By Sharyn Macnamara
The African mining industry has been waiting in anticipation for the popular ‘lights, camera and action,’ but most importantly, the face-to-face interaction of Electra Mining Africa 2022 due to hit Joburg’s Nasrec Expo Centre from 5-9 September. Sharyn Macnamara (SM) spoke to the organisers – Specialised Exhibitions – about what will make this year’s event extraordinary.
Specialised Exhibitions is both the largest trade exhibition organiser in Southern Africa and a division of the Montgomery Group, respected globally for trade shows, consumer shows and specialist projects it delivers in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
Electra Mining Africa offers a 5-in-1 trade show experience together with Elenex Africa, Automation Expo, PowerEX and the Transport Expo. Supporting five interconnected industries – mining, electrical, automation, power, and transport – with manufacturing at their core, this home-grown event offers a large-scale opportunity for industry stakeholders to connect, collaborate and secure a place in what looks set to be a brighter and more connected future for our country.
The excitement of what Electra Mining Africa 2022 will offer both exhibitors and visitors in September is tangible when Gary Corin (GC), managing director, and Charlene Hefer (CH), portfolio director at Specialised Exhibitions share their vision for the 2022 event with African Mining.
SM: Electra Mining Africa 2022 will celebrate its 50th Anniversary this year. With five decades of Electra Mining exhibitions under the belt, what stands out for your team as a highlight on your journey?
CH: Hands-down, the experience of the extraordinary ‘human connection and expression’ is a highlight for me!
In 2018, the biggest and toughest show in my experience, we asked the exhibitors to tell us about their story – their journey with Electra Mining, which has literally been part of some exhibitor’s lives for the full 50 years of the show’s existence.
We were overwhelmed with the number of special memories shared – from people starting their businesses, to people meeting their life partners at the event. A great example that comes to mind is that of a business like Multotec, which started with a 9m2 stand and has since grown into one of our biggest exhibitors at the show, having exhibited at every Electra Mining Africa exhibition since the show was launched in the 1970s. I believe the real value of what we offer lies in the opportunity to make connections.
GC: For me, one of the most unique Electra Mining events was in 1996, when Mandela opened the show as President of South Africa. That was my first show and the memory of it still strikes a chord with me, as it was so typical of Mandela.
We had just experienced the elections in ’94, and going back 26 years now, the mining industry in South Africa was very male dominated, very white, and very Afrikaans. And yet, Mandela made the effort to be present. He made me feel like I got to meet him, even though I was just on the periphery of the entourage. He was that kind of man – very humble, very down to earth, and knowing how massive the industry was and how integral to the economy, he came to wish us well and encourage all. And that, for me, has set the tone for each edition of Electra Mining thereafter. This echoes what Charlene was saying about the human experience of the event. It is why, I believe, it has been so successful, for so long.
Added to this, Electra Mining has tracked the changes in the mining and industrial sectors and has evolved with each sector along its journey. We’d like to think that as an organisation, we have assisted in highlighting the realities of what is happening in these industrial sectors, and in so doing, we have pushed for evolution and change in the right direction to help build the economy.
SM: You have both touched on an interesting point, which in fact speaks to the beginning of, what I think, may be an answer to my next question: ‘As a visitor, what benefit is there to visiting the show.’ From what you both have just expressed; it is the difference between networking and making lasting connections. Would you like to expand on that?
CH: I think that networking is great, and Electra Mining would certainly facilitate that, however the differentiator lies in the making of a ‘connection that matters’ – one which causes businesses to grow, and may even change one’s life, or the future of one’s business. The power of an exhibition is in face-to-face connections – especially now, after the restrictions of the pandemic.
Also, the spontaneity of interaction, for example ‘bumping into’ someone by chance in a hall – something not anticipated or planned, and yet one has been meaning to connect with this person for a while. These are the opportunities not afforded one in a 2-dimensional zoom meeting. While networking is a great way to interact and exchange information, making a real connection offers much more. It’s the first step to building that enduring and beneficial relationship that will matter to your business, and your future.
SM: Your answer has most certainly pre-empted, and to a certain extent addressed, one of the most prevalent questions in the industry today, and that is, ‘What do you have to say to those that say expos are outdated, and digital is the way to go?’
CH: Following global trends, conferences are adopting more technology adding value with hybrid events, however exhibitions remain a face-to-face, in-person event where people can touch, hear, smell and see demonstrations of solutions showcased. For example, the equipment at Electra Mining costs millions, buyers are not going to procure something they have not seen in the flesh, judging only from a picture or virtual reality.
GC: Digital technology can make the exhibition experience more enjoyable and streamlined, for instance pre-registration is something we will utilise. We leverage the digital world in fast-tracked marketing communication driven by social media too. Activations and videos, after-the-fact, also make experiences available for those unable to attend the expo, however global trends show that digital events will not replace expos any time soon.
Coming out of the pandemic, one of the comments I came across in an internal conversation with one of our sister companies in Shanghai was particularly profound. In their experience, online/digital and other media used during the lockdowns were helpful in maintaining and sustaining good relationships, but it was almost impossible to broker new relationships and partnerships on a digital platform.
Furthermore, the current global trends tell us that people are hungry for human interaction as exhibitions re-emerge. People want to engage all their senses at exhibitions – as the latest industry events and stats have proved. Yes, some people are more circumspect around visiting an Expo, but even though these events are smaller in size when compared pre-COVID times, they are still essential to business.
Virtual reality is based on reality too, the more real an experience – the better and more effective it is. However, it still doesn’t take away the need for human interaction. And we’ve seen that even in big European shows that have virtual reality sectors. These areas of the show tend to be quieter. Nothing beats the human experience. It’s its life, it’s living. After all, ironically, human interaction is the reason we had a global pandemic in the first place!
Smaller events are by no means a negative phenomenon. It has been found globally that there is a correlation between an event involving a smaller number of visitors and the quality of who is attending. The difference lies in the calibre of the visitor attending, and it has been noted as substantially higher at these smaller events. Tracking some of the other trends created by COVID-19 – this stands to reason, as businesses have been forced to downsize, consolidate and refocus on their core offering. This is a plus for our exhibitors, as these visitors are now serious business owners and influencers within the business sectors and the business units. We are experiencing this trend, even on the supply side of our business, and also internally. Our entire management team is on the floor again and involved, even if that function is wide of their portfolio.
With 80% of exhibition floor space already sold for Electra Mining Africa 2022, we can confirm that 550+ exhibitors have booked stands this year. We also predict that at the end of the day, 90% of the exhibitors will be local, and this number is up from previous years due to COVID once again, which has pushed local technology development and ingenuity to new heights in the face of international supply chain issues and backlogs.
SM: Apart from the difference in size and a possible increase in the number of quality ‘feet,’ what else will be unique at Electra Mining Africa 2022, if you were to compare this show to what has gone before in your journey?
CH: We will be celebrating our 50th anniversary this year and something I find unique to Electra Mining is the loyalty shown over the years by industry suppliers, who book stands without fail at every edition of the show – some of these relationships have lasted the lifetime of the show. We have always acknowledged our loyal exhibitors with a certificate once they have booked a stand for 5 consecutive editions (10 years) and this is something that is seen as a great achievement within our supporters.
To Gary’s point earlier, companies don’t have the resources they had in the past, so visitors this year will most certainly be decision makers who are very seriously looking for that new product that will solve problems and keep operations streamlined. Although we have always incorporated new product launches into the event before, this year we are offering a ‘New Product Award,’ which will draw exhibiting innovators to the event and will, in turn, attract decision makers interested in these unique products. While these unprecedented times have proved challenging, they have forced companies to let go of what was not working, and to focus on what is. Many companies have therefore seen unique, unparalleled levels of innovation, development and diversification. And this impetus of innovation will be tangible at this year’s event.
We also have a brand-new addition to the show this year on the Supply Chain & Logistics industry side of things, in the Lifting Africa and LEEASA (Lifting Equipment Engineering Association of SA) hosted Forklift Driver competition. The event will bring recognition to forklift operators offering them an opportunity to prove their driving skills and win prize money, as well as achieve recognition as a champion.
Our new fully fledged automation Hall 7, which will cover a broad range of solutions including mechatronics, will be a highlight at the event this year. Although we ran a soft launch for this sector in 2018, the plans to pull this through to a full-scale addition in 2020 were of course thwarted by the restrictions due to the pandemic. We have therefore revived that process having just signed with SAIMC (Society for Automation, Instrumentation, Mechatronics and Control), who have confirmed their endorsement of Electra Mining Africa. The automation hall will have its own dedicated seminar theatre too, and most of the content shared there will be CPD accredited (Continuing Professional Development accreditation).
GC: The automation technology hall is a big addition for us. Local mining has always been very labour intensive and traditionally a big employer in South Africa in particular, but the automation trend is gaining traction now, particularly in local gold mines, as operations are forced to mine deeper more of this technology is needed for efficiency and safety. One of our theme days is in fact an Automation Day.
SM: That brings me to your ‘every day, a theme a day ’concept launched at the 2018 show, what dictates the choice of these themes? How will they link to the seminars?
CH: The selected themes reflect key issues in the industry currently and the popular, ‘free-to-attend’ seminars in turn will align with these themes on the selected days accordingly. The seminars will run in the SA Institution of Mechanical Engineering (SAIMechE) hosted seminar theatre throughout the day from around 10am to 2/3pm in the afternoon, every hour on the hour, with industry specialists speaking and engaging on theme day topics.
They are, namely:
Day 1: Automation Day | Connecting with the future
Day 2: Innovation Day | All that’s new in machinery, products & technology
Day 3: Safety Day | A focus on Occupational Health & Safety
Day 4: Future Skills Day | Training & Skills Advancement trends
Day 5: South African Day | Celebrating 50 years and all things local
GC: We chose safety as a theme this year, as it is a crucial element in the industry and always has been – one life lost, is one too many. Skills and employment opportunities remain a need and local content and local manufacturing is very important in Africa as it underpins job creation.
CH: Over and above the seminars, the co-located shows will be supported by a programme of content-rich conferences and to date, LEASSA and WiMSA (Women in Mining South Africa) have already confirmed their conferences. In addition, respected associations and industry organisations will be partnering with Electra Mining Africa, such as the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM), Mining Equipment Manufacturers of South Africa (MEMSA), the South African Mineral Processing Equipment Cluster (SAMPEC) and South African Capital Equipment Export Council (SACEEC). SACEEC, for example, will assist with the judging of the ‘New Product Awards’.
SM: What differentiates Electra Mining Africa from other expos locally and globally?
GC: Firstly, Electra Mining Africa is the largest trade show in the southern hemisphere, and the show varies between the second and third largest mining and industrial exhibition in the world, hosted every two years, and is unique to Africa in that it supplies both indoor and outdoor exhibits, including activations on water more recently as well.
It is unique in that it supports five different, but interconnected industries within the concept of the co-located shows. The Expo Centre co-owned by the Montgomery Group can host both the massive OEM machinery for these sectors and subsidiary and auxiliary equipment that supports the larger offerings. We are big enough to attract the full spectrum of the supply chain to the business, both the OEMs and the suppliers to the OEMs.
For example, we have the heavy mining equipment in Hall 5 and 6 with engineering support services across the spectrum, whether consulting engineers, mechanical, industrial or civil engineers and machine tooling in Hall 6 as well. Hall 7 is now that automation hall, and hall 8 has traditionally been international, while Hall 9 houses power generation. Last, but not least, the vast outdoor area lends itself to pump and valve exhibits and water activations and those activations with moving parts, like materials handling. 7,5 tons/m2 – under one roof – over five days – once every two years is quite a feat! The Expo Centre in Nasrec, Johannesburg, is the only venue on this continent that can host an event like this, because of the size of the kit brought to the show and the technicalities involved.
CH: Buyers in the industry want to compare costly massive machinery on the spot before they put pen to paper and that’s what our show offers!
In 2018 we had 59 countries visit the event, however we are very much a South African show and a regional event on the African continent.
SM: For those visiting the show, who may be overwhelmed by the size and the number of interactions available, what is your advice to these visitors to enable them and allow for the greatest leverage to be drawn from the event.
CH: This year we will do more road shows to actively promote the show to visitors in the outlying main mining and industrial areas of South Africa and over border on the continent, including stops in Africa mines where we will drop off tickets.
For those visiting the show, this would be our advice:
Step 1: Pre-register! You can do this on our website, for free.
Step 2: Print your badge.
Step 3: Come early, with your printed badge! Avoid the cues as 85% of our visitors arrive between 9 and 11am to get the best leverage out of the show. Your printed badge will fast-track a streamlined entrance.
Step 4: Plan your day! Use the tools provided to preview what is on offer beforehand – our website and collateral such as the daily activity newsletter available at the show on the day will include detail such as seminar sessions and theatre locations, live visitor activations, product demonstrations and product launches.
Step 5: Use our online exhibitor list and the ‘business matchmaking’ tool.
This will allow you to select the businesses you would like to interact with. The ‘business matchmaking’ programme will enable you to secure a spot in the diary of those exhibitors that you want to meet with.
Step 6: Use our new traffic management system!
This year halls and routes will be colour coded to demarcate areas for ease of navigation, so look out for signage and coloured carpets.
Step 7: Come equipped to enjoy!
Wear the right gear for fun-filled, long walks and hot days – caps, sunscreen and the right shoes are imperative. Visitors will receive the traditional cap and water bottle giveaways.
On the exhibitor side:
The SYSPRO exhibitor lounge will provide meeting rooms and the space to take a break with refreshments available and a quiet place to work from and to recharge your batteries on all levels!
When it comes to invigorating the South African economy following the effects of the global pandemic, facilitating the right connections will be key. Electra Mining Africa is a trade show that provides the ideal platform for buyers and sellers to connect, for industries to come together, and ultimately, for our country’s growth and development to receive the boost it needs. See you there! n