Blog: Leonie BarrieIMB: first impressions

Leonie Barrie | 11 May 2006

Bringing together nearly 600 exhibitors from 40 countries - including 66 from China, 23 from Korea, 31 from Taiwan and 30 from Turkey - the 2006 edition of the IMB exhibition, which began yesterday here in Germany, is daunting by anyone's standards. Even, if like me, you've been making a pilgrimmage here every three years for...well, say no more other than that it's been a long time, and at a rough calculation this is probably my sixth show. Not only is a comfotable pair of shoes a basic requirement in trying to cover the 80,000 sq m of displays, but the size and scope of this event makes the challenge of identifying the best and most exciting new products on show a bit like trying to find a needle in a haystack. At a rough calculation, spending 10 minutes on each stand and continuing without a break, it would take more than a fortnight to work your way through the halls. And I've only got a day and a half! (Although having said that, Niki Tait is also here for the full four days of the show to cover the main developments for just-style, and I know she's already made a few interesting discoveries which we'll be reporting on in the not too distant future.)

Bylined 'The World of Textile Processing,' IMB has been reworked to embrace what the organisers term 'flexible materials,' which effectively means that alongside garment production technology there is also equipment for technical textiles such as those used in the automotive and aeronautical industries. This year the show has also been moved to a brand new hall complex at the Cologne Exhibition Centre, and awards for new innovations have been introduced by the organisers in an attempt to breathe new life into an event whose core audience has slowly moved to new corners of the globe.

Feedback from exhibitors seems to suggest that although individual stands at the show are probably smaller and quieter than in previous years, the quality of visitors is high, with decision makers coming through the doors. And that seems to be what keeps them happy. It's a difficult call though, and a far cry from the days when manufacturers and retailers from across Europe would send large technical teams to the show with a brief to buy. But then again, the days of holding back true innovations until the opening day of the IMB are long gone too, with machine makers now tending to unveil new introductions on a rolling basis. And of course, Europe's manufacturing stalwarts are themselves fading fast.

But perhaps the most important aspect of any trade show is that of networking. And there's plenty of that going on. I've caught up with colleagues from the past and present, have put faces to names, and struck up new contacts for the future. And against a backdrop of glorious sunshine in this beautiful city there are few better ways to spend a few days and get back to the industry's roots.


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