The increasingly high-tech world of global exhibition logistics is keeping the industry on its toes. Shorter access windows and the need to be more economical than ever with time onsite at venues means that quality of service is as important, if not more so, than initial project costs.
So according to the leading logistics service providers, what are the emerging concerns of global exhibition organisers?
One can rightly imagine security is high on the list, given the number of headlines given to attacks at international venues in recent years.
According to Ulrich Kasimir, DB Schenker’s executive VP of fairs and exhibitions, Europe: “Security is definitely an emerging concern of global exhibition organisers. Safety measures are intensified by venues and organisers all around the world.”
It’s a view echoed by Priscilla Leong, global COO and finance chief for Agility Fairs & Events, who says that while security is certainly a concern, the degree of concern is dependent on the country in which the shows are held.
“Exhibition organisers’ main concern should still be how to attract the right visitors to come for the show or event (the overall experience), which will translate to business for the exhibitors,” she explains.
Operational safety, rather than security, is an important factor where shorter access windows exist for build-up/breakdown, and is “more a concern of the service providers like stand builders and logistics providers as this increases the risk of accidents on site”, she says.
“Whilst we can appreciate the need for show organisers to manage their costs, there needs to be adequate consideration about safety.”
Kasimir says processes can be made more efficient and transparent not only though operating procedure, but digitalisation.
“Organisers and venues try to shorten access windows for build-up/breakdown to increase efficiency,” he says.
“This can only be achieved with efficient onsite logistics using digital exhibition logistics solutions such as traffic management systems and onsite logistics IT solutions.” The company works with bespoke IT system providers that cater to exhibition logistics.
US exhibition logistics firm Masterpiece is greatly invested in technology, and has an in-house IT department available to support its operations around the clock.
“Our compliance technology is especially exciting,” says Mary Ellen Stuart, entertainment and trade show division manager at Masterpiece. “This keeps Masterpiece current on all domestic and international shipping regulations, which ensures our clients stay compliant and avoid penalties.”
Kasimir says the significance of having a strong IT components to your operations is built around the fact that while organisers aim to bring exhibitors and visitors together successfully, stand-fitting-companies have to take care of the presentation of the exhibits, while exhibitors want to focus mainly on their visitors – their potential clients.
“Exhibition logistics links with all these three groups. We aim to make exhibition logistics easier for all of our customers so they can focus 100 per cent on their business and targets. Offering and developing digital solutions is a key factor for us in order to meet our customer´s demands and this target.
“We therefore focus centrally on the continuous development of our digital solutions.”
Agility Fairs & Events operates with an in-house IT system specifically tailored for the exhibition idustry, maintained centrally by Agility’s Corporate IT team. And in line with Agility’s corporate vision of becoming an IT company in logistics, it is also in the midst of developing a new IT system that will further enhance the service experience of exhibitors and show organisers.
Is there any fear that this greater level of service and the potentially greater associated costs will dissuade potential clients? In a market with plenty of choice, both in terms of global and domestics logistics service providers, is the market not led by price?
“Some exhibitors focus solely on the pricing,” concedes Stuart. “There are countless stories of service failures when exhibitors only use price as the determining factor for their shipping needs. Often this results in spending more money to fix the problem than it would have to entrust the shipping to a proven company like Masterpiece.
“We make sure to maximize the number of shippers per consignment to better spread out the overlapping costs and achieve the best freight rate.
“On the other side, the advanced warehouses receive and sort the freight before bringing it to the venue.
“We want everyone touching the cargo to be experienced and keep the shipments moving and on schedule. The goal is to make the exhibitor happy so they can focus on the show.
“Masterpiece focuses on quality while trying to maintain competitive rates within the market. It is important to have a shipping network that understands how to get exhibitors’ trade show materials from the shipper to the booth.”
Schenker’s Kasimir says quality of service is the leading competitive market force in the exhibition logistics industry.
“Companies in the exhibition logistics industry enable every day set up and dismantling of shows and supply exhibitors and stand-builders with stand-fitting materials.
“Performing with best service and quality, regardless of the complexity or scope of logistics tasks and requirements is vital in order to help our customers achieving their goals,” he says.
Leong makes the point that in a truly global industry, it is difficult to generalise as both are important.
“The weighting between cost and quality often depends on which country the show is held, what is the show industry, the type of exhibitors and the quality of the show organiser.” EW