Most people in the electronics industry have a complicated relationship with trade shows. On one hand, they sound fabulously glamorous – the chance to visit a faraway town, connect with customers and show off your latest products.
The reality is a little bit more mundane. Yes, it might be exotic to visit Paris, Munich or San Fransisco, but the truth is that you rarely see much beyond the taxi, the hotel or the convention centre. Trade shows mean early mornings, long days of standing and irregular meals. They are often something to be endured rather than enjoyed.
However, they do give manufacturers a fantastic opportunity to meet with lots of customers face-to-face, an opportunity that has no equal. For the person manning the booth, there is a thrill that goes with showcasing the latest technology and being about to interact with an enthusiastic audience. So, on balance, trade shows are a good thing, and it should be obvious why manufacturers embrace the opportunity they present.
But what if nobody turns up?
There will always be a few visitors, and the very last thing we should do is lounge around the booth, looking bored. A passing customer does not want to see the top of your head as you stare into your smartphone, trying to beat your high score on Temple Run.
Outside the Connector Bubble
Having worked in the interconnect market for my whole career, I know that connectors are the most interesting and exciting products in the entire electronics industry. However, a quiet trade show is a chance to step outside the “connectors bubble” and look at what’s going on in the rest of the industry. It is also worth remembering that the other exhibitors are also customers who might just have something interesting to tell us.
I had just such an opportunity recently when I attended the What’s New In Electronics show, just outside Coventry in the English Midlands. Visitor numbers were very low, but there were plenty of things to see. After spending the day talking to exhibitors from a wide variety of markets, I came back with a single observation.
Now is a great time to be an engineer!
Sure, we live in an uncertain world. I’m British so on top of everything else, I have Brexit to contend with. (For those of you outside the UK, don’t worry, we don’t understand it either). Despite this, design engineers have never had it so good.
Back in 2013, I had a conversation with a designer who worked for a well-known vacuum cleaner manufacturer. He told me that his main challenge was to find tools that would allow him to design at the same speed that he can think.
Tools for Engineers
The tools and services that are now available to engineers will let them do exactly that. The internet means that engineers no longer need to wait for technical information or to share concepts directly with the manufacturer. Rapid prototyping technologies allow test samples to be made in hours rather than weeks. New designs can be tested in quick succession, shortening development times and placing products in the hands of customers before the competition.
Technology is also giving individuals access to the type of equipment that previously would have been limited to large corporations. In just one example, I spoke to Pico Technology who have created a range of interfaces that allow engineers to turn their computer into professional-quality oscilloscopes and signal generators at a fraction of the price of a traditional scope.
In the modern marketplace where engineers have access to design tools, technical information and rapid prototyping, component manufacturers like Samtec must be able to respond with the same speed. Although Samtec does not stock finished components, we can help save the day with our Sudden Service concept – the ability to make samples rapidly and ship them to the engineer for quick evaluation.
It is indeed a great time to be an engineer. It’s just a shame more of them don’t go to trade shows.