Tuesday, April 28, 2015

An Insider's Perspective On NPE

Doug Croley, National Account Manager-Packaging, has worked for Americhem for 43 years. During this time, Doug has worked at every single NPE booth that we have ever had. The 2015 show marked Doug’s 10th NPE, giving him a unique perspective on the event itself and Americhem’s participation. We asked Doug to reflect on NPE and his experiences.

Americhem's very first NPE exhibition in 1988, Chicago, IL.
From left to right: Doug Croley, Frank Fire and Bob Platt.
Americhem had its first booth at NPE in 1988. Frank Fire, Americhem’s vice president of sales and marketing, was in charge of the booth, which was small -- maybe 10 ft. by 12 ft. if I remember correctly. Not only was this our first NPE show, this was Americhem’s first time ever exhibiting at a trade show of any kind. As such, we didn’t think about previewing every detail of the booth before it was shipped to Chicago. So when we arrived at the booth the day prior to the show, Frank was mortified to see that the 3D lettering of the word “Americhem” was made entirely of wood. How could a plastics company exhibiting at a plastics show have wooden letters? Frank protested vigorously, but in the end, it was too late to fabricate plastic letters and the show went on. This was a lesson we would never forget.

During our second NPE in 1991, our booth featured a clear plexiglass pyramid with a hair dryer mounted at its base. We displayed our colored masterbatch pellets in the pyramid, and the blow dryer kept them in motion throughout the show, which grabbed a lot of visitors’ attention. But then, as the second day of the show was progressing, the heat from the hair dryer began fusing the pellets together, creating a mess and ruining the desired effect. To solve the issue, we had a new shipment of pellets sent to us from our Cuyahoga Falls plant so we could change out the pellets. This continued every day for the rest of the show and we had learned another valuable lesson.

Back in those days, NPE was dominated by resin suppliers like Dow, DuPont and GE Plastics featuring massive booths with multi-million dollar budgets. As the show progressed and grew, more people started attending and all of the booths started to look much more professional. Those visitors to the shows in the late 80’s and 90’s could really get a workout at Chicago’s McCormick Place. I remember it being said that if you walked every aisle of the show, you would amass 14 miles of walking, and you felt every step!

The biggest booth we ever had was in 2000, when we had a double deck meeting room structure with four conference rooms. This was also our biggest booth in terms of floor space (30 ft. by 90 ft.) I remember we chartered a sightseeing boat on Lake Michigan in the evening during a couple of shows. We entertained customers on board and had a great view of the Chicago skyline at night. One year, there were fireworks along the shore and I remember the captain backing up so we were almost exactly underneath them.

So how has the show changed over the years? Well, there are a lot less mega-booths by resin suppliers. Our sales cycle was much quicker years ago due to easier approval processes and conversion costs. The switch to Orlando as the venue for the show has enabled companies to take a more active part in building and modifying their booths. In Chicago, if we wanted to move a flower pot or straighten a graphic, we had to have one of McCormick Place’s union laborers do it for us.

What has remained consistent is the enthusiasm and hard work of the Americhem booth staff. Everybody puts their game face on when it’s time to work the booth, but it doesn't prevent us from having fun. Some of the best parts of the experience are meeting with customers after the show and getting to know them as people over dinner. NPE has also been a great time for Americhem commercial staff from around the world to meet face-to-face with one another to exchange ideas and promote comradery.

The ten shows I’ve been a part of have been great experiences and very rewarding for Americhem. I’m looking forward to working at least one more NPE, and even though it’s years away, there’s no extravaganza quite like it.

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