Thousands of people, enormous halls separated by mile-long walkways, huge machines promising to deliver efficient, cost-effective solutions, dancing jumpsuit wearers, superheroes, robots, and one pair of very sore feet. This is my first experience of Achema.
I really didn’t know what to expect from my first trip to this exhibition, which my colleagues promised would be like nothing I have ever seen before. They were right. I personally couldn’t offer any insight into how this year’s meeting compared with Achema 2006, but opinion amongst attendees and exhibitors indicate that the number of visitors is similar to previous years and I can confirm that that is a lot of visitors. Geographic representation does appear to have changed significantly this year however, with the US and Japan being very poorly represented partly, it seems, because of the economic situation, but also as a result of the recent swine flu outbreak, which has prevented many people from the US and Japan from traveling. Conversely, there has been a steep rise in Chinese and Korean visitors, confirming the level of interest in and investment that’s being made by the global powerhouses in these markets.
In terms of technological innovations, I have three words for you: disposables, efficiency, and quality. Whether you’re interested in packaging, analytical, processing, or labeling equipment on a small or large scale, the trend is most certainly moving toward disposable solutions that get the job done quicker, more cost effectively, and within the quality parameters defined by the regulators. We saw some fantastic technologies this week, serving various stages of the manufacturing process but, interestingly, virtually every manufacturer is investing heavily in R&D efforts to provide customers with more cost-effective, cleaner, and faster solutions. From what I’ve been hearing, although the economic downturn has affected business, investment in research and innovation continues and this optimistic approach is bound to stand the industry in good stead as the recovery process continues. It will be very interesting to see what the result of this investment will yield the next time we meet again in Frankfurt.
My advice to anybody considering attending Achema 2012: make sure you get some guided tours from the exhibitors; to read about these technologies is one thing, but to watch them in action is something else entirely. In general, I strongly recommend that you take advantage of the German’s knowledge of good beer-making with a stein of Pilsner, try the pork knuckle, maybe just once, and wear sensible shoes!