Organisers are buoyed by the success of the UK’s largest materials handling show, IMHX, which was held a couple of weeks ago in Birmingham.
Event director Rob Fisher says: “Visitors came with a real sense of desire to do business. I think that was partly down to the fact that this was the first significant materials handling and supply chain technology show post-COVID. But it also seems that, for many visitors, IMHX was staged at the perfect point in their buying cycles.”
Final attendance figures have not been released, with organisers listing representatives from some of the leading names in the retail and manufacturing industries, including ALDI, Amazon, ASDA, Boohoo, British Steel, DHL, Halfords, Lidl, NHS Supply Chain, Ocado, Primark, Samsung, Tesco, Unipart and Wilko, among the thousands of visitors.
“The aisles were busy with buyers ready to do business and many of our exhibitors have already reported that significant orders were secured,” Fisher adds. “There was a great range of new products and technologies on display, which provided a real buzz and gave a perfect illustration of how the intralogistics sector is constantly innovating and evolving.”
Featuring several hundred exhibitors, the show was the launch pad for many new solutions – including fully automated forklifts and other robotic handling systems.
The show also marked the debut of the Sustainability Zone, an exhibition explaining the route to an effective sustainability policy and demonstrating strategic benchmarks.
Event co-owner UKMHA used the event to highlight safety, according to technical director David Goss.
“The main focus for our stand was promoting the upcoming Safety Convention. The UKMHA Safety Convention is the most authoritative event of its kind in the UK materials handling calendar. It sees hundreds of managers, from across the UK, come together annually to share best practice advice.”
Goss agrees that this year’s IMHX was very busy and a great success. “The visitor footfall was good and the quality of the attendees was notably high, leading to much successful business being transacted. The UKMHA stand was continuously busy and it was good to catch up with many old friends as well as meeting a lot of new faces.
“As the first edition of IMHX since the pandemic, there was clear enthusiasm for a return to face-to-face meetings, but the visitor focus was strongly looking to the future rather than harking back to the past. This was reflected in the exhibitors themselves, whose stands highlighted automation and advancing technology,” he explains.
A number of big manufacturers and long-time IMHX supporters were conspicuous by their absence, but those that did attend were happy with their participation.
Martin McVicar CEO and co-founder of Combilift points out that the show was smaller than in 2019 but says the quality of discussions was very rewarding. “The last day, in particular, was much busier than we have come to expect from a three-day show. It was clear from the amount of time that many people spent on in-depth discussions with our team of personnel at our stand that they were intent on sourcing and committing to new solutions for their businesses.”
The Irish manufacturer had 21 models on the largest stand at this year’s IMHX, as well as a Combi-CBE in the live demo area.
“To mirror the growing demand for emission-free equipment, the majority of exhibits were electric-powered,” McVicar says.
Mike Barton, managing director of B&B Attachments, describes the mood of the show as very upbeat.
“We were glad to be participating and had an ideal stand position at the entrance to the show hall. It was great to finally see our customers face to face.
“The quality of the enquiries we received were of a high standard and contacts that came to visit our stand came with a purpose to discuss what benefits and efficiencies we could offer them. We met a lot of new end-users,” Barton says.
B&B took advantage of the heightened interest in electric handling solutions to show off the Kaup Electric Fork Positioner T160BE, an attachment which completely removes the requirement for hydraulic operation.
The attachment maker also unveiled its latest solution in layer picking and depalletising, the open centre LayerMaster.
Also on show was the intelligent Kaup Smart Load Control (SLC) designed for damage-free handling.
For John Maguire, managing director of Narrow Aisle, the mood at IMHX was affected by an ultra-competitive business environment, and a sharper focus on lifetime running costs.
“Rather than opt for the brand that offers the … cheapest up-front cost, today’s sophisticated users prefer to calculate and compare the costs that different lift truck technologies will incur over the course of their whole working life,” he explains.
His company used the show for the UK launch of its latest Flexi ACiON and Flexi LiTHiON articulated VNA truck ranges.
“With all drive, hydraulic and power-steering functions digitally controlled, the trucks in the Flexi ACiON (lead-acid battery-powered) and Flexi LiTHiON (lithium-ion battery-powered) collections set a new standard in articulated lift truck drivability, reliability and battery energy saving.”
“We see it as essential to constantly rethink our product offering and, of course, sustainability and energy efficiency drives much of what we do. That’s why, for example, we were the first manufacturer in the materials handling equipment sector to formally drop LPG-powered articulated trucks from its product portfolio,” Maguire explains.
Jacques Valckenaere, VP sales EMEA at GemOne, also found the mood at IMHX to be “very positive, with much curiosity about our telematics solutions”.
He notes especially strong interest from those working in health and safety.
“With an increase in the size and complexity of some operations in the UK market, as well as the need for more efficient systems due to fuel price hikes and labour shortages, we saw a greater focus amongst companies to invest in solutions which will save them time and money,” he adds.
GemOne showcased its Sapphire safety management solution and also debuted its latest safety solution, a 360° proximity warning system which equips the materials handling industry with the immediate alerts and actionable insights they need to reduce forklift incidents and enhance machine and pedestrian safety in their workplace.
Other exhibitors were also upbeat. Miles Griffin, general manager of Cesab Materials Handling UK, says: “We were extremely busy every day of the show. IMHX 2022 attracted quality personnel from some top companies and many of them were looking to discuss serious business.”
Neil Woodland, business development manager of Hi-Level Mezzanines, also describes it as “a great show”.
“A good location, good venue and good visitors ... that’s what a trade show is all about,” he adds.
UKMHA CEO Tim Waples stresses that IMHX is always a great chance to see the complete range of materials handling equipment, from conventional forklift trucks and pallet movers to state-of-the-art intralogistics solutions, all under one roof. “This year’s event was a wonderful opportunity to learn about some of the ways that modern technology is integrating with conventional handling solutions to deliver the kind of operational benefits that supply chain bosses are looking for,” he adds.
The next IMHX will be held at the NEC, Birmingham in September 2025.
- Next week: Exhibitors discuss the state of the UK market and the challenges and opportunities facing materials handling.