Posted on 18 May, 2017 by Neil Sharp


33588692886_fbd9ec801f_o.jpgWith less than a month to go, Subcon 2017 (6th - 8th June) will be returning to the NEC to host what they describe as 'the UK’s premier manufacturing supply chain show dedicated to subcontracting and outsourced engineering services'.

Now in its 41st year, the show boasts over 400 UK and international exhibitors, including a large number of electronics manufacturing services (EMS) providers as well as some of the UK’s top engineering firms. 

Co-located with Advanced Engineering and The Engineer Design & Innovation show, this three-day event provides visitors with the ideal platform to discover new suppliers that can make a positive impact on their business.

With so much going on and to ensure you get the most from the event, we have put together a quick 13-point guide, which we hope you will find of use.

1. Where and when

The show is located at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) Birmingham in Hall 3. The show is open from 9.30am to 4.30pm on Tuesday and Wednesday and 9.30am to 4pm on Thursday.

2. Directions

If you are planning to drive and have a Sat Nav 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. If you are travelling by rail, air or bus please click here for further information, including maps and timetables.

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.

5. Floor plan

An online version of the floorplan is not generally available - however, visitors can request a copy from the show organisers by completing a short form. Having access to this 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 all 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 still have the latest copy.    

6. Exhibitor listing

There are various ways of searching for exhibitors, including by company name, service or sector which you can do here

As a minimum, each exhibitor listing should include their company name, stand number, website and a brief description of what they do. Depending on how much information the supplier has uploaded so far, you may also get to see product or service images, videos or links to their social media channels. 

7. Plan your route

On arrival at the show, armed with the latest floorplan, we recommend you head straight to one of the catering facilities, grab yourself a coffee and finalise your plan. The main catering area within the show is located on the far left hand side (as you walk in from the visitors entrance) but there is also a 'Central Cafe' located at stand number F21.

We recommend that you try and avoid getting distracted straight away by the impressive machinery on display or the 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 to plan your day to ensure you meet all of the suppliers you intend to in the most efficient manner.

8. 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.

9. Follow the activity

If you have a Twitter account the official account to follow for Subcon 2017 is @SubconShow. The account is quite active and the organisers have already started using the platform to promote the show using the hashtag #subconshow. Exhibitor news, guest speaker details and seminar schedules are often posted up on these channels. There is also a LinkedIn group for the show, which contains a number of articles and press releases submitted by exhibitors that you may find useful to keep track of.

10. Recording your conversations

I can’t stress this point enough -  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 back 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 which are "nice to have", will make comparisons much easier once you are back in the office. It also makes sure you don’t confuse one supplier or conversation you had with someone else, which could lead to issues in the future.

11. Request for quote

With a number of potential partners all under one roof, Subcon 2017 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. We would recommend, however, holding back from issuing "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 you being 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. 

12. Learn something new

During the three-day event, visitors will have access to thirty-six speaker sessions covering a wide range of topics from virtual reality, additive manufacturing and Industry 4.0 to materials testing, updates to AS9100, magnesium components and big data.

The sessions will be held in two separate streams hosted by The Engineer and The Manufacturer respectively. Typically lasting between thirty and forty five minutes, these sessions are a great way to break up your day while keeping up-to-date with a wide range of industry-related topics. The sessions are due to take place in two seperate conference theaters located at each corner of the far end of the hall so make sure you plan these into your route to avoid having to walk back and forth more than you need to.

13. 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 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 quick 13-point guide on the forthcoming Subcon 2017 show will prove useful to you. If you have any further questions regarding the exhibition, then feel free to leave a comment below and we will do our best to answer them for you.

Image by Michael Brace

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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