & Asset Management, European Offshore Energy, Fluid Power & Systems, Air-Tech and MACH.

A new addition for 2016, Drives & Controls boasts a robotic demonstration area with displays from key suppliers, including ABB Robotics, Applied Automation, B&R and Mitsubishi, plus many more. You will also get to meet Baxter, the two-armed "cobot" with a distinctive face developed by Rethink Robotics.

In order to help you get the very best from the show, and make sure your time there is well spent, we have put together a simple 12 point checklist, which we hope you find useful.

1. Location

The show is located at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) Birmingham in Hall 3.

2. Directions

If you are planning to drive and have a SATNAV the postcode to use is B40 1NT. The NEC is near junction 6 of the M42 motorway, and is adjacent to Birmingham Airport and Birmingham International railway station.

3. Parking

There are plenty of car parking spaces at the NEC (around 17,000) with charges ranging from £12 per day up to £20 depending on whether you require designated parking or not. If you don’t fancy taking the short stroll to the exhibition halls there are frequent free shuttle bus services available.

4. Pre-registration

Entry to the show is free of charge. To avoid queuing up and to save yourself a little time on the day you can pre-register to visit online here.

5. Floor plan

The organisers of Drives & Controls 2016 have been kind enough to share the floorplan with visitors (not all shows do this). Having access to the floorplan is really useful in determining which suppliers you plan to visit on the day and how best to get through the exhibition without spending huge amounts of time walking up and down the wrong aisles.

Be aware though that floorplans are subject to change so I’d recommended you check back a few days before the show is due to start just to make sure you have the very latest copy.    

6. Plan your route

Armed with the latest floor plan we recommend you head straight to one of the catering facilities and grab yourself a coffee. There are two large catering areas at opposite ends of the venue. Try and avoid getting distracted straight away by the impressive machinery on display or glamourous assistants keen to give you a goody bag as you walk past. Although you will have only just arrived and will be keen to get started, we recommend taking 30 minutes or so planning your day to ensure you meet all of the suppliers you intend to in the most efficient manner.

7. Make appointments

If you already know who you want to meet at the show, then it makes sense to contact them in advance so you can pre-book a time slot with them. Suppliers exhibiting will want to make sure they give each of their stand visitors an equal opportunity to discuss their requirements. By pre-booking time with them, you not only get to keep control of your own schedule but also reduce the chance of turning up at the same time as other interested parties and missing out on an opportunity to talk. 

8. Follow the activity

If you have a Twitter account the official Twitter page for Drives & Controls is @DrivesnControls. Another account does exist (@drivesexpo), which looks like it was set up specifically for these kinds of shows but it hasn’t been used since 2012 so it's best to follow the other one. Exhibitor news, guest speaker details and any changes to seminar schedules are often posted up on these channels. The official Facebook page also contains a number of articles and press releases submitted by exhibitors, which you may find useful to keep track of.

9. Recording your conversations

I can’t stress this enough but If you are planning to visit multiple suppliers or looking to attend the show over a couple of days, you will need a quick way of capturing your conversations so you can refer to them after the show. If you already use some kind of supplier questionnaire or checklist then maybe you can adapt this for the show. Determining what essential capabilities each supplier must have, along with those that are "nice to have", will make comparisons much easier once you are back in the office.

10. Request for quote

With a number of potential partners all under one roof, Drives & Controls 2016 creates a perfect opportunity for benchmarking. You will certainly get a good "feel" for the people behind the organisation and the knowledge they have of the products and services they offer. However, we would recommend holding back from issuing out "live" quote packs during the show; unless, of course, you are confident the supplier has the capability, quality and ability to deliver your immediate requirements. Inadvertently, you may be creating artificial demand, which in turn could drive pricing up or risk becoming bombarded with quotes and follow up sales calls the moment you get back. Instead, we recommend using the show as a way of creating a shortlist of potential suppliers and then spending time sending tailored request for quotes (RFQ) when you are back in the office. 

11. Learn something new

During the two day event, Drives & Controls 2016 plan to host over 13 thought provoking seminars on topics, including Industrie 4.0, reducing our vulnerability to cyber-attacks, the future of robotics and the Internet of Things, along with various panel discussions. Typically lasting around half an hour, these seminars are a great way to break up your day (your feet will thank me after), while keeping up-to-date with a wide range of industry-related topics. The seminars are due to take place in the Drives Seminar Theatre so make sure you know where this and plan it into your route to avoid having to walk back and forth more than you need to.

12. Follow up

After all the buzz and excitement on the day, it’s easy to head back into the office and then get caught up in the next/latest operational issue. However, as you’ve just invested precious time in attending the show failing to follow up and make contact with the key suppliers you’ve met would be a shame. To avoid being "chased", you should try and manage the supplier expectations at the show. If you need to carry out a review of your options using the information you gleaned on the day, then tell the supplier they shouldn’t expect to hear from you until a certain time.  

Hopefully, this simple 12 point checklist on the forthcoming Drives & Controls 2016 show will prove useful to you. If there are any further questions regarding the show, then feel free to leave a comment below and we will do our best to answer them for you.

Image by Steve Jurvetson

Alternative view of EMS tiers

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About the Author

Neil Sharp
Neil Sharp
Previously holding sales, account management and customer service roles, Neil has over 18 years’ experience within the Electronics Manufacturing Services industry. Neil heads up the marketing departme...read more