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issue: November 2003 APPLIANCE Magazine

APPLIANCE Magazine Industry Tour 2003
A Vehicle of Opportunity

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by Lisa Bonnema, Managing Editor

With travel budgets at record lows, road shows like the APPLIANCE Magazine Industry Tour are offering appliance engineers and purchasing executives a convenient way to stay in touch with the latest product offerings.

Although the concept of a trade show on wheels is very applicable to today's economic environment, the Industry Tour, sponsored by APPLIANCE magazine, just finished its 11th year. In fact, manufacturers like GE Consumer Products in Louisville, KY, U.S. have been involved in the show for most of its run in an effort to keep its design and purchasing staff up-to-speed on what industry suppliers have to offer.

"Our products are changing, and you need to know what's out there," Dan Isenberg, GE Consumer Products' purchasing team leader for metal products, told APPLIANCE at the GE stop in Louisville. "This is a great concept. It's an efficient way to get a lot of exposure to a lot of products in a short period of time."

The Industry Tour's stop at GE Consumer Products in Louisville, KY, U.S. (pictured) recorded the best attendance in 4 years. Visitors said the convenience and variety of product offerings were the main reasons the tour drew such a crowd this year. "It gives us the opportunity to meet with a lot of different suppliers we might not normally see," said Jim Caldwell, manager of Sourcing Effectiveness at GE Consumer Products. "I can do this in between meetings and really get value out of it." (APPLIANCE magazine photo.)
Exhibitors were singing a similar tune. "I wish I thought of it," quipped Bill VanBebber, business development manager for Heyco Products Company, a supplier of electric range terminal blocks, injection molded product solutions, and strain reliefs. A second-time exhibitor, Heyco actually increased its exhibit size this year due to the amount of contacts it made the last time it exhibited, according to Mr. VanBebber. "We're seeing more applications in the appliance industry, and this is a good way to jump start our contacts. This is where the design happens."

This year's tour, which started in Columbus, OH, U.S. at Liebert Corp. and finished up in New Bern, NC, U.S. at BSH Home Appliances Corp., made 22 stops in 16 different states across the U.S. Visitors from leading appliance companies browsed 16 exhibits showcasing products ranging from adhesives and switches to fans and hydraulic presses.

Several first-time exhibitors used the tour as a way to get their names out to the appliance industry. Material Sciences Corporation's Engineered Materials and Sciences Group, which has historically supplied to the automotive industry, is now focusing on the appliance industry. "We're trying to find the best way to reach the appliance market," Rebecca Jones, marketing manager of MSC's Consumer & Industrial/Electrical & Electronic division, told APPLIANCE. "This show seems like the best way to get in contact with the engineers, which is who we want to talk to."

MSC showed several of its material solutions, including its patented SoundTrap(TM) and MagnaDamp(TM) products. The exhibit featured the sound-reducing features of SoundTrap, an engineered viscoelastic layer sandwiched between two cold-rolled layers of steel. According to MSC, the material can be used to reduce the noise emitted from appliance components such as motors and compressors.

Schuler, another first-time exhibitor, traveled from Germany to showcase the features of its hydraulic and mechanical presses to potential U.S. customers. "You can really meet more people this way," JŸrgen Meyer, product manager, told APPLIANCE. "Most people won't travel to trade shows anymore, especially internationally."

Curtis Boggs, sales account manager for contract manufacturer Mid-South Industries, Inc. agrees and says that even if companies do send representatives to traditional industry trade shows, it's often hard to establish good relationships in such large venues. "Someone like GE might send three or four people to a trade show, and you might never see them wondering around a convention center," he says. "It's much easier to 'tackle' them in a truck."

Even exhibitors that have been part of the tour for years say they continue to benefit from the exposure. "This is the only client show that we get to visit each of our potential or current customers," said Scott J. Adaska, southeast sales manager for Bulk Molding Components, Inc., a supplier of plastic compounds and resins. "We also get to see a lot of people we already know and get some face time with them."

Motor and air-moving supplier ebm Industries Inc. used the show as an opportunity to introduce appliance companies to some of its new products, namely its new ESM product (energy saving motor) and a newly designed convection fan. "It's also helping us to show people the design part of what we do," explained David Neal, sales engineer. "Some people think a fan is a fan. This has helped raise awareness of our engineering capabilities."

In the end, a trade show should be about generating ideas, according to Adam C. Kennedy, manager of GE Consumer Products' Control Systems Commodity Business Team and first-time visitor to the tour. "There was a broad spectrum of opportunities presented that brought up new ideas I may have never thought of on my own," he said. "This may be my first time [visiting], but it won't be my last."


The 2004 APPLIANCE Magazine Industry Tour is in development. Contact Jeff Keirns at +760/434-6677 for information on exhibiting or to schedule a stop at your facility.

Laurie Bockorick, purchasing agent for most of GE Consumer Products' packaging materials, concurred. "We're always looking for new ideas and new technologies," she said. "It's real convenient when you can just come outside, walk in real quick, and get some new contacts. It's nice to have companies come to us in one shot, instead of having to make several different appointments."

Even with today's tight travel budget, Mr. Isenberg of GE believes that in order to generate ideas, purchasers like himself still need to physically see the variety of products available, making traveling shows like the Industry Tour appealing. "For me, seeing parts on display and with their application is always interesting. I like to be able to touch it, pick it up, and see what it's made out of before I consider a part or material," he said. "This is a cost-effective way to do that. I can't travel around to see all of these people."


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