CHICAGO—Walking the countless miles, enduring the endless taxi lines and surviving the innumerable sales pitches appeared to be worth it for those who made the triennial trek to Chicago for NPE.
The week-long plastics spectacle earned high marks from attendees, according to the DuPont plastics industry survey conducted June 19 at McCormick Place during NPE, held June 16-20.
``It's a great show,'' said Erik Fyrwald, director of engineering materials for DuPont Automotive in Troy, Mich.
Fyrwald said the poll's positive results reflected both the ``show getting better and better, and a general sense of optimism for the future of the industry.''
When 467 exhibitors were asked to assess the show, 48.6 percent rated the quantity and quality of visitors to their companies' booths as ``excellent.'' Another 42.4 percent rated the visitors as ``good.''
``I think it was summed up best by one of the guys who worked at our booth,'' said Vince Witherup, vice president of international sales and marketing for Conair Group of Franklin, Pa. ``He's worked three or four of these shows and is no neophyte. He said, `I didn't speak to anybody who wasn't there on business, to buy.' ''
Witherup said there were far fewer people at the show to collect plastic goodies, and far more there to talk business.
Even though there were plenty of people walking around with little green chairs and big buckets, Robert Schad, president of Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. of Bolton, Ontario, agreed that most were there for the business.
``Judging by the number and quality of attendees at our exhibit throughout the entire show, a strong interest in technology was a bigger draw than promotional giveaways,'' he said.
Schad said NPE 1997 was ``by far the best show Husky has participated in since we began exhibiting in the early 1960s.''
Other companies had mixed — but leaning toward positive — results from the show.
``The show generated some leads for us, but I would say it was just fair for that,'' said Marc Normandin, account manager for fluoropolymer maker Dyneon Corp. of St. Paul, Minn. ``Some days were definitely better than others.''
Alfred Gaudio, president of Omega Heater Co. Inc. in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., said the show did not generate as many leads as previous outings, but they ``seemed to be quality leads'' from individuals in engineering, purchasing and distribution.
Many attendees noted the visible presence of non-U.S. visitors to NPE, who accounted for 10,881 of the total 82,634 registered attendees.
NPE 1997 was Guido Radig's first NPE — and his first trip to the United States. Radig is marketing manager of Krauss-Maffei Kunststofftechnik GmbH, the machinery maker based in Munich, Germany.
What did Radig think of NPE? ``The quality and quantity of visitors were good,''' Radig said. But attendance did not seem spread evenly throughout the entire week.
``We've only had two days which were very exciting, which were Tuesday and Wednesday,'' he said.
NPE also was a good chance to meet customers from outside the United States. ``We have had lots of people stop by from Mexico and Brazil,'' Radig said.
A German extrusion official was ``really surprised about the very good contacts we are making at NPE.''
Walter Breyer, managing director of Breyer GmbH Maschinenfabrik, said NPE 1997 was the first NPE at which his firm exhibited. He claimed his company has many good leads from potential U.S. and international buyers.
According to Doug Schrank, senior vice president of Cleveland compounder and distributor M.A. Hanna Co., his company ``never had more customers'' at an NPE.
A sense of steady improvement seems to be the norm for NPE shows. According to the DuPont poll, 57 percent of show-goers believe the 1997 show was better than the 1994 show in terms of overall interest and usefulness.
Another 41.9 percent thought the show ranked ``about the same'' as the previous edition, while 1.1 percent thought it was ``worse.''
Those numbers are almost identical to those collected at the 1994 show. And back in 1991, 61.6 of respondents thought that show was better than the previous version, while 4.5 percent thought it was worse.
``This is a much busier show than in 1994 — much better attendance,'' said Steven Palmer, business manager at Entoleter Inc. of Hamden, Conn.
For Bill Schmocker, Americas consumer and industrial industry manager for Amoco Polymers Inc. of Alpharetta, Ga., the 1997 show continued a trend.
``Quality and quantity have both improved over the last two NPEs,'' Schmocker said. ``This is a great place to be.''
The pollsters also found show attendees generally were impressed with the technology on display.
More than 87 percent thought the level of innovation and technical advancement of products shown at NPE was either ``excellent'' or ``good.'' Just 80 percent of respondents at 1994's show rated that show as highly, with far fewer giving it an ``excellent'' grade. Another 12 percent rated the show as either ``fair'' or ``poor.'' In 1991, 88 percent rated the show in the top two categories. But the exact nature of the technical advances was harder to pinpoint.
``I didn't get to see too many other exhibits, but I'd say the level of innovation was good but not stunning,'' Dyneon's Normandin said.
Others agreed the show did not produce any smash hits on the innovation charts.
``I didn't see anything revolutionary in new products,'' said Mark Solberg, vice president of sales and marketing for CAE Services Corp. of Batavia, Ill.
Solberg's company is a consultant for computer engineering services for injection molders, helping them prepare and use software programs.
``People seem to be looking for technology to help improve their molding operations,'' he said.
``I think the industry is at a point where there's not as much new as there is attention paid to certain technologies, such as computer simulation software and such areas as mold fill analysis. Judging from the attention at our booth, there's interest growing in it.''