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Next month the triennial NPE tradeshow begins in Chicago’s McCormick Place, and feedback from some corners suggests there remain processors having difficulty deciding whether they should attend the event.

Matt Defosse

May 14, 2009

3 Min Read
Tradeshow cocktail-napkin math

Next month the triennial NPE tradeshow begins in Chicago’s McCormick Place, and feedback from some corners suggests there remain processors having difficulty deciding whether they should attend the event.

Freeing funds for travel is difficult at the best of times and by all accounts these are not the best of times. The flipside is that during the best of times, losing a customer’s order is no catastrophe; you can always console yourself that “there are plenty more where that one came from.” Not so in times like these; you need to have your game face on all of the time, ready to compete as if every new project could be your last for the foreseeable future. Trade magazines such as ours help keep you informed on new materials, equipment, and processing technology, and on market news. Tradeshows such as NPE let you take what you read and apply it by asking good questions of multiple suppliers, all in the space of a few hours. 



Judging from the preview material sent by companies that will exhibit at the show, and based on the events colocated at McCormick, there is a case to be made that the discussion taking place at processors’ facilities should be less about freeing funds and more about freeing the time to see as much of the show as possible. Starting in this issue on p. 30 (or here), and then continuing in our June issue, we’ll provide short synopses of many of the material and machinery innovations expected to be displayed at NPE. Energy savings play a part in many of those developments, as do materials savings and improved quality control. These are exactly the type of developments that pay for themselves quickly.

Figure the flight to Chicago costs you $500 and it’s another $200-300 for a room/night (hotel owners show no mercy during tradeshows). Add incidentals and the odd steak dinner or two and you’re out maybe $1500 for a three-day/two-night trip. That’s a lot of money. But let’s assume you’re a small extruder paying $0.50/lb for LLDPE, running a single shift, and that your three film lines have average throughput of 800 lb/hr. So in one week, you put almost 100,000 lb of linear low through your facility. You need to leave NPE with just a single idea able to save you just 10 pounds of plastics per day—3.3 lb/line/day—to pay for this trip in less than a year.  

That’s chicken feed. Visit three or four stands, talk a bit about your business and its challenges, and you’ll leave with enough good advice to cover the cost of the trip without even investing in a single machine. The people suppliers send to tradeshows are their experts, accustomed to working their tails off just like you, and then they find themselves cooped up for an entire week in a tradeshow hall. You think they wouldn’t welcome the chance to talk at length with a potential customer? When they, too, are competing as if every new project could be the last? Of course they would.

Invest a few hours to organize your visit and set up some meetings with suppliers in advance, and it will prove difficult to spend three days at a tradeshow of NPE’s size and breadth and not leave knowing exactly how to save that 10 pounds on each of your lines, every hour of every day.

Checking online as I type in late April, Priceline.com finds plenty of flights to Chicago from both coasts (Philadelphia and Los Angeles), arriving Tuesday and leaving Thursday night, for less than $200.

We’re planning some nice events at our stand in the afternoons where you can meet your peers, relax, and learn what got their attention.  It would be a pleasure to meet you there.


Matt Defosse
Editor In Chief
[email protected]

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