Thursday, April 9th, 2015

“This is Marketing:” After NPE2015, Wittmann-Battenfeld Offers Tips on Making the Most of Your Trade Show Booth

If you were there, you saw it. Robotics and plastics manufacturing machinery provider Wittmann-Battenfeld’s booth at NPE2015, the largest NPE in the show’s history, drew in a steady crowd of attendees with an eye-popping, jaw-dropping display of robotics performing the duties of a NASCAR pit crew. There was almost always a crowd at the Wittmann booth in the West Hall, a testament to Wittmann’s products and market position, sure, but also to their savvy understanding of trade show booth design.

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The centerpiece of Wittmann-Battenfeld’s booth at NPE2015.

While not every company has the resources to put on a full-fledged robotic racing pit crew in their trade show booth (nor does every trade show have the capacity or space to host as many top-quality, cutting edge displays as NPE), there are some important assumptions guiding the design of Wittmann’s booth at NPE that any company can put into practice when exhibiting at a trade show, whether it’s one as large as NPE or something more boutique.

“We try to excite the senses,” Wittmann CEO David Preusse said regarding the company’s booth at NPE, as well as their overall philosophy when it comes to booth design. “Lots of big, bright signage,” he added.

For Wittmann’s product line, Preusse noted that they virtually build a fully operational molding plant in two weeks for NPE attendees, as they did in 2012 and again in 2015. “We all know attendees like to see these injection molding work cells running. In our case, we want to show molders the possibilities of state-of-the-art technologies, and the continuing Internet of things,” he added. “All of our molding cells are connected, and can be viewed remotely. This means we can service any customer, anywhere in the world, at any time; 24/7 service with our experts.”

Additionally, when it comes to booth design, size matters. A big booth suggests a big company and a big investment in what they’re selling to potential buyers traversing the trade show floor, and a bigger booth design typically yields its own benefits in potential new sales and customer leads. “Attendees want to deal with big companies. They perceive a supplier’s commitment. To be in big arms is one additional important ingredient,” Preusse said. “It’s important to show our size in staffing, with experts from different specialties, for automation, injection molding niche areas such as micro or nano-molding up to large macro-tonnage molding and material handling resin conveying systems and a range of auxiliaries, all of which we own the designs, and we make the products. Attendees want to deal with experts to help them with the best and most innovative solutions for them to better compete both here locally and globally.”

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A full view of Wittmann-Battenfeld’s booth at this year’s NPE.

Both of these items are important points, but make no mistake; Preusse and his team know what brought you to their booth, and it wasn’t necessarily the size, or the fact that they had a fully operational molding plant toiling away under Wittmann flags and banners. People came to see the NASCAR booth, and that was entirely the point.

Wittmann has at least a couple NPEs worth of experience when it comes to eye-catching thematic booths. “Attendees are drawn into a booth with action. With robots we can be active,” Preusse said. “In 2012, our guys were able to have our robots dribble basketballs, pass and shoot three pointers. People still watch those on YouTube. It was a large, up high, nonstop activity and it stopped attendees in the aisle. They stared, pulled out their phone and videotaped the show, and they clapped when the robots scored a basket,” he added, noting that the display’s popularity resulted in what, in trade show terms, would be considered a “good problem.” “At one point, show guards came by to ask us what we can do about all the traffic in the congested aisle,” Preusse said.

Topping the 2012 display wouldn’t be easy, but Preusse noted that, like the basketball display from the prior NPE, the company’s booth couldn’t simply rely on something that would appeal to plastics technology and robotics wonks; it had to appeal to any consumer, inside the industry or not. “Don’t get me wrong, the 5D curvilinear precision and powerful programmable control with payloads for these robots certainly help one’s mind to the possibilities, the flexibility, the power and sophistication we can accomplish, so no, we do not desire a circus act,” he said. “We are however, a FUN company.”

The process of planning began more than a year prior to NPE. “Kenny Pond, our lead robot technician, was the leader behind the Basket Ballers for NPE2012, did not want to continue on basketball. Kenny originally was an auto mechanic, out of high school, and he had this idea we could develop a pit crew of robots to change race car tires,” Preusse said. “Kenny made a sketch over a year ago and showed me and our team what he thought was possible. He even had images of booth models in designer pit crew jump suits.”

Wittmann’s executives in Austria weren’t originally sold on the idea, but Preusse urged them to let the team work, allowing Pond and the Wittmann engineering team led by Rob Eselby to develop the idea into something valuable, and the result ultimately was what we all saw at NPE2015.

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Attendees stop to watch Wittmann-Battenfeld’s robotic pit crew display in action.

Sure, the booth and the performance contained therein cost Wittmann some money, but one of the advantages, from a budgetary standpoint, of a triennial show like NPE is that, as Preusse’s boss Michael Wittmann said, you have three years to pay for it. More than that however, it’s important to remember that a booth isn’t merely an investment in future business, but an investment in existing business and existing employees and staff. “Honestly, some staff here actually love the chance to change things up from their normal work life, to do something different,” Preusse said. “A show is not just for the attendees, but for our own staff, our sales agents, our field sales and service troops, management and our colleagues from around the globe. Wittmann is in 52 countries. There is a bit of an ego in showing what a team can do when allowed to do great things. NPE is our Olympics.”

In many ways, for Wittmann, the booth isn’t merely an opportunity to bring in new business, but an opportunity to celebrate. “I sent many cheerleading emails when times leading up to the show were getting difficult,” Preusse said. “I pointed out in one email that what we as mankind, can achieve together is one of man’s best possibilities and triumphs to celebrate. NPE is a celebration.”

This attitude was infectious among Wittmann’s staff, and infectious among attendees and visitors to their booth as well. “I think attendees see this. I think it inspires them. It creates positive energy and a buzz,” he added. “And this would’ve been the case, even without one of our 20 truck trailers being stolen in Daytona, then rolling over and totally damaging our show shipment of two molding machines worth over $500k, and only nine days before the opening.”

In short, all the things that made Wittmann’s booth design, implementation and execution were as beneficial for the staff and for Wittmann as they were for the mood of the attendees who stopped by to photograph the company’s robotic pit crew in action. Creating a buzz within the office often translates to a buzz outside of it, a certifiable truth of business and sales that Wittmann’s booth proved throughout NPE2015. “This is marketing,” Preusse said.

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Officially Official: NPE2015 Sets Records for Exhibitors, Space, Companies in Attendance and International Participation

NPE2015 has officially come to a close and while the crowded halls of the Orange County Convention Center might’ve hinted at a record-setting year, the numbers released today by SPI officially confirmed it: NPE2015 was the largest show in NPE history.

The South Hall of NPE2015.

The South Hall of NPE2015.

By number of exhibitors, amount of space and unique companies in attendance, NPE2015 exceeded all prior iterations of the International Plastics Showcase. The data showed that NPE2015 attracted 2,029 exhibitors over 1,128,200 net square feet (104,813 sq.m) of exhibit space—exceeding the previous records of 2,009 exhibitors and 1,041,000 net square feet (96,712 sq.m) set in 2000.

Additionally, registered attendance for NPE2015 was 65,810—19 percent greater than three years ago at NPE2012—and these registrants came from 23,396 unique companies, a 22 percent increase over the 19,198 companies at NPE2012 that represented a substantial increase in buying potential.

As expected, NPE2015 also set new records for international participation as well. Nearly 44 percent of exhibiting companies and 26 percent of registrants came from outside the United States, with nearly 5,000 registrants coming from Latin America alone.

Exhibitors came from 37 nations in all. In descending order of number of exhibitors, the ten largest participating countries were China, Taiwan, Canada, Italy, Germany, India, Turkey, France, Switzerland and South Korea. These rankings don’t include many companies that are based in other countries but exhibited through their U.S. subsidiaries.

View of the West Hall of NPE2015.

View of the West Hall of NPE2015.

SPI president and CEO William R. Carteaux acclaimed NPE2015 as the most successful NPE by many measures. “What made NPE2015 a milestone in the 69-year history of NPE was not only its size and international diversity, but also the richness of its offerings to attendees,” Carteaux said. “The hundreds of machines operating on the show floor, the customer service centers provided by material suppliers, the pavilions and programs on current issues and emerging technologies, the extensive agenda of co-located conferences—this wealth of content surpassed our previous shows and now provides a guideline for making future NPEs even more attractive to participants. The plastics industry should be truly proud of its show”

All focus now turns to the next NPE, NPE2018, which will take place Monday through Friday, May 7-11, 2018, again at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. Visit www.npe.org for more information and click here to receive updates on the NPE2018 program.

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

NPE2015: A Quick Look Back on the Largest, Most International NPE in History

The SPI and NPE team wrapped up what was by any and all measures an outstanding NPE2015 last week. Here’s a look back at some of the highlights.

_F4C5169_webNPE2015: The International Plastics Showcase kicked off with the Pursuing Zero Waste Fashion Show, the result of many months of work by students from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in collaboration with SPI. All of the featured garments were made using post-consumer recycled, reused or repurposed plastic products, and the final products were outstanding. Check the fashion show photo album on SPI’s Facebook, and read an interview with two of the participating SCAD students here on In the Hopper.

Many, many announcements were made on-site at NPE2015, particularly on Monday, the first day of the show. Among the largest of them was SPI’s announcement of its new annual recycling summit, the re│Focus Recycling Summit & Expo. The inaugural summit and expo will be held in April 2016 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Fla. and invites the entire plastics supply chain to collaborate together to find future sustainability solutions and new markets in recycling. Learn more here.

SPI President and CEO William Carteaux at NPE2015 announcing ReFocus, SPI's first-ever annual recycling summit and expo, to be held in Orlando in April 2016.

SPI President and CEO William Carteaux at NPE2015 announcing ReFocus, SPI’s first-ever annual recycling summit and expo, to be held in Orlando in April 2016.

On Tuesday at the SPI/IHS Key Market Breakfast Briefing, the plastics industry got an invitation from Walmart Vice President of U.S. Manufacturing Cindi Marsiglio to help the world’s largest retailer fulfill its goal to source an additional $250 billion worth of products from the U.S. Marsiglio also invited attendees to consider attending Walmart’s next Open Call event, where manufacturers can work directly with Walmart buyers to pitch their products to the company and, ideally, get them into stores. Read more about Marsiglio’s presentation here.

One of the best attended receptions of the week was the FLiP N’Sip young professionals event, where hundreds of plastics professionals under 40 were able to relax after a day at NPE while networking with their colleagues and making the connections they need to continue their careers in plastic. Hosted by SPI’s Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP) and SPE’s Next Generation Advisory Board (NGAB), the event also served as the venue for a joint announcement from SPI and SPE about a new student membership option that makes it even easier for students and new plastics professionals to get involved with their trade association and set them on a path to plastics success right at the start of their careers.

Young plastics professionals at the FLiP N'Sip reception.

Young plastics professionals at the FLiP N’Sip reception.

SPI’s Bioplastics Division (BPD) also honored Eastman Kodak with this year’s Innovation in Bioplastics Award on Wednesday at NPE2015 in the BPD booth in the South Hall Lobby. Eastman Kodak won for its creation of a biotoner that contains greater than 90 percent biobased and biodegradable materials, which has the potential to have a major impact on the electro-photographic printing market. Learn more about the award here and stay tuned to SPI’s website and In the Hopper blog for more news and information on Eastman Kodak and their award-winning innovation.

A crowded view of the South Hall at NPE2015.

A crowded view of the South Hall at NPE2015.

All this and so much more from NPE2015! Stay tuned to SPI’s website and to In the Hopper for more NPE highlights (and photos) in the weeks and months to come, and scroll back through SPI and NPE’s Twitter accounts for more from what was one of the most socially-networked NPEs ever. And don’t forget to mark your calendar for the next NPE! Click here to sign up for updates, and we’ll see you in Orlando in 2018. SPI thanks every attendee, sponsor and supporter for making NPE2015 a true milestone!

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Two Tooling Projects Take Center Stage in Walmart Innovation Push

By Doug Smock, The Molding Blog

Plastics tooling is an area of special interest in Walmart’s program to buy an additional $250 billion worth of products in the United States within 10 years. It’s one of three area that Walmart feels needs new technology development if American manufacturers are to become cost competitive, Cindi Marsiglio, vice president of US Manufacturing, said in an interview. The other two are textiles and small motors.

The featured speaker at the SPI/IHS Key Market Breakfast Briefing was Cindi Marsiglio, Walmart Vice President of U.S. Manufacturing, who is charged with delivering on her company’s commitment to source an additional $250 billion worth of U.S.-made goods over 10 years.

The featured speaker at the SPI/IHS Key Market Breakfast Briefing was Cindi Marsiglio, Walmart Vice President of U.S. Manufacturing, who is charged with delivering on her company’s commitment to source an additional $250 billion worth of U.S.-made goods over 10 years.

Two of seven 2014 Walmart US Manufacturing Innovation grants were awarded for tooling projects:

*Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) to advance and accelerate the industrial implementation of metal 3-D printing for the manufacturing of plastic injection tooling as an alternative to current metal-shaping practices. Size of the grant is $291,202.

*Oregon State University to develop two novel alternative mold fabricating approaches, and evaluate for functionality, precision and cost reduction potential.

The $10 million Fund focuses on the following criteria: (1) impact on consumer product manufacturing, (2) stage of development and commercial viability, (3) degree of innovation, and (4) ability of the organization and team to successfully carry out the proposed project.

Choice of the projects is interesting. Metal additive manufacturing (AM) of tool inserts is well known and potentially a game changer because of the ability to build in conformal cooling channels at critical points. The problem has been the willingness of OEMs to pay the upfront investment required. NyproMold bought a Laser Cusing metal AM machine many years ago, but the machine often sits idle.

The goal of the IUPUI project “is to reduce the cost and increase the performance and versatility of U.S.-manufactured plastic injection tooling through experimentally supported, multiscale, thermo-mechanical topology optimization methods and metal additive manufacturing.” So if the process is optimized and less expensive, the adoption curve may be accelerated. Makes sense.

A 30 percent cost reduction and a 20 percent performance increase are expected with the optimized design. The IUPUI research team includes professors Andrés Tovar, principal investigator, Hazim El-Mounayri, Jing Zhang, Doug Acheson and Razi Nalim.

The $590,000 OSU grant targets improved mold making productivity.

“Current practices for fabricating these molds are labor-intensive and costly, and much of the mold material is wasted as metal chips,” said Sundar V. Atre, OSU associate professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering. “We estimate that mold-making costs can be reduced by 40 to 50 percent.”

Over the course of the three-year project, Atre and his co-principal investigator, Oregon State mechanical engineering assistant professor Rajiv Malhotra, will work with three industrial partners – Metal Technology, Inc., in Albany, Ore., plus Arburg and North American Höganäs – to develop and test their manufacturing innovations. Part of the work will take place at the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute, collaboratively managed by OSU and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Marsiglio was interviewed after a presentation March 24, 2015, at NPE2015 in Orlando, Florida.

This blog was reprinted with permission from The Molding Blog

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Walmart Exec at NPE2015 Invites Plastics Industry to Work with Company to Help Meet $250-Billion U.S. Sourcing Goal

Walmart Vice President of U.S. Manufacturing Cindi Marsiglio discussed her company’s 2013 pledge to source an additional $250 billion in products from American manufacturers today at NPE2015, during the SPI and IHS Key Market Breakfast Briefing. Marsiglio noted that Walmart is working to accomplish its ambitious goal in three ways: 1) buying more from the suppliers Walmart already buys from in the U.S., 2) finding new products made in the U.S. to sell on Walmart shelves and 3) reshoring the manufacturing of goods Walmart currently buys by facilitating these efforts among its suppliers.

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SPI President and CEO William Carteaux and Walmart Vice President of U.S. Manufacturing Cindi Marsiglio at the SPI-IHS Key Market Breakfast Briefing, hosted at NPE2015.

“Reshoring, onshoring, right-shoring, whatever you want to call it,” Marsiglio said, Walmart is “working with our suppliers to devote some resources to assisting them, where it makes economic sense, to bring production to the U.S. from other locations across the globe,” she added.

Innovation in manufacturing, Marsiglio noted, will be key to the “economic sense” aspect of reshoring.  SPI has always supported reshoring and aims to support it in the plastics industry. Walmart is using its retail might to do the same, by supporting innovation, directly and indirectly, in order to make U.S. production more profitable. Hitting the $250 billion target, Marsiglio said, is “going to take some innovation and some changes in some of those core manufacturing processes. Some things have to be made differently to make it cost-effective here.”

To support this innovation, Marsiglio discussed a $10 million innovation fund Walmart created in partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors that continues to give out grants for companies working to make all sorts of manufacturing processes more efficient and cost effective. Some specific areas that are ripe for innovation include those that are “primarily focused on textiles—changes to cutting and sewing, weaving, dyeing, printing—small motor assembly, advancements in the assembly of small motors and many of those products, so think home appliances, floor care, hair dryers. We sell a lot of that type of product at Walmart. And the third piece was plastic injection molding and tooling or costs associated with that.”

In addition to supporting reshoring by working to spur innovation in the manufacturing industry, Marsiglio also noted that Walmart facilitates connections between potential suppliers of U.S.-made products and Walmart’s purchasing team through their Open Call series of conferences, the second of which will take place July 7-8 in Bentonville, Ark. At these meetings, manufacturers can work directly with Walmart buyers to pitch their products to the company and, ideally, get them into stores.

“If you’ve got finished products you want to come and pitch to us, we will welcome you. Please share that news with your networks of people as well as your companies that you’re representing today,” Marsiglio said. “We’ll continue to offer those state resources, finance resources, workforce development resources, all of those things Walmart can bring to the table to accelerate our suppliers doing the math to increase their manufacturing here in the U.S. so that we can meet our commitment to purchase more products and bring them to our customers in stores.”

Manufacturers interested in learning more about the Open Call event can find out more here: www.walmart-jump.com. NPE continues in Orlando, Fla.