Let’s talk about people. Particularly about those who work behind the scenes at K 2016 to make sure that the world’s biggest trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry really does turn out to be what everyone involved – exhibitors, industry representatives, visitors and, last but not least, Messe Düsseldorf, the organisers themselves – hopes to experience: a mega-highlight that remains a positive memory to one and all long after it is over and creates high expectations for K 2019. After all: when one K ends, the next one begins!
Suppose you want to celebrate something with your friends and acquaintances. The motto is: everyone is invited! Although you know from experience roughly how many guests you can expect to come, you don’t know the exact number until afterwards. You want the event to be a satisfying experience for your friends: special attractions, cuisine that has something to offer everyone, no matter what their taste, good entertainment. You want everyone to enjoy the time immensely. Right from the start, i.e. including their journey. In some cases, a trained project manager is in fact needed in order to make the necessary preparations.
Imagine now that you are expecting more than 200,000 guests from all over the world, spread over eight days, and that your attractions are industrial production plants weighing thousands of tonnes which are as big as houses in some cases, cover an area of about 180,000 square metres and are in full operation. Although you have enough space available, alterations and modifications still need to be made here and there, so that everything fits in and can work properly. As long as he is there, every visitor is supposed to have the chance to enjoy an incredible experience: every individual should ideally have the opportunity to take a look at all the attractions and find the refreshments he wants and needs- without having to wait in line too long. It goes without saying that the same applies to travel to and from the event.
To some extent, this scenario outlines the situation that the K team at Messe Düsseldorf has to face every three years, whenever plans are being made for the most important trade fair in the plastics and rubber industry.
The K team at Messe Düsseldorf does, it is true, consist of experienced experts, who are accustomed to organising high-tech trade fairs with tremendous success. Even so, professionals like those at Messe Düsseldorf cannot predict the future either. They do, however, know that you always have to reckon with just about anything – particularly anything unpredictable. As genuine professionals do.
We would like to hear what some of them have to say here; they stand for the hundreds of people who pull the strings behind the scenes at K.
“Strings” is a word that can almost be taken literally, says Peter Segna, technical officer at Messe Düsseldorf, “if you bear in mind the fact that 4,000 electrical connections and kilometres of power cables as well as 1,500 water supply connections are laid for the exhibitors at K alone.”
Peter Segna and his team, which consists of numerous technicians, craftsmen and hall managers, are one of the keys to the success of K. One of their assignments is to help the exhibitors to make sure that their stand at the trade fair is erected on time and as required and that all the installation work needed is completed on schedule. Peter Segna and his team fulfil pretty much every request, as long as it is allowed and technically feasible: “We even tear down hall walls, so that machines and equipment can be set up appropriately”, says Peter Segna. And if a contractor who is supposed to build the stand for an exhibitor throws in the towel, he and his staff are willing to investigate the matter and to take over if at all possible, so that the stand is completed with the help of all the people available.
Werner Arnold can call on them too. The experienced logistics expert is the member of the K team at Messe Düsseldorf who makes sure that everything keeps moving. With a team of full-time and freelance staff – the latter called on when trade fairs are taking place – Werner Arnold keeps traffic in and around the exhibition site moving. The busy period starts two to three weeks before K 2016 begins. Werner Arnold explains: “Up to 1,000 lorries – everything from 7.5 to 40 tonne vehicles as well as even bigger ones – arrive at the exhibition site every day to deliver material for the trade fair stands and the exhibits, which weigh tonnes”. There would be absolute chaos on the exhibition site without an ingenious traffic management concept, compliance with which is, suitably enough, monitored strictly.
Tact is also essential when the many thousands of people who come to the exhibition site not only during the erection and removal phase but also during K 2016 itself have to be guided and controlled. Imagine if the visitors, who generally come to the trade fair in two surges, were guided onto the exhibition site via a single entrance one day, the logistics expert points out. “That would be a complete disaster”, says Werner Arnold. Visitor flows can, however, be controlled and guided smoothly both on the exhibition site and outside it, if this is done systematically and skilfully.
Werner Arnold holds talks with the public transport authorities and taxi companies long in advance of a trade fair like K 2016, discussing such issues with them as the number of visitors, busy arrival and departure times, congestion at the entrances etc. “We liaise on how to transport people into the city, to the hotels, to the station and to the airport most effectively”, says Werner Arnold, and adds: very successfully up to now. The logistics specialist does, however, commiserate with those who arrive and/or depart by car during the rush hour in the morning and evening and often end up spending a long time in traffic jams: “It is an unfortunate fact that we from Messe Düsseldorf are not in a position to alter the approach roads, so we recommend that everyone makes use of the public transport system – it is possible to reach the exhibition site directly by rail.”
A navigation system is not therefore needed to find one’s way to Messe Düsseldorf. The site, which is about 450,000 square metres in size, can be negotiated without technical equipment of any kind. On arrival, the 19 halls and whatever a visitor specifically wants to see are easy to reach quickly and simply. Numerous info desks and help points are available throughout the exhibition site to provide information and guidance in German and English. “Our staff at the information desks speak many different languages”, says Nora Wernick from the Messe Düsseldorf visitor and entrance management: “No visitor to the trade fair will leave without being understood.”
Nora Wernick and her team are not in action during the days of the trade fair alone, keeping a careful eye on the Messe Düsseldorf information network. She co-ordinates everything: in an information emergency, Nora Wernick takes the necessary steps by radio and telephone. She is responsible for making sure that everything goes smoothly, from online ticket reservation to over-the-counter ticket purchase and bug-free data flow. She and her team are the first to find out how many guests really visited K 2016 and to confirm how successful K 2016 has been in figures.