6 mins


With the pandemic and remote tools changing the world forever, Neil Gerrard examines how construction equipment shows are changing to cater for the shifting demands of attendees

The trade show SMOPYC

Construction equipment shows are not what they once were. That’s not a case of blind nostalgia but an acknowledgement of the fact that the world around them has changed significantly.

It’s a fact not lost on the organisers of Spanish show Smopy, which – at the time of writing – is due to launch soon, running from 22 until 25 November, or on France’s Intermat in Paris, which finally returns after a six-year, Covidinduced absence in April 2024.

In fact, the Covid-19 pandemic played havoc on both shows. The triennial Smopyc was forced to delay for a year after its 2017 edition because of lockdowns, running a show in 2021 before reverting to its original schedule this year. Intermat’s 2021 show was forced to cancel altogether.

Intermat will return after a sixyear absence

20 years ago, there were exhibitions in Europe, in the US, but there was no Bauma China and shows in South America or on other continents

In the intervening years, the world has learned to operate remotely, leaving some to question the need to travel to exhibitions to see new products and innovations or connect with manufacturers when they can do so easily online.

Of course, some competing events like ConExpo in the US have proven that there is still a strong appetite for seeing machines in real life. The show notched up a record 139,000 visitors and 1,500 exhibitors when it took place in Las Vegas earlier this year. But its success is perhaps also a reminder of the formidable competition.

“20 years ago, there were exhibitions in Europe, in the US, but there was no Bauma China and shows in South America or on other continents,” says Jorge Cuartero, managing director of Anmopyc, the association of Spanish manufacturers, which organises Smopyc. “Now every country, every region has its own exhibition.

“Technology has also been developing in recent years. You can see manufacturers’ products through the internet. There are also company events with open days and factory visits,” he adds.

The proximity of Bauma Munich, Bauma China and ConExpo to some of the world’s biggest and most innovative manufacturers also provides a major draw to those shows. However, Cuartero adds, “There will be other important exhibitions, depending on the situation of the country and the market in some developing countries.”

Focus on today’s challenges

Christophe Lecarpentier, head of the construction business unit of Comexposium group, which runs Intermat, is well aware of some of the challenges and is working hard to keep the show relevant.

A former director of UK-based manufacturer JCB, he says, “My first Intermat was 1997 and since then the world has completely changed. Even in 2018 [the last time Intermat ran], most of the industry was still on diesel engines. We have done a lot of work on what Intermat should be and what the key issues of our times are,” he reveals.

That has included working much more closely with French construction industry federations, including the Fédération Nationale des Travaux Publics (FNTP), Fédération Française du Bâtiment (FFB), and DLR, the French rental and distribution federation. It has also maintained strong links to European manufacturers’ organisation CECE and rental association ERA.

We want Intermat to be a media platform not just to the construction press but also to consumer media to show all the good things that are happening

“The word that came out of the reflection with all the federations was ‘decarbonisation’. Intermat in 2024 will be a show where machines are important, but solutions are even more important,” says Lecarpentier.

“In 2018, and in past shows, people were coming to see us to see what the latest machines were. Did they offer better comfort, more productivity and so on? In 2024, construction companies are in transformation, and they have questions about moving from diesel to new forms of energy, whether it’s hydrogen, electric, or biofuels. We will showcase a panel of solutions.”

Lecarpentier says that he sees Intermat as an intermediary that can mobilise the entire construction machinery ecosystem to address show attendees concerns about decarbonisation and digitalisation.

Trade show organisers stress that nothing beats the experience of meeting ‘face-to-face’

In doing so, he hopes that this will provide them with an incentive after six long and eventful years away. “I think we shall attract people back by offering the exhibitors answers to their questions,” he adds.

Stands may be smaller in some cases and Lecarpentier expects manufacturers to showcase fewer machines, but with an increased focus on environmental and technological trends. Some major names have already signed up, some of which are returning having been absent in 2018. Companies set to exhibit so far include: Bobcat, Cummins, Develon, Hitachi, Hidromek, Komatsu, Liebherr, Manitou, the Monnoyeur Group, Volvo CE, and Wirtgen. More names are to be confirmed later this year.

Media attention

Lecarpentier also thinks that shows like Intermat have an important role to play in highlighting how construction and the equipment that the industry uses can help solve the challenges governments are grappling with, not least when it comes to reaching net zero.

“We want Intermat to be a media platform – not just to the construction press but also to consumer media to show all the good things that are happening,” says Lecarpentier. “We are working with the federations to raise interest from the politicians, both national and European, knowing that there is a European election next year, to show what is being done. “The politicians and the cities are presenting construction companies with a lot of challenges: to build cleaner buildings using less energy and with quieter machinery. We want to showcase what is happening in the industry,” he adds.

National or international?

Smopyc had 55,000 visitors when it was held in 2017. That fell to a still-respectable 52,000 in 2021 as the world was still trying to learn how to live with Covid.

Cuartero expects attendance to remain at around the 52,000 level for 2023 but says that he sees Smopyc more as a national show for the Spanish market, offering access to Spanish manufacturers and Spanish dealers in international brands, who wouldn’t necessarily appear at the likes of Bauma themselves. “When you are a Spanish manufacturer and you have an exhibition in your country, you normally feel an obligation to exhibit,” he comments.

ConExpo is the largest construction trade show in North America

“We also have the dealers at Smopyc. The dealers for Caterpillar, Hitachi or Volvo will not exhibit in Bauma because the brand is exhibiting. But they will exhibit at Smopyc.” Despite the close involvement of several French construction federations, Lecarpentier does not see Intermat as an exclusively French show.

“Today, 65% of the exhibitors at Intermat are international companies. Obviously, they are trading in France but they are looking at a broader audience,” he says.

“We have programmes to bring top players in from various countries. We also promote the show internationally. The focus is European, but we have close links with North Africa, for example. We also have people in the south of Europe who find it easier to reach Paris than other destinations.”

He also points to the fact that working with the European federations such as construction industry federation FIEC and ERA on the rental side, means there will be a programme of conferences and debates that appeal to a wider international audience.

The jury of Intermat’s Innovation Awards also comes from a variety of European countries rather than just France.

As two major construction equipment shows on the calendar, Smopyc and Intermat’s approaches seem to differ. However, both are attuned to the significant changes that have taken place in construction in just a few short years and are working hard to offer solutions to the challenges the industry faces.

This article appears in November-December 2023

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