By Lynne Sherwin
Last month I visited a local shoe store that caters to athletes and people who spend a lot of time on their feet.
As the salesman brought out several pairs of all-black New Balances for me to try on, I told him, “These are going to be my trade show shoes.”
He asked what I did for a living, which led to an animated conversation about plastics, especially recycling and 3D printed athletic shoe soles. Turns out he was a science teacher, and working at the shoe store was a summer gig.
Sustainability is on the public’s mind and will be one of the major themes when NPE2024 kicks off next May. There’ll be a lot of new machines and materials on the floor, along with more than a few new faces. I'll be one of them.
I joined PMM in August 2019 after 30 years in daily journalism, and watched in fascination as the staff plunged into the river of new product news coming out of the K Show. I did not attend K; still immersed in learning the basics of the plastics industry, I would have been more of a liability than an asset.
A few months later, in February 2020, I got my first in-person trade show experience at Plastec West. As we wandered the floor, and at LAX for the flight home, we noticed some people were wearing masks in response to news of a respiratory virus spreading in Asia.
You know how the rest of that story goes.
Four years into my tenure at PMM, I still have not been to a behemoth trade show, and to be honest, it’s hard to wrap my brain around the staggering numbers: A million square feet of floor space! More than 2,000 exhibitors!
It's old hat to our boss, Ron Shinn (who's been to 30-some years' worth of NPEs and K Shows), and to others who’ve been attending them for decades. But I will be far from the only first-timer gawking at the enormity of NPE. In the nearly six years since the last one, companies have launched, closed, merged and evolved. Veterans have retired, others have been hired or promoted to take their places, and the industry has made a concerted effort to draw in new blood.
Glenn Anderson, COO of PLASTICS, confirmed this in a recent column for PMM. “A significant number of those who attended NPE2018 are no longer in the workforce, which means we must appeal to a newer and younger attendee base,” he said. “By 2025, it is estimated that 70 to 75 percent of the workforce will be millennials, age 27 to 42.”
He said PLASTICS is estimating about half of NPE2024 registrants will be first-timers.
So perhaps a little knowledge-sharing is in order. Tell us …
Industry veterans: What advice would you offer to NPE newbies? How do you map out your schedule and get the most out of the show? What opportunities for connection do you recommend for those starting out in the industry?
What do you wear and carry with you as you tour the floor? (I’m an ex-ballet dancer with cranky ankles, hence the new black sneakers; I don’t know how women walk around for days in high heels.) What’s the best booth swag you’ve ever gotten, and how do you get everything home? I’ve heard tales of lawn chairs abandoned at the airport after one NPE.
Exhibitors: How will this NPE be different from the past? What changes and new technologies are you implementing as you design your stand? Will you still bring truckloads of equipment to demonstrate, or will you rely more on electronic presentations or virtual reality? What fun swag are you handing out? How are environmental concerns, or health and safety protocols, affecting your decisions?
Most importantly: What equipment are you planning to show off, and how can we help you get your news out? PMM will publish a special issue in April with cover-to-cover new products, and in subsequent issues our writers will cover major innovations in more detail. We will honor embargoes, if you have something under wraps you plan to unveil on the floor.
PMM looks forward to seeing you at the show, and telling our readers all about it.
Lynne Sherwin, managing editor