The cancellation of the Vision 2013 trade fair has come as a surprise to many, but some industry experts regard the switch to a biennial show as an indicator of a maturing market. Greg Blackman gauges the response
Unsurprisingly, there has been a mixed reaction by machine vision companies to the cancellation of Vision 2013, generally considered to be the largest event in the industry’s calendar. Originally scheduled to take place in Stuttgart in September, it will return in November 2014, with the organisers, Messe Stuttgart, opting for a biennial cycle from now onwards.
The decision to hold the event every two years does not appear to reflect any underlying concerns about the health of the industry as a whole. The forecasts for 2013 from the VDMA (Germany) and the AIA (North America) are 2 per cent and 2.6 per cent growth respectively. An independent US market research firm, Markets and Markets, forecasts the machine vision sector to grow by 8 per cent from 2013 to 2018.
Instead, some industry insiders regard the switch as an indicator of a maturing machine vision market, which means that there are now longer product innovation cycles. However, there has also been comment about the rising cost of exhibiting. The situation came to a head because, this year and every other year in the future, the show would have to be held in September rather than in its regular November slot, because Hall 1 at the Messe Stuttgart exhibition halls is unavailable in November during each off-year.
The decision was made after consultation with and in response to requests from exhibitors, although Florian Niethammer, Vision project manager at Messe Stuttgart, said that it ‘cannot meet the needs of all market players’.
Longer product-innovation cycles mean that many exhibitors feel an annual event is now too frequent to announce new products. According to Niethammer: ‘A couple of key players said, “we do not have new things to show next year and especially not at an earlier date” [September rather than November]. A major reason [for the change] was that a couple of key players would have been missing at the 2013 show... We didn’t want to run the show without them. It wouldn’t meet the expectations of everyone in the industry. From a trade show organiser perspective, it doesn’t make sense to run a show without your key players.’
Vision, which up until this point had been held annually, celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2012, which was deemed a huge success. For the 2012 show, organisers moved the trade fair to the larger, more prominent Hall 1 which offered exhibitors extra floor space, a record number of exhibitors registered and more than 7,000 visitors attended the three-day event.
According to Niethammer, the change to a biennial cycle was always on the cards for the future anyway; it was just galvanised by having to hold the show in September in 2013.
Not everyone agrees with the decision, however. ‘We are a little bit disappointed,’ said Lou Hermans, COO of Cmosis. He would have preferred running the show every year and would have happily gone back to the show’s earlier format of two halls rather than the larger Hall 1, if it had meant keeping the trade fair an annual occasion. Cmosis, as a sensor manufacturer, is in the slightly unusual situation that a lot of its customers are exhibitors at the show. Therefore, Hermans said, the event provided a forum to meet many of the firm’s customers.
Hermans also made the point that there is no event on a similar scale to Vision serving the European and US markets, and even shows like Automate in the USA are smaller by comparison. ‘This yearly opportunity to meet with a lot of our customers in a very efficient way and to present our products is not available [this year],’ he said.
Stemmer Imaging ‘favoured’ the event moving to a biennial cycle, according to Mark Williamson, Stemmer’s director of corporate development, although he said that the company would have attended if the show had taken place in 2013. ‘Yes it’s good to meet all the customers, but probably you could do it every other year and spend that money elsewhere,’ he said.
Along with the product innovation cycle, Williamson drew attention to the size of the stands at last year’s show and how much they cost. ‘We’re a small market,’ he said. ‘If you look at the companies there [Vision 2012] and look at their turnover and the size of the stands they had, it just didn’t add up. Certainly going to that new hall [Hall 1] last year, there were some incredible stands. There were companies running at a third of our turnover [€55 million] with bigger stands. Everyone was going for these bigger stands, and you get to a stage where it’s not viable.’
Niethammer said the response since making the announcement had been a mixture of agreement with the change and those who, even if they were disappointed by the decision, did understand it. In the long run, moving to a biennial cycle is a positive sign for the industry. ‘It’s an indication that the market is maturing,’ added Williamson.
Basler also released a statement supporting the change, with Dr Dietmar Ley, CEO, commenting: ‘Visitors probably wouldn’t have found the usual amount of innovations due to the early date in September. Therefore we think that this year is the right time to change to a two-year cycle.’
The European Machine Vision Association (EMVA) added its support, stating: 'We will focus this year on measures to fill the gap and more than ever provide a platform of support for our members spread out through the continent.'
Michael Gibbons, director of sales and marketing at Point Grey, said in a statement: ‘Vision has always been a key show for us; it is an excellent opportunity for our customers to see all our latest innovations in a live setting. We will definitely miss having that opportunity this year, but we look forward to an exciting show in 2014.’
Allied Vision Technologies welcomed Messe Stuttgart’s move to a two-year cycle, said AVT's Henning Staerk in a statement. 'This decision secures the quality and attractivity of the show with more exhibitors, more innovations and more product premieres compared to a yearly event. We are looking forward to an innovation-rich Vision 2014.'
Edmund Optics also released a statement that said: ‘We are looking forward to Vision 2014 and are certain it will prove to be a major show for the global vision industry.’
The hope is that holding the show every other year will improve the quality of the exhibits, with visitors seeing more new products. It would, however, require companies to take particular care to time their product developments to coincide with the trade fair. For this year at least, though, firms will have to find other launch platforms for their products.