Those pessimists who went to the K'98 show in Dusseldorf, Germany, expecting today's economic uncertainty to translate into doom and gloom must have come away very disappointed.
Not even chilly, wet, slate-grey skies could dampen the spirits of the 265,000 visitors from 103 countries and 2,655 exhibitors at the global plastics industry's single-biggest event.
Perhaps Ulrich Reifenhauser, managing director of German blown-film equipment maker Reifenhauser GmbH, said it best when he observed on the show's final day: ``Sometimes people can talk themselves into a crisis.''
But at the eight-day event, most of the talk seemed quite upbeat. Discussions focused on expansion, optimizing efficiency, and growth potential. Aisles were packed, deals done, quality contacts made.
And while some equipment makers orchestrated the sale of certain machines to be completed at K, other deals occurred spontaneously. Reifenhauser alone reported four such agreements.
Not surprisingly, the Asian contingent was markedly smaller, a victim of the economic crisis that has wracked much of Asia and Russia. Even with a strong Indian contingent, Asian visitors slipped to 11 percent of the total, from 18 percent of the 262,000 who attended K'95. Still, more participants spoke of staying the course in Asia — or even expanding — rather than of curtailing projects.
On the upside, participation from the Americas grew. The 139 U.S. exhibitors marked a 38 percent increase over K'95, and the number of U.S. attendees rose by 18 percent over the previous show. Visitors from North, Central and South America accounted for 17 percent of all attendees, up from 13 percent at K'95.
There were surprises and frustrations, of course.
It was highly unusual that many major resin companies, while still commanding their massive booth space, assumed lower-than-usual profiles at the show. Many of the majors — GE Plastics, Dow Plastics, BASF AG and Bayer AG, among others — did not hold a single news conference.
Myriad product applications, processing optimization, and the concept of supplying total systems solutions predominated, rather than claims of earth-shaking new technology.
Incremental advances, rather than quantum leaps forward, also characterized most machinery introductions. The steady march continued to all-electric injection molding machines. Also, machinery companies combined different types of equipment together in interesting ways — injection molding over a thermoformed part, or molding two halves of a part, then rotating the mold and welding them together, for example.
And then there were the K show's ever-frightful logistics.
Choking traffic congestion, crawling cab lines, computer connection problems and distant accommodations offered the usual headaches — prompting promises of improvements from the organizers. Unfortunately, while the nearly 260,000-square-foot addition to Messe Dusseldorf's Hall 6 should be done within 18 months, the planned 300-room, on-site hotel won't be ready for K 2001, scheduled for Oct. 25-Nov. 1.
Still, book your hotel rooms now and start preparing for the 15th international K show — the first of the new millennium. Problems and all, there's nothing quite like it.