CHICAGO — Show organizers and machinery makers say the setup for NPE 2000 — a massive undertaking in which 28 million pounds of freight was unloaded from hundreds of trucks in just 10 days — went smoothly.
There was no repeat of the South Hall crane problems of NPE 1997, when companies suffered through problems moving in very large injection molding machines. Exhibitors also reported the once-notorious McCormick Place trade unions are much easier to work with than in NPEs past, thanks to changes instituted in recent years.
"We lost a container in New York and they couldn't find it, but we've had no major problems," said Guido Radig, marketing manager for communications at Krauss-Maffei Kunststofftechnik GmbH (Booth S2932). The company shipped injection molding machines and extruders from Germany.
South Hall problems from three years ago — the first NPE to use the gigantic new building — were a distant memory, according to several exhibitors. Back at NPE 1997, some South Hall exhibitors with really big injection presses — several with clamping forces over 1,500 tons — complained that cranes could not operate properly because of what they claimed was a low ceiling, which kept the cranes from extending fully upright. That meant the cranes could not support the heaviest, biggest machines.
The South Hall actually has the same ceiling height as the North Hall — 40 feet high. The East Hall is the tallest, at 50 feet high, according to McCormick Place and GES Exposition Services, the company that manages move-in activities.
At NPE 1997, Van Dorn Demag Corp. (Booth S3300) experienced serious problems moving in a 1,760-ton injection press. The company was forced to use two cranes instead of one, and one of the cranes banged up some ventilation ducts in the ceiling above the booth.
This time? Patrice Aylward, manager of marketing communications, called the setup "very positive, really one of the best move-ins ever."
Most big injection presses are shipped in two halves, then bolted together once positioned on the show floor. For Van Dorn Demag's largest press, with 1,100 tons of clamping force, riggers had to use two cranes to lift the clamp half. The injection unit could be handled with a single crane.
Simple mathematics helped hold down complaints this year, Aylward said, as several injection press makers that shipped presses in the 1,800-ton range three years ago opted to bring in machines closer to 1,000 tons this NPE.
That happened at Milacron Inc. Milacron, like Van Dorn Demag, struggled with a 1,760-ton press last time. This NPE, its largest machine is a 1,000-tonner — although Robert Netzel, who coordinated Milacron's setup, said the smaller press was picked because it represents the latest technology, not to alleviate any crane issues.
Netzel, customer service engineer, was critical in 1997. He was smiling Sunday, as crews put the finishing touches on Milacron's main South Hall booth (Booth S2949-S2968).
"I would like to go on record and say that the GES people have done an outstanding job with the rigging and the freight for this show vs. the 1997 show," Netzel said.
Milacron claims to be the largest NPE 2000 exhibitor with 37 machines and 34,000 square feet of total booth space, in five separate areas in the South and North Halls.
Krauss-Maffei thinks it has the heaviest press at the show, a Decoform press with clamping force of just 462 tons. But the floor shakes when the big mold comes down on the vertical-clamp press with a horizontal injection unit, to mold a door panel. Two cranes were required to lift both halves of the press. Krauss-Maffei also is showing a 1,300-ton horizontal-clamp press.
Radig said the company experienced no crane problems. He also praised the unions for coordinating their work better. Krauss-Maffei and other exhibitors said they deal with one key person who coordinates plumbing, electrical, air and water — unlike the old days when the exhibitor had to deal with people from numerous trades.
At Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. (Booth S2983), Richard Wozniak, marketing engineer for shows, said the move-in was well organized. "I was in here at 6 o'clock in the morning and the cranes were sitting here, waiting to unload," he said.
Preparing for NPE was frenetic right from the start. Husky unloaded 30 flatbed trucks on the first setup day, June 9, more than half of its total of 50 trucks.
Barbara Voss, show director, said a total of 12 million pounds of freight was unloaded on June 9, compared to 8 million pounds on the first day of setup for NPE 1997. On Sunday, June 18, the day before the show started, she said the NPE 2000 total would end up around 28 million pounds.
"Machines are getting lighter, but people are bringing in more machines," said Voss, executive vice president of Hall-Erickson Inc. of Westmont, Ill.
According to Hall-Erickson, during NPE week, McCormick Place becomes the third-largest user of electricity in the state of Illinois, behind Chicago and Rockford. Organizers believe the show features more industrial machinery in production than any other U.S. trade show.
Some other fun NPE 2000 facts, courtesy of show sponsor, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.:
More than 800 different truck lines helped move freight to the show.
Riggers spotted more than 2,600 pieces of equipment on the show floor. Crews used 21 cranes and more than 300 forklifts.
The show required more than 100,000 feet of the 9-foot-wide aisle carpet — enough to stretch from McCormick Place to Chicago's Wrigley Field.
And on Friday, they start to pack it all away again.