Husky does Hannover – and so do more Canadian, American companies

Husky Injection Molding Systems isn't so lonely as a North American presence at Hannover Fair anymore, says Christopher Choi, the director of technology for the giant plastics manufacturer. More and more U.S. and Canadian companies are attending and exhibiting at Hannover Fair, the world's largest industrial show in Germany, these days, says Choi, who is there for his 16th visit in 17 years. "One of the good things about Hannover fair is it's become a social network where we can share knowledge and experience," he observes, "talking between competitors and suppliers, 'where are we heading?'

"In 1990 when I first came to Hannover Fair, I was impressed it had one three-storey building… I did not see very many of our competitors at Hannover Fair… I have watched companies who have evolved from small companies to big firms."

Choi says he also enjoys watching the rapidly increasing competition between nations in the race for technology, including safety systems.

"I would say that America, also Canada, is in the forefront of technology, but we are not the best-in-class at the moment," says Choi. "The Germans still have some leading edge, but that edge is diminishing." He smiles broadly, recognizing that he's standing in the heart of the booth of Germany-based Beckhoff, a supplier of automation systems to Husky Injection Molding.

Two Beckhoff salesmen - Calvin Wallace based in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, and Mark Whitaker of Arvada, CO - were impressed when they saw my list of all the American exhibitors at Hannover Fair this year: some 110 companies scattered across all the subjects represented at the show: energy and pipeline technology, R&D, motion, drive & automation, such as

  • Sanramon, CA-based ZigBeeAlliance is exhibiting in one of the industrial automation halls
  • New Britain, CT-based Parker Hannifin in the hall for renewable and convertible power generation, transmission and distribution
  • Milwaukee, WI-based National Fluid Power and Roscoe, IL-based Pacific Bearing in motions, drives and automation hall

"I'm surprised the number of Americans is that high," Whitaker said. But he and Wallace noted they are both beginning to hear more of their North American customers express interest in European technologies.

Rockwell rocks in China

Rockwell Automation - the uber-vendor that basically owns the American and Canadian automation market outright - has exhibited at Hannover Fair for decades. "The nature of business today and the global aspects of a lot of the companies that are important to Rockwell means we've got presence around the world: Asia, Europe, the new eastern Europe countries as they evolve and come on long, South America, North America," says Kevin Colloton, product manager, safety systems, Rockwell Automation (right). "It's really almost a homogenous market these days."

He adds that Rockwell has made its greatest investment in resources in the past five years within China (in manufacturing, sales and support) as well as establishing a major design center in Singapore.

And, oh yes, China is among the top three nations with the most exhibitors at Hannover Fair '07, outside of Germany. (The other two are Italy and Turkey, the latter the chosen "partner country" of the show this year; I think of that process like the bidding war to be host country of the industrial Olympics!).

The ultimate reason for American firms to exhibit at Hannover is, of course, the capper: close to 400,000 visitors! Such a fine, deep pool over which to cast one's customer-catching net.

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