The Construction Equipment Association, which owns and runs Plantworx has gathered together many positive comments about the event and itself sums up the show as: “A successful event – despite biblical weather conditions.”
But you'll not have to look far for a harsher perspective – like on LinkedIn, for example, where several have commented on the organisers’ inability to anticipate rain and its impact, and its inability to react appropriately to it despite the presence at the show of leading trackway companies such as TPA who could have, but weren’t, called on. The CEA says it would have been expensive.
The lack of decent WiFi coverage was also deemed inappropriate for a trade fair of this scope.
We’ll give the last word to all the positive comments that the CEA has corralled. But first, here’s what Craig Michel had to say on LinkedIn. He is managing director of Paragon Protection Systems, a Plantworx 2017 exhibitor. Firstly, the mud: “I have never seen anything like it. Tuesday's rain turned the site into a scene from Passchendaele. Only the main avenues had aluminium roadways and all adjoining aisles were impassable at points, resulting in a lack of traffic past many stands, including ours. The sun on Wednesday failed to dry the site, and rain on Thursday made it even worse.
“Why didn't the Plantworx team approach the ground protection mat supplier who was actually exhibiting on site? Instead, there was a feeble attempt to lay bark on the bad bits, which promptly vanished. Exhibitors resorted to anything they could do to help visitors to access their stand, but were warned curtly over the PA that mats and other objects were "trip hazards" – a ridiculous load of BS, considering most of the site was under 6 inches of highly slippery and dangerous mud.”
And here’s Craig Michel again on some of the the organisers: “It's not fair to tar the whole team with the same brush. Some were brilliant. Angela Spink deserves a special mention. She was helpful and friendly at all times, and awarded me Best Jacket of the Show Award. Well done Angela.
“However, those responsible for vehicular access deserve a special mention for another reason, especially a grey-haired older bloke who enjoyed his Hitler moment, accompanied by a silverback gorilla who ogled menacingly at anyone resembling an exhausted exhibitor trying to dismantle, load and get out after a hard week. I won't name and shame, but he knows who he is, because I had reason to politely remind him how much we'd paid for our stand and that we were not actually criminals. As we passed him on our exit, our vehicle window was open and we heard him exclaim 'Exhibitors are a bloody nuisance'. I'm so sorry sir! I apologise that you have to endure customers coming to your show and pay in advance. Maybe you have a better way to earn a salary and occupy your time?
“We were delighted to see those who made the effort to visit us. However, the unanswered question remains: how much did we miss, simply because people couldn't reach us?”
His post generated a flurry of responses, broadly in firm agreement.
Phil Walsh of Brokk UK also had a run-in with the jobsworths. “A fair assessment I think – I found most people very helpful but some very rude – including the sparks on the Friday who ‘told me off’ for interrupting him! We had no electric to break down trying to load 3 lorries and he was telling me to bring our electric only machines over to the generator to get power! And the car park guy telling us off for parking where the other guy just told us to park! They both didn’t seem to know how to talk to people. That said, the guy sorting out the fork lifts was great. We had a very good show but people came to see us and we were on the ali ‘road’ I dread to think what it was like for those that weren’t. I think our going next time depends on some changes including phone signal - no point the whole company being ‘out of office’ for a week.
Jane Alford of exhibitor Molson Equipment Services was also disappointed by “the walkways, lack of signal and no water or power switched on until Monday afternoon, despite being on site since Thursday”.
Ed Morgan, plant manager at Balfour Beatty Major Civil Engineering, said: “They can't help the weather but they could've mitigated better. Throwing a barrow load of wood chippings into slurry is utterly pointless. As other pro's have stated, enuff ground matting suppliers in UK plant game to pave a runway, never mind a few foootpaths - no excuses. Don't even start me on the phone signal and woeful WiFi... Bring on Hillhead – leagues better, despite double the travel distance for me.”
Here’s Jonathan Ridings, a salesman at BMC Buckets, on the WiFi issue: “Personally thought this year’s show was of a very low standard. The ability to have 200+ businesses, so maybe 1000s of salesmen/women in a field that had zero signal outside of about 4 square feet is awful for both them and potential customers.”
Chris Gearren, general manager of Groundforce Training Services, thought that his sister company in the Vp group might have been asked to help out to combat the mud: “Unfortunately the walk ways (lack of) were poorly thought out. Very bizarre indeed as I am sure a specialist in portable roadways/walkways (TPA come to mind) would have reacted appropriately (if engaged).”
Jamie Barraclough of Think Installation Services said: “Ground-Guards Ltd were exhibiting on site and spoke to the events team and the health and safety marshall several times offering to help. We were told they didn't have it in their budget. When we began laying our Ground Guards out to help people. We were then accused of creating a trip hazard? (Funny considering a lady actually tripped up over the edge of the aluminium track way they had happily laid)
To which Craig Michel, the discussion originator, responded: “Well put, Jamie. Considering the exhibitors and visitors who won't come next time, it's cost them more than they would have lost if they'd treated it properly. That trip-hazard stuff is BS. I saw someone slip right over in the mud!”
David Paterson, director of D&S Plant Services, was perhaps the most brutal in his assessment: “1 pair boots destroyed… 3 pairs denims beyond even putting into washing machine… wifi not even worth talking about... loads missed calls... no emails till out of event.. in general... shockingly shite.”
Hey, but that’s just one side of the story. Rob Oliver, chief executive of the CEA, is a glass half-full sort of chap. He said: “We had two things dumped on us at the show, three inches of rain on day one – and a general election on day three! However, the spirit at the show shone through – and it achieved our goal of providing a successful business event for our industry. Early indications are that a lot of exhibitors are reporting significant new contacts.”
As promised, here are some positive comments gathered up by the CEA in its support:
Sean Gratton of S Gratton Plant Hire tweeted: “I thought it was a great show – great access and a well thought out show.”
Visitor Trevor Little tweeted: “Having been to all three Plantworx – this show was the best so far.”
Graham Sandercock, MD at Mecalac dealer Specialist Plant South West, posted on Facebook: “It was wet and muddy as hell, but it didn’t dampen the spirits! There were some cracking guys I spoke to with great enthusiasm for machinery. Cheers!”
Jason Snaith posted on Facebook: “Fantastic atmosphere on the Finning/ Sitech stand…”
Hugh Crane said: “We exhibited for the first time this year. Great event apart from the rain on Tuesday.”
Hervè Malibas, managing director Containex, said: “A great thank you again for this big show which was a true success for us.”
Many of the 395 exhibitors seemed more than happy with their stand traffic, including these guys:
Andy Sabin of Thwaites: “We had a fantastic show and a busy stand over the whole three days.”
Datatag managing director Kevin Howells: “Plantworx went well for Datatag… The event overall was a good networking opportunity and visitor footfall to the stand was good despite the challenging weather conditions on the first day.”
Bomag managing director Alan Batty: “Despite the weather the Bomag stand was busy throughout the three-day show.”
Miller sales and marketing director Brendan Quill: “Despite the challenging weather conditions Plantworx 2017 turned out to be extremely encouraging for Miller, with enquiries at an exceptionally high level compared to previous shows.”
Andrew Taylor, general manager for Sany dealer TDL Equipment: “We had a very busy three days. The first two were excellent and generated many enquires, and whilst the last day was slower it also proved excellent.”
Access equipment specialist IAPS Group actually made a virtue of the conditions, saying, “We had a great show. The weather conditions helped us to demonstrate the soft ground capabilities of the latest Hinowa Spa tracked booms.”
All parties will just have to agree to disagree. So let's conclude with some wise words from Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, who, in Talkin’ World War III Blues, on the 1963 Columbia Records long player The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (side 2, track 4) sings (well, sort of): “Half of the people can be part right all of the time. Some of the people can be all right part of the time. But all of the people can’t be all right all of the time. I think Abraham Lincoln said that. ‘I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours.’ I said that.”
Then again, Bob also said: “You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows.” In fact, one might be handy next time around.