Bauma Rules!

Published: 17/6, 2019

World’s premier construction exhibition offers a lot of everything… and then some.

If you’ve never attended Bauma, the triennial construction trade show in Munich, Germany, there’s one fundamental rule that must be understood: you won’t see it all.

That’s especially true when you’re talking about 2019’s record-setting edition that offered 3,700 exhibitors from more than 60 countries, all somehow neatly organized across multiple buildings and expansive outdoor demonstration areas that make up the sprawling Messe München exhibition center, located east of the city.

To be sure, time is on a visitor’s side, as Bauma runs for a full week. And because the show encompasses mining and other related industries, seeing every exhibitor’s booth in every corner of Bauma’s 6.6 million ft2 (614,000 m3) layout isn’t a necessarily a priority. But with such an eye-popping bounty of machines and equipment and nearly everything else, you can’t help but wonder what novelties may await down the next bustling aisle.

And we do mean bustling. Bauma 2019 attracted more than 620,000 visitors, up 40,000 from 2016’s show. That’s nearly five times the attendance count at the 2017 Conexpo-Con/Agg, which is mind-boggling in and of itself. Just under half of Bauma visitors came to Munich from outside Germany, representing more than 200 countries. That that made for an interesting cacophony of languages and accents, but barriers were few as most exhibitors spoke English. (Good news for certain U.S. journalists whose pre-Bauma language preparations pretty much began and ended with mastering “eine bier, bitte.”)

While all those visitors from all corners of the world didn’t see everything at Bauma either, they still saw a lot.

One of the show’s recurring themes was manufacturers’ ongoing efforts to minimize their products’ environmental footprint. Achieving emissions reductions comparable to the US EPA Tier 4 Final requirements was a milestone rather than the end of a journey, as manufacturers are now tackling the European Union’s Stage V emission requirements, as well as local directives to minimize jobsite noise and other issues.

That made Bauma 2019 the ideal setting to showcase manufacturers’ advances in electrical drive, alternative fuels, and battery-powered technology. Examples ranged from Volvo’s line of battery-powered compact excavators and wheel loaders to Atlas Copco’s new range of clean drive technology equipment, particularly E-air electric-powered portable compressors and the near-silent battery-powered HiLight Z3+ light tower. Similarly, variable speed technology in the company’s new QAS VSG generator offers less fuel consumption and emissions together with a smaller footprint.

Technology was likewise a common theme. As in the U.S., the robust construction market has exacerbated shortages in skilled construction labor and increased pressures on profitability. As a result, Bauma illustrated how what were once “gee-whiz” features of intuitive machine controls and data-collecting tools (a.k.a., telematics) are now offered as standard equipment, helping owners get a head start on training new operators and keeping experienced old hands on the job as long as possible.

Demand for and opportunities to provide such technologies lured providers from around the world, including U.S.-based ORBCOMM, which launched an enhanced web platform and telematics devices that the company claims facilitate faster, more reliable monitoring of construction equipment in remote locations, and management of mixed fleets.

Susan Rutherford, ORBCOMM’s vice president of marketing, told PDa that the company is also responding to an industry-wide push for more data to support analytics for maintenance and efficiency improvements. As is often the case with new technologies, even customers who appreciate the value of telematics may be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data that’s available.

Working with manufacturers, Rutherford said, “we can help tailor the data down to what users want and need to have.”

Perhaps the most pervasive—and pleasant—takeaway from Bauma was an overall sense of optimism about the construction industry’s near-term prospects, an upbeat feel that transcended all the aforementioned languages and manufacturer displays. Despite several months’ worth of generally gloomy market forecasts from manufacturers and industry analysts, Bauma organizers reported that on-site sales were the highest in the show’s 65-year history. The absence of “barkers” and other attention-getting stunts indicated that many visitors needed little incentive to sit down with exhibitors, talk business and make deals to beef up their fleets, or compare products for upcoming purchase decisions.

And it wasn’t just new equipment that attracted attention. In a setting reminiscent of off-track betting parlors, Ritchie Auctions allowed visitors to its stand to join Internet bidders in vying for a variety of used construction equipment, all demonstrated via satellite connections from locations halfway around the world.

So with a highly successful Bauma in the books, attention turns to ConExpo-Con/Agg, which will take the industry stage in Las Vegas next March 10-14. As World of Concrete will have occupied the same spaces five months earlier—likely smaller as is usual in a Conexpo year, but hardly a mere warm-up act for its larger cousin—contractors on this side of the Atlantic will have a unique double dose of product innovations and industry buzz (a trifecta if one counts the National Demolition Association’s show in Austin in late February).

While its true that many of new products and equipment displayed at Bauma will make their North American debuts later this year or in 2020, with the added bonus of Las Vegas glitz and desert sun as backdrops, it will be interesting to see if the same upbeat aura that defied Bauma’s cloudy skies and un-spring-like temperatures will result in similar high levels of attendance and deal-making.

To be sure, the two megashows have as many similarities as differences. Some are obvious, others less so. What sets Bauma apart is not just its size or scale, but its pervasive evidence of the sheer scope and diversity of the world’s construction industry, and the collective brainpower invested by manufacturers to make everything from cutting concrete panels to literally moving mountains as safely, productively, and efficiently as possible.

Put simply, Bauma is in a class by itself. And though you won’t see it all, taking in as much as possible still means you’ve seen quite a lot.

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