The trip that almost wasn’t

A trip to China, in support of Industrial Laser Solutions China, certainly didn’t start out propitiously. Somehow, between the identification check station and the X-ray machine, a distance of about 20 feet, I managed to loose my passport and entry visa for China. Something that never happened before, anywhere.

The TSA security people, usually much maligned, checked everywhere, including crawling through the X-ray machine. A TSA manager reviewed the security tape and couldn’t see me dropping the passport, nor was there anyone near enough to pick my pocket. Assuring me that most lost passports are usually turned into the airline, he tried to calm my concern that weeks of planning were for naught.

One minute before they closed the door for the flight a breathless American Airlines employee dashed up with the missing document. Someone had turned it in at the Admiral’s Club it seems. So disaster turned to good fortune, a precursor to an eventual successful China trip.

The prime purpose for this trip was to introduce ILS China to an expected 300,000 attendees at the world’s third largest international machine tool show. The venue, CIMT-Beijing, packs 16 exhibit halls with total floor space of 72,000 square meters, into an area slightly larger than Chicago’s McCormick Place and much smaller than EMO Hannover. More than 1000 exhibitors are packed into these halls, most of which have aisle widths that could barely pass a BMW Mini Cooper. Think about the most congested exhibit aisle you ever saw and multiply it by 10.

Outside, the streets of the International Exhibition Centre look like your favorite football stadium emptying after the big game-only difference; it’s this way from 9:30 am until 5:00 pm.

My interest centered on the laser system exhibits, which were scattered in nine halls. Fortunately friends at Ringier, our China publisher, were able to set up appointments for most of the companies I wished to visit so, outside of a glitch or two, I managed to get my visits done in reasonable time.

However, the relatively small size of many of the exhibit spaces and the cacophonous noise of the multitudes made listening and understanding a chore. I was happy to get a break between halls to rest my eardrums. The Chinese are very nice people, but many need to crank down the volume when holding a casual conversation and more so when they are on their ubiquitous mobile phones.

The halls are a maze of aisles, most with unnumbered exhibits and random directional signage that only adds to the confusion. I must say, the show-goers don’t seem to mind-must be a Western thing.

If the above is a sign of success, then CIMT gets a prize. Exhibit action was extremely heavy. We in the U.S. have become jaded with trade shows, but here in China busses arrive from all over packed with people ready to see the latest in machine tool manufacturing technology.

Click here to enlarge image

Ask where the money to buy this equipment comes from and you get a range of answers. Some comes from banks, some from the government, and some from newly formed leasing companies. I like the answer a system builder gave me. It seems the buyer wanted some options on a laser cutter he had negotiated. Was the increased selling price a problem? No, said his father who calmly reached into his pocket and just pulled out more cash. It’s a different world, folks.

David A. Belforte
belforte@pennwell.com

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