While it is some way off, the message at a recent media event held at the Portsmouth home of Land Rover BAR America’s Cup UK team last month was mainly for exhibitors’ ears. Already many have laid their claim to space at the next in the biennial event series, with more than 18,000 sq m of space reserved, James Fudge, head of events, reported, placing MACH 2018 ahead of MACH 2016 at the same time prior to the show.

MTA CEO James Selka highlighted the media event location and its link with “everything we can be proud of in UK high performance engineering and achieving at world class”. Indeed, three-year-old initiative Land Rover BAR, backed to the tune of some £90 million, saw the team winning the nine-race 2016 Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series, placing ahead of Oracle Team USA, winner of the 33rd and 34th America’s Cup in 2010 and 2013. The UK team goes into the 35th America’s Cup next year with high hopes, then.

MTA CEO James Selka - the America's Cup UK Team effort represents “everything we can be proud of in UK high performance engineering and achieving at world class”

Big news for the next MACH event, however, is that it moves from its traditional home of halls 4 and 5 to halls 6, 17,18,19 and 20, all on the other, so-called atrium side of the NEC site (map - https://is.gd/opaday) - that’s a single space and all on the same level (floor plans are already available at the MACH 2018 website - https://is.gd/kociki).

Coinciding with this change of location within the NEC, there’s also change within the body responsible for overall MACH organisation and experience. Heading up the MACH exhibition committee for 2018 will be Renishaw plc’s head of communications, Chris Pockett – Renishaw is a Land Rover BAR sponsor, incidentally; he takes on the role that Citizen Machinery UK’s managing director Geoff Bryant has undfertaken for some time.

Before going into more detail on the next event, Fudge reflected on MACH 2016, highlighting a social media campaign that not only targeted different sectors but also different countries – Ireland was one of those and “we had more visitors from Ireland than we’ve had for a number of years”. Working with a new registration company, it meant that direct engagement with those signed up was made possible, he added, and also gave live data as to who had arrived in the halls at any time, too. Social media activities will be ramped up for the next event, he said.


Moving onto 2018, and for those concerned about back-of-hall locations and lower footfall, Fudge pointing out that the new set-up is about one third the depth of hall 5, meaning there will be “a better spread of visitors”. And with six entrances/exits, better visitor flow is anticipated, avoiding the bottlenecks that used to occur on busy says with just two entrances, one for each of the two previous halls. A greater number of restaurants, including a silver-service facility, is aimed at better supporting client entertainment, while there is also more parking close to the halls, allowing people to walk to show. There will be 18 focus zones in 2018, too (see current list below*), but of Industry 4.0, there will be no single location, because the whole exhibition will be the place to see Industry 4.0 solutions, Fudge explained.

MTA head of events James Fudge highlights the success of MACH 2016

At the November MACH 2018 press event, Industry 4.0 IT specialist Forcam was in attendance, with its UK managing director, Andrew Steele, underlining some key messages. German company Forcam has been operating in the “Industry 4.0 space for coming up for 15 years now”, he told the audience, with the UK operation in existence for three to four year, he added, saying: “The UK [operation] is aimed at delivering specific technology for the UK manufacturing sector, with aerospace possibly our biggest growth area.” Obviously about modernising and changing existing processes, productivity improvement was his central theme. He asked the audience to guess where the UK sat in the international league table on productivity as a nation: 16th was the answer, with Steele citing a Raconteur report (https://is.gd/wevumo) as his authoritative source.

Andrew Steele, Forcam MD in the UK, highlights the UK's productivity problem

In pointing to Spain and France, both ahead of the UK in that list and which, he noted, have what might be viewed as characteristics that would work against such a high productivity placing, he said: “If we are to evolve as a manufacturing nation, this [productivity issue] needs to be addressed. The number one way of improving productivity in the manufacturing space is by investment in equipment, technology and the optimising of supply chains and processes – we do both of these. I believe it is absolutely essential that manufacturing in this country has a shopfloor [shop window at MACH] to what’s available, to new technologies, to enable us to evolve and move forward. Productivity allows us to have growth, which allows our standard of living to improve.”

Industry 4.0 offers a boost to productivity, then, by connecting “islands of data” – machines, office computer systems, such as ERP and engineering software, such as CAD and CAM. Forcam connects these islands, Steele said, adding that this allowed people to understand what is happening in their manufacturing environments and allowing, if so wished, the automatic ordering of maintenance spares, for example. Attending MACH for the first time last year, Steele admitted he was unsure whether it was the “right forum” for Forcam, but added “it absolutely was”.


NEC exhibition sales director Janine Smith, followed, highlighting some of the developments at the UK’s première exhibition site. For those that didn’t already know, previous facility owner Birmingham City Council sold the NEC to Lloyds Banking Group’s private equity arm, Lloyds Development Capital (LDC), for almost £310 million in early 2015 (see below** for details). Smith underlined some big ticket investments that visitors will benefit from, suggesting that some of them may not be the most exciting “such as the £1.5 million invested in chillers”. To that you can add: £7.35 million in catering facilities (restaurant seating capacity up 30%; till points up by 50% - speedier meals allowing people to get back to stands more quickly; more and better facilities in public spaces, too); £7.45 million spent on upgrading toilets; £3.1 million on lighting, including in-hall and external (£1 million); £0.5 million upgrading conference facilities; increased seating in public places; ‘work on the move’ locations in public spaces with WiFi and charging points; £2.5 million on car parks – capacity, layout and signage; plus investment on outside spaces, specifically the journey to Resorts World (see later).

NEC exhibition sales director Janine Smith highlighted some of the developments at the UK’s première exhibition site

And she added that LDC will spend another £40 million over the next four to five years (some of the figures above take in future spending), saying: “Lloyds are incredibly focused on the customer experience and embrace the belief that if we deliver the very best exhibitor experience we can as a venue, then the finances will look after themselves.”

She underlined too the recently opened Resorts World facility with its shops, restaurants, bars, cinema, casino and hotel; “a game-changer for the NEC, making it a destination venue” and “all about complementing that fantastic show experience in the daytime at MACH with a great destination offer for MACH visitors in the evening”.

As to getting to MACH 2018, the ‘25% off advance fares offer’ with Virgin trains will operate again.

Clearly, the message is that, for those familiar with the MACH event of old, 2018 marks major change for the better, for both exhibitors and visitors.

End of main article

* MACH 2018 - Product Zones

  • 3D Printing & additive manufacturing – hall 6
  • Measurement & inspection zone –halls 18/ 19
  • IT for manufacturing – hall 17
  • Welding zone – hall 20
  • Education & development zone – hall 17
  • Surface finishing & component cleaning – hall 6
  • UK manufacturing zone – halls 6/ 7
  • Engineering & lasers zone – hall 7
  • Grinding & abrasives zone – hall 6
  • Logistics for manufacturing – hall 6
  • Composites, moulding & materials zone – hall 7

MACH 2018 - Association Pavilions

  • Metalworking Machinery Makers’ Association (MMMA) – hall 20
  • Association of Industrial Laser Users (AILU) – hall 7
  • British Abrasives Federation (BAF) – hall 6
  • Gauge & Tool Makers’ Association (GTMA) – hall 7
  • British Turned Parts Manufacturers’ Association (BTMA) – hall 6

** NEC sale to Lloyds Development Capital

The NEC Group comprises the UK’s leading live exhibition, arena and conference venues; the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) itself, the Genting Arena, the Barclaycard Arena (formerly the National Indoor Arena) and the International Convention Centre, as well as the NEC’s other commercial activities including The Ticket Factory, specialist catering business, Amadeus and the NEC’s third party venue management operations.

As part of the transaction, LDC will also acquire Birmingham City Council’s interest in Genting Resorts World at the NEC site, a new £200 million integrated leisure and entertainment complex, comprising four- and five-star hotel and spa, destination retail offering, a range of internationally-themed restaurants and bars, 11-screen cinema with state-of-the-art digital technology, and one of only three ‘Large Casinos’ in the UK, offering a contemporary and exciting gaming experience.

The NEC will operate the Vox conference and banqueting facility at Genting Resorts World, to complement and enhance its wider exhibition, conference, live events and arena shows offering at the NEC site.

Birmingham City Council retains its interest in the Metropole and Crowne Plaza hotel leases.