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The manufacturing and supply chain industries remain among the top markets for meetings and conventions, but planning and executing such events can pose major challenges in logistics, programming and site selection. Industry players are minimizing these challenges through a combination of creativity, flexibility and attention to what potential attendees really want.
Race for Space
Space constraints constitute one common, straightforward obstacle being faced by planners in the manufacturing and supply chain segment. "Manufacturing events have always been very space-intensive, but with so many programs and so many different types of programs now on the agenda, along with so many emerging technologies, space has become more of a challenge than ever," says Renee Jacobs, executive vice president, association and commercial, McVeigh Global Meetings & Events.
MHI, a trade association for the materials handling, logistics and supply chain industry, grapples with space constraints at MODEX, its annual meeting, in part by holding some seminars on the exhibit floor. MODEX2020, slated for the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) in Atlanta from March 9 to March 12, 2020, will feature 159 free "on-floor" seminars on a wide variety of topics, ranging from warehouse space optimization and automation to using robotics on the manufacturing floor. Five function-specific solution centers will be featured as well: manufacturing and assembly, information technology, fulfillment and delivery, transportation and logistics, and emerging technologies.
The construction of a fixed gateway between Buildings B and C, scheduled to be known as Exhibit Hall BC and expected to be complete in December 2019, will add 100,000 square feet of flexible exhibit space and create more than one million square feet of contiguous exhibit space at the GWCC. The addition of Exhibit Hall BC positions the GWCC as one of four convention centers in North America to offer such expansive facilities to groups and will, among other benefits, provide more room to grow to MODEX and other long-time events held in Atlanta.
"With so many programs and so many different types of programs now on the agenda, along with so many emerging technologies, space has become more of a challenge than ever."
Renee Jacobs, McVeigh Global Meetings & Events.
Meanwhile, the Association For Manufacturing Technology (AMT) has opted to accommodate more technology innovation while tackling space-related challenges by creating a new floorplan for its International Manufacturing Technology Show (ITMS). The floorplan will be introduced at ITMS 2020, to be held at McCormick Place in Chicago from September 14 to September 19.
Among new elements of the floorplan, the Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) Pavilion and the Metal-Cutting Pavilion will be consolidated into a single pavilion, to be known as the Metal-Cutting Pavilion. The latter will be relocated to the East Building of McCormick Place (now known as Lakeside Center), allowing extra space for technology displays. Additionally, an exhibition area on the west side of the West Building has been freed up to accommodate part of the Additive Manufacturing Pavilion; the remainder of the pavilion will be situated within an adjacent entrance to the hall. The new configuration will allow exhibitors to feature larger, heavier systems and use double-deck booth designs
Putting More into Programming
Yet another challenge when it comes to planning manufacturing and supply chain meetings is programming, as planners are tasked to break with the topics and speakers traditionally found at these events. In the past, the speaker profile at manufacturing events has skewed heavily towards "senior, Caucasian executives," McVeigh's Renee Jacobs points out. But increasing diversity in the manufacturing segment itself has sparked demand for the same diversity when it comes to speakers, she notes, adding that attendees "want to see more women and younger blood" at the podium and on panels.
Next year's Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Exhibition, sponsored by BNP Media, will respond by featuring at least eight female speakers, including female executives from industry heavy-hitters like Dawn Foods (Gabrielle Kalkwijk, president, global manufacturing operations) and Good Foods Group (Joyce Longfield, vice president, operations). Several younger male speakers also will address attendees, among them Andrew Lamore, field segment manager with Burkert Fluid Control Systems, and Matt Kovar, engineering and facilities manager with Kellogg Company.
"If attendees don't get what they want in terms of expanded programming — different speakers and new topics — they will just go on to the next event, because there are so many from which to choose."
Manish Shah, Events in America.
As for topics, attendees are calling for programming that addresses the impact that technology is having on jobs in the segment, Jacobs adds. The IFC 2nd Global Manufacturing Conference, held by the International Finance Corp. in Marrakech, Morocco, on November 13 and 14, 2019 included a session on how technological advancements in manufacturing are improving the type and quality of jobs, and examples were shared with the audience. Also covered in the session was the way in which technological advancements can improve labor conditions in manufacturing.
"A lot of the challenge in this particular area is the need to cover the impact of technology on jobs at every level — not just the high-level posts," Jacobs asserts.
Manish Shah, a principal with events-services company Events in America, agrees with the need to advance the content, noting that the increasing number of events being held in the manufacturing and supply chain space only serves to exacerbate this challenge and make overcoming it a priority. "If attendees don't get what they want in terms of expanded programming — different speakers and new topics — they will just go on to the next event, because there are so many from which to choose," he says.
Events in America clients are urged to make things easier for themselves by soliciting feedback from attendees about their programming preferences. "We can no longer just say, 'Here's a conference or a meeting in February 2020, and here are the 20 educational sessions we're going to present, and here's who is going to speak there,' he asserts. "[Prospective] attendees need to be asked what they want to learn about. Is it where to find suppliers? How artificial intelligence is going to have an impact on their business? It isn't so simple anymore — although social media platforms and online communication in general make obtaining input a less time-consuming process."
Digital technology has also become a focus in the manufacturing and supply chain meetings market. MODEX 2018 featured a wealth of sessions centered on digital topics, such as UPS' efforts to anticipate tomorrow's supply chain challenges by embracing disruptive, digital innovation and harnessing the digital future in logistics. The digital piece will be explored further at MODEX 2020.
Shah also recommends gauging potential meeting participants' interest in programming other than sit-down keynote sessions, breakouts and the like. "It's very likely their interest will be (piqued) by activities like plant tours," he explains. Atlanta ranks among cities with top-notch prospects for tours, given that it is home to myriad major manufacturing entities and employers. The list of these manufacturers includes Coca-Cola Refreshments North America, Georgia-Pacific LLC, Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. and Siemens Industry.
Location, Location, Location
Financial and time constraints also throw some obstacles into the path of manufacturing and supply chain meeting planners, notably in terms of destination selection. Many attendees, Shah says, do not want to travel long distances for meetings and conferences because the cost involved in doing so can be high, the number of days they can be away from the office is limited, and getting to and from the destination city takes too much time.
"For many of our clients' attendees, the limit is 400 to 500 miles," he states. "So my advice is, if most [attendees of] a manufacturing meeting are from the Northeastern U.S., don't select a destination across the country — even if it's otherwise attractive."
Jacobs advocates first and foremost considering the overall accessibility of a destination before adding it to the rotation or signing a contract to bring a manufacturing group there. When it comes to air capacity, Atlanta is generally among the most accessible of U.S. cities ¬— Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport lies two hours from more than 80 percent of the country's population and provides direct, nonstop access from more than 150 U.S. cities and 75 international destinations from six continents. The heart of the city is about 20 minutes from the airport, and can be reached via public transportation (MARTA), taxis, limos and shuttles.
The Limitless Capabilities of Atlanta’s Manufacturing Industry
From all over the country and world, meetings and conventions are hosted in Atlanta to share new solutions and advancements throughout the supply chain, manufacturing and automotive industries.
Adjacent to the airport you’ll find 1.3 million square feet of cargo storage connected to expansive interstate and railway systems—accomplishing 2-day shipping to 80% of the consumer and commercial markets. Atlanta ranks in the top 20 cities for industry-related jobs with the third-lowest unionizations. Deloitte also named the city No. 2 in the nation for supply chain demand.
Atlanta also houses The Center of Innovation for Manufacturing and Georgia Tech; both offer facilities and advanced research in cutting-edge improvements to the industry. The wide-ranging manufactures consist of textiles, metals, food processing and equipment, making Atlanta the most diverse, successful, and effective host in the industry.
Discover an illuminated Atlanta: contact the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau today and begin the RFP process.