Time MACHine

The UK’s largest machine tools exhibition celebrates its 100th anniversary.

In April this year the 100th MACH exhibition took place at the NEC in Birmingham and last month, on October 9, MTA – the trade body proudly standing behind the long running event – allowed itself a moment of revelry to mark the very day of the first MACH exhibition in 1912.

The gathering of MTA members and industry representatives at the Manufacturing Technology Centre near Coventry, where the centenary celebration was held, allowed for an overview of the success of the 2012 event. It also provided a platform for the year launch of the MACH 2014 marketing campaign.

Despite taking place in the midst of a burgeoning eurozone crisis with attendant uncertainty in key markets, MACH 2012 did not find its attendance throttled. Far from it.

A wealth of figures show that the trade show outdid its 2010 performance in every proportion. Most importantly for exhibitors, working hard to justify the expense of their stand space, the show pulled in impressive orders – both on-stand and as a result of relationships established at the event. (see box)

Another key success at MACH 2012 was the launch of the Education and Training zone, an addition which shows that, while MTA is justly spending time celebrating the history of MACH, it is taking no chances about its future. The zone is designed to excite and inform young people about the manufacturing technologies being used in factories today. Although only in its first year, it pulled in over 2500 14-19 olds and made a real impact. The display of live machinery – a unique strength of MACH – turned heads. Demonstrations of lasers, robotics and tooling were particularly popular with over 90% of young people rating them as a highlight. Perhaps the most important measure of the zone’s success however, was that 94% of young visitors said that MACH caused them to think of engineering careers in a more positive light.

Looking to the future

Over the last 100 years MACH has stayed with UK industry through thick and thin. Now, as MTA looks to take it into its second century, conditions are far from favourable. And yet the trade organisation is hopeful for 2014 and beyond. In a presentation to press on October 8 Paul O’Donnell, head of external affairs at MTA, explained why.

“MTA is excited about MACH 2014 because of the trends we see in UK engineering output,” he said. Displaying graph which mapped engineering output against UK manufacturing as a whole, Mr O’Donnell highlighted a stark difference between the two. Indeed while overall manufacturing output is floundering at around half of its 2008 levels, engineering is well in excess of this.

“The disparity comes largely because overall manufacturing output is dragged down by falls in the manufacture of basic chemicals and petrochemicals and particularly construction products,” explained O’Donnell. “The UK construction products industry is looking at something like a six per cent fall in 2012.”

On the other hand, key end user sectors for the kind of kit which MACH displays are thriving. Most notably these include automotive, aerospace and machinery.

MTA has expressed an intention to market MACH 2014 earlier and far more overtly than it has done in the past in order to capitalise on and publicise this positive market profile.

The trade organisation will also lobby government hard for policy decisions which support capital investment.

Manufacturing vs engineering output in the UK

“We hope to get a statement on capital allowances in the Autumn Statement,” MTA’s director general Graham Dewhurst shared with . “The demolition of capital allowances has suffocated investment. We would look to see these elevated and treated in a similar regard to R&D tax credits.”

A favourable decision from government on Capital Allowances could prompt record-breaking deals at MACH 2014 according to MTA and propel the exhibition into its next 100 years in a style redolent of the industrial grandeur which Britain in 1912 would have taken for granted.