Well, it's over. The curtain has come down on North America's biggest plastics show, and now it's time to decompress and reflect.
It was a good NPE, with far more positive buzz than many expected. Yes, attendance was down sharply but that surprised no one, given the economy. The show's organizers, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., estimated total registrations at 44,000, down about 28 percent compared to 64,451 three years ago. The quality vs. quantity argument used by every event organizer who has ever had to deal with sharply lower attendance seemed valid this time, based on feedback from some exhibitors.
SPI's efforts to pack multiple, collocated events into NPE's five days helped to ensure a broad choice of topics and value among attendees. But with more than 1,000 conference presentations, it also led to some very slim attendance numbers in many sessions.
On the upside, it was good to see the product design competition get its legs back. Previously part of the SPI's Alliance of Plastics Processors (formerly the Structural Plastics Division) conference, the long-established design contest had grown tired and undersubscribed. SPI canceled the APP conference altogether last year, to focus on NPE. As part of that effort, the association announced a year ago it would open the competition to entries from abroad.
I was skeptical that the show's organizers could pull together the renamed International Plastics Design Competition and get enough quality entries to make the effort worthwhile. I'm pleased to report I was wrong. With 42 entries, the numbers were far from overwhelming, but a big improvement over the 31 at APP's 2007 meeting (12 of which came from one molder).
The three industrial designer judges we recruited to select the 11th Industrial Designers Society of America/Plastics News Design Award winner from among the entries were suitably impressed. And the three Latin American entries one each from Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela won awards, lending an international flavor.
Plastics News just finished producing, for the seventh time, daily newspapers at this five-day, triennial event. In addition to the 40-page daily editions, during show week we posted online 120 stories, five blog entries, and 16 news videos that we shot and edited on site (www.plasticsnews.com/npe). We delivered 135 news briefs electronically to attendees via multiple, large plasma screens throughout the show complex, and we translated into Chinese and broadcast 23 of the hottest NPE stories to subscribers of our PN China eWeekly newsletter (which became an eDaily during the June 22-26 NPE week).
This year's NPE faced unprecedented challenges from a severe financial meltdown and global recession to the labeling of the United States by some as an epidemic zone for the H1N1 virus yet it still managed to serve as an important gathering point for the global plastics industry. Here's hoping it also proves to be a turning point for the struggling North American plastics sector.