Precast trends at Bauma
Although Bauma 2007 broke all previous visitor records, it was perhaps a bit surprising to note that the precast business in general had very little new to display and few revolutionary elements in the presentation of existing products. Only a handful of exhibitors had the courage to do things differently. Among these, Elematic was in the front with an unforeseen Bauma concept: no actual machinery was displayed at the stands! But how did people react to this novel idea? And where is the precast industry heading? This and much more was asked and answered during one hectic week at the world's largest construction fair.
The precast industry: where is it now and where is it going?
The precast industry is truly booming. This could clearly be seen and heard at Bauma, where even surprisingly small companies displayed their products with a flourish. For businesses with revenue of some 10 million euros, exhibiting at Bauma is an extremely big investment. Almost all stands displayed machines and equipment; Elematic stood out by emphasizing an image of their offering as the solution for tuning up the customer's business. Today, when customers' projects are growing in size to match the quickening pace of construction, one of the noteworthy things at Bauma was that customers seemed to want less single machines - the trend is clearly toward more complete plants and comprehensive, one-stop-supplier services. When asked, competitors as well as Elematic agents and other representatives listed Russia, India, China, and the Middle East as the fastest growing areas for precast construction right now. The U.S. market differs from the European market in that precast is still not used very extensively for housing projects, but more often for larger undertakings such as schools, parking houses etc. In the words of one U.S. agent, "we are not so advanced in construction yet - many of our customers look to Elematic to upgrade their knowledge, as they realize Europe is superior to the U.S. right now. Coming to Europe is like looking through a crystal ball and seeing our future!" In India as well as Africa, China, and Russia, the construction business is growing, but construction work is still done mostly by hand and on-site. When the financing companies and banks join the development, this will bring along more modernized concepts. The market potential in these countries is significant.
What? No machines?
For this year's Bauma, Elematic had decided to do something revolutionary. As the company's product offering has grown continuously, making it close to impossible to provide a truthful live display of even the newest machinery, it seemed natural to go the other way. Elematic's two stands at Bauma contained no machinery at all, with the exception of the world's fastest KTM Nitro Duke motorbike that shimmered in gold as a symbol of success and what you can achieve if you choose your partner wisely. Many other stands also cheered the general technological message with fun props such as Marilyn Monroe and gleaming space girls, for example. Perhaps the traditional precast industry is finally daring to bring on humor and circus tricks to lighten up the concrete business image! The lack of machinery was successfully compensated with the Precast Fountain, where you can find all you need on precast products and technology. Although some sceptics said that they believed visitors wanted to see machines and preferably moving ones at the fair, others expressed their admiration for the bold concept: "Elematic is simply the biggest; they know everything and do not need any machinery on display to market themselves".
Improved interaction face to face
One of the objectives had been to improve the interaction between potential customers and Elematic's personnel, and in this we were successful. A repeatedly heard comment was that the machine-free concept was exiting: it brought mostly those people to the stands that know the company and were genuinely interested in doing business. In addition, the concept differentiated Elematic from the competition and brought forward the company's brand and one-stop-supplier mentality. Our personnel welcomed all visitors face to face and could concentrate on their needs instead of praising a specific machine.
Something borrowed, something new
The concept of modularity seems to have spread among Elematic's competitors, whom now, among other products, have modular mixing and batching stations that are shipped as parts and assembled on site. Some original thinking was certainly also seen at the fair in the shape of different robot applications that could be viewed in live action at several stands - especially robot arms used for assembling molds and placing the magnets into these. It seems very convenient, but do they work just as flawlessly in a dusty, dirty factory environment? Many also wondered about the fact that so many exhibitors had the same equipment on display as during the previous Bauma; does this signal a change in attitude? Does the fact that some companies brought nothing new to Bauma belong in the same category with Elematics machine-free stand? Perhaps the significance of actual products shown live is decreasing; for a fact people seemed less interested in looking and more interested in negotiating and concluding contracts.
The uncomparable Bauma
The general opinion of Bauma among exhibitioners as well as visitors was clearly positive, if not near to ecstatic in some cases. A tour among precasters revealed that most thought Bauma to be unparalleled in marketing significance and would carry the company's business two years forward; until it was time to start planning for the next fair. When pulling wandering visitors by the sleeve and asking what they thought about this year's event, a majority had found what they were looking for although Bauma by many was considered almost too big already. As for those passing Elematic's stands, most were truly impressed by the golden motorcycle and understood what it represented. A chance to have your picture taken beside the bike and the real live man from Elematic's advertisements was not something many by-passers wanted to miss.