Thu June 12, 2008
A trade show manager we know is a happy man.
After seven years of grueling, three-day, 8 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. setups for the customer shows he organizes for a Fortune 100 company, he's finally able to relax.
"The last time we were in California it was the same week as a big antique auto show," he says. "For the first time ever, we finished early, showered, ate and just went walking. They had Mercedes Gull Wings, a Ferrari Testa Rossa, and cars I didn't even know existed. I'm a car guy so I went crazy."
A deceptively simple product from Wheeling-Illinois based JELCO, Inc. has allowed this manager to downsize a show floor that averaged 10,000 square feet to just 6,400 square feet, reduce shipping from three 53' tractor-trailers to two, trim his setup crew from 25 to 12, and turn a three-day, 45-hour set-up ordeal into just two 8-hour days.
"I've been to some very nice places over the years with these shows," he explains. "But I never saw anything but a hotel room and a show floor until we bought this new gear."
The Technology Expos
Though company regulations prohibit him from using their name for public endorsements, our client describes his position as helping to bring the company's newest products and technology to very large customers. "The thought is to put our best engineering minds together with their best minds," he says. His Technology Expo, set up at various locations usually four times each year, looks much like any trade show, but the exhibitors are all company employees and the show a single-company event.
The majority of the exhibits use flat-panel monitors displaying still or motion images from laptop computers. In addition, there may be documentation and printed display material and custom equipment.
To set up a show, our client's crew must transform a large empty space into an exhibit area.
The first step is to lay down carpet; the next temporary walls. In years past, the crews would set up pedestals and folding tables to hold computer gear and then assemble a portable stand for each plasma or LCD display. Each stand consisted of a 100-pound base, two heavy chrome poles, mounting brackets and then of course the flat-panel itself. These weigh up to about 100 pounds apiece, depending on the size, and had to be shipped in a heavy protective case.
Set up of nearly 100 such displays was labor intensive, to say the least. "We used to work literally from 8 in the morning until 11 at night for three days," he says, and it took two more days at the end of each show to tear down.
"When we saw the JELCO device, we knew it was perfect for us," he adds.
The JELCO RotoLiftTM case is an ATA-style shipping case with a monitor bracket and pneumatic lift mechanism built in. There's no need to remove the flat panel from the case or to mount it on a separate stand. Company staff simply remove the top, pull a pin and the monitor rises to display height. At that point they can leave it in its vertical position to use it in portrait mode or rotate it for landscape images.
The new case even eliminates the need for the folding tables, since JELCO is able to mount a mobile computer on the bracket that holds the display. "We went from a 12 - 15' display area to just 8' for most of our exhibits," says the manager. In so doing, his firm was able to save about 30% overall in the exhibit area, with a proportional savings in carpet and temporary walls. And now instead of bringing their own laptop computers, his company's engineers can carry just a thumb drive or CD-ROM. "We just pop up the LCD, rotate it, plug it in, and boot up the computer, which is all wired and ready to go," he explains.
Today this JELCO client is using 60 RotoLiftTM cases -10 built for 50" plasma displays, 30 for 40" LCD displays and 20 for 30" LCDs. Though he still sets up about 40 displays in various custom configurations, the move to the self-contained units has cut his costs by about a third.
Optimizing the Show
Company executives have embraced the shipping/display solution, he says, because it fits well with a corporate goal of optimizing all operations.
"The change has saved us 33% across the board, in transportation, labor, setup and breakdown, which relates to hundreds of thousands of dollars each year," he explains. In addition, moving to a simpler display solution helps him to meet the goal of "showing our latest technology on the latest technology." Because of floor size and budget constraints, there was a tendency to try to limit the size and number of computer displays each engineer would use. But now the company can encourage its people to bring the videos or computer simulations that will show their products and product ideas to their best advantage, knowing that an extra flat panel setup is relatively easy and inexpensive to provide.
Our client says the case itself has been reliable and easy to use. "I literally haven't had one problem w my RotoLiftTM cases," he say. "I wish I could say that about all of the equipment that I bring to these shows. "
"There's also an intangible benefit in the ease in which our team can set up a show and the lack of stress in planning one," he adds. "When I used to say, we're going to do a show, everyone would cringe. I could never keep a crew for more than a year, because of the gruesome setups and teardowns. But I've had the same crew now for two years. They actually look forward to doing the events with me. And that says a lot about the stress level."
The combination case is finding a home in other parts of the company beside the exhibit team. "Several of our executives have purchased these for their conference rooms and offices," he explains. "Now when people come in and want to brief them in their offices, they just bring what they need on a thumb drive. If they assemble a group and need to move to a conference room, they just roll everything down the hall."
"It's the best thing that's happened since we went digital," he says. "It has made my life much easier."