Every three years the whole plastics industry meets in Düsseldorf, Germany for the world’s largest plastics tradeshow: the K. In 2016 more than 218,000 trade visitors from 108 countries came to the city on the Rhine. But what’s so fascinating about this fair?
Let me try to explain it from my viewpoint. For me, it was the second K attending for Celanese after 2013. But my very first experience with the K started in 2007, while I was a young man studying plastics engineering, and honestly, I didn’t know too much about the size and the power of the industry. Our professors just told us we definitely can’t miss that show, and so I took three of my fellow students and we went to Düsseldorf without knowing what to expect. I guess one word describes it precisely: HUGE.
You can get lost very easily between the over 19 halls and spend two days without seeing everything. Basically, you find everything that’s related to plastics: raw material suppliers like Celanese; machine producers that convert our granules with extruders, injection molding machines, calendars and blow film lines to semi-finished goods or finished parts; refiners that paint, galvanize and decorate parts, and many other service providers that deal with plastics in their everyday life.
For us, the machine halls were the most interesting. Where else can you see really big injection molding machines or 15-meter-high blow film lines in one place and having the experts in front of them explaining to young, unknowing students their functionality? Here I made an experience that still influences me today:
We went to a smaller blow film company and wanted to know more about how their line works and what the challenges are while producing such blow films – as we got only the theory at the university. Ok, I have to admit it, we didn’t look like business men ready to buy a several million Euro machine directly from their booth. But we were ignored and quite disappointed we left their booth and went to one of the “Top Dogs” in the industry … with not many expectations for getting any help. A bit shy, we asked a man in a suit and tie if he could explain to us a little about their systems. Surprisingly, he took us by the hand and really showed us every detail, and even went to the top of the tower with us explaining each small part of the installation. Before we left he said one sentence a statement which left an impression in my mind: “You guys are the future, so I would be stupid to not invest half an hour of my time as you might either be a colleague, a customer or a supplier at a certain point in time in the future.”
We left the booth, thanking him for his time and I learned not only something about blow films but also an important lesson in life.
So, coming back to the initial question: What’s so fascinating about K? It is this compressed experience where you can meet everybody: existing customers, former colleagues, potential customers and also people like me from way back in 2007.
As everybody in the industry knows very well how to treat existing customers, I see that some companies don’t recognize the huge chance such a fair offers and how easily you can win or lose potential leads. So what do I do if I see people standing in front of our booth, a bit shy, not really knowing what to do? I approach them with an open mind, a listening ear, and take the time to explain to them our products; because you never know if they will end up the next big customer for Celanese.