Industry trade shows can be a bit like giant sweet shops – the variety of choice is impressive, the exhibits are amazing and at the end of the day you’re left exhausted, but wanting more. Here, Amy Wells, marketing manager of industrial connectors specialist Electroustic, gives a brief overview of this year’s Southern Manufacturing show in Farnborough.

With over 800 exhibitors, 2015’s Southern Manufacturing show was one of the largest manufacturing technology, electronics and subcontracting exhibitions in Europe. Even more impressive than the number of exhibitors was the enthusiasm and positive atmosphere at this year’s show – it was almost as intense as the temperamental weather we saw at last year’s event!

A hot topic at Southern Manufacturing this year was the smart factory. In the gigantic maze of stands, visitors were very likely to come across every type of product needed to automate a production line.

Everything from smart sensors to rugged connectors and from the latest generation of laser cutting machines to progressive six-axis robots were on show. The demand for a more flexible, automated manufacturing environment comes across loud and clear from a variety of industries, including automotive, petrochemical, aerospace, rail, renewables and energy.

Another exciting topic that stood out at this year’s Southern Manufacturing is 3D printing and the technology’s potential for manufacturing. Several seminars taking place during the show tackled the topic.

Visitors who were still unconvinced had the chance to see the latest 3D printing machinery and demos from industry giant like Renishaw. Although 3D printing hasn’t been implemented on a large scale in manufacturing environments yet, we estimate that Southern Manufacturing 2020 will probably see a developed, plug-and-play version of the technology.

This year’s Southern Manufacturing has definitely impressed in terms of innovative projects and exciting initiatives. We’ve spoken to a lot of passionate and curious people wanting to find out more about how to make their companies leaner, smarter and more agile. We’ve also seen an encouraging amount of industry collaboration and complementary companies working together to offer holistic manufacturing solutions.

The final show highlight for us – apart from playing darts with Wolfie Adams – was the quantity of relevant enquiries we’ve seen on our stand. We’ve noticed an authentic interest from visitors looking for industrial connectors for energy, automation and industrial projects in harsh environments. Happily, our own expertise was enhanced by specialists from industrial connectors manufacturers Bulgin, Amphenol and Belden who were present on our stand, ready to discuss specific projects and the latest industry connectivity solutions.

Perhaps the main reason Southern Manufacturing reminded us of a sweet shop was the impressive amount of sugar-related incentives on exhibition stands. We also loved the creative gifts and were particularly impressed with Amada’s metal sheets that folded up into a miniature Jeep . Overall, the hustle and bustle of Southern Manufacturing 2015 was a great start to what looks like an exciting year for British industry.