22 Jul, 2021 / BY Neil Sharp

Manufacturing trade shows are back - and they are still worth visiting

We have all spent the last year-and-a-half on Zoom. And we have learnt that this method is often a more focused and productive way of conducting business.

But regardless of how realistic the tech gets, it will never be able to replace the impact and allure that large industry events offer.

The most long-lasting and meaningful relationships are always the ones we nurture through face-to-face interactions. You don’t have to meet often, but annual trade shows are a great opportunity when you do. They offer the chance to meet multiple contract manufacturers under one roof and get a feel for which ones are right for your company.

Why going to trade shows is a great opportunity

  • Trade shows offer Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) the chance to meet a large number of Contract Electronics Manufacturers (CEMs) under one roof on the same day. They are an excellent way of quickly finding out about several suppliers and making key comparisons. 
  • Trade shows give CEMs the opportunity to really listen to businesses and talk through current situations, future plans, and any worries you might have. They can then clearly explain how they can help solve your problem. 

Top Tip

Plan your day in advance and research who is exhibiting to get the most out of your visit.

The five big trade shows coming up

1 - Subcon

Subcon is the UK’s premier subcontract manufacturing supply chain show and will take place at the NEC in Birmingham from 14 - 16 September 2021. This year, Subcon will be co-located with the Engineer Expo as well as the Manufacturing Management Show. 

This trio of exhibitions will be a unique event for the manufacturing and engineering industry. Attendees will have access to the best suppliers, latest innovations, and practical advice to help build new partnerships and optimise business strategies.

The event was set up so customers can meet and source solutions made by the best of British manufacturing as well as other world-class suppliers. Your future business success could start at Subcon as manufacturing professionals benchmark new and existing suppliers and develop new manufacturing partnerships. The event will help you forge new partnerships, drive your costs down, improve your productivity, and keep your team up to date.

2 - Northern Manufacturing and Electronics

The Northern Manufacturing and Electronics show will be held in Halls 1 and 2 at EventCity, Manchester on 6 -7 October 2021.

Since its inception, the show has become one of the key marketplaces for industrial technology, components, and engineering services; it is an important event for manufacturers and their associated supply chains. The show combines the latest production technologies, such as machining centres, 3D printing, and automation, with top subcontract service providers such as electronics assembly, precision machining, and high-tech finishing. This means it is possible to address a wide range of procurement and capital investment issues in a single visit.

3 - The Engineering Design Show

The Engineering Design Show will take place in the Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry from 19 - 20 October 2021. It is the UK’s only event entirely dedicated to engineering, electronics, and embedded design. The show provides the ideal environment for design engineers to benefit from direct access to the latest products, services, and innovations available to the sector.

EDS provides visitors with unrivalled access to expert speakers exploring best practice, new design techniques, and industry issues.

4 - Advanced Engineering

Advanced Engineering will take place from 3 - 4 November 2021 in the NEC, Birmingham. The exhibition will help people working in advanced manufacturing sectors to network and source innovative new solutions from the engineering supply chains in R&D, design, test & measurement, advanced materials, manufacturing, and production.

5 - Southern Manufacturing & Electronics     

Southern Manufacturing and Electronics will take place in its traditional slot from 8 -10 February 2022 at the Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre.

The exhibition showcases new technology in machinery, production equipment, electronic production and assembly, tooling and components, as well as subcontract services. It is an essential event in the calendar if you are involved in engineering production as the latest production hardware, components, consumables, and technology will be on display for a varied range of industries. This is one of the most effective shows to address your multiple sourcing issues.

Trade shows and the pandemic

When the pandemic hit, all trade shows were cancelled. Surprisingly, there are reports that many companies’ sales remained unaffected. Does this mean the answer to the future of trade shows is virtual exhibitions

We are not entirely convinced.

Virtually demonstrating a new product - or the latest iteration of an old product - has nowhere near the same impact without human interaction. First, potential buyers may not be aware the product exists, and second, even if they do, they may not understand it. 

Virtual trade shows are a great way though of boosting online presence and bringing ageing directory listings kicking and screaming into the present. The technology platforms are now impressive allowing visitors to 'walk' the floorplan and interact with the virtual literature, videos etc on stands. And the best part? You don't have to accept all those plastic bags filled with boring sales brochures that get thrust at you each time you walk past a stand! 

'Real life' trade shows are the perfect places for buyers to understand new products. Every buyer wants to make sure they are getting the best products and services for their company and the ability to have meaningful conversation face-to-face should not be underestimated. 

Benefits of post-pandemic trade shows

Similarly to everything in our lives today, trade shows should not just revert to the way they were before the pandemic. Changes in society as a whole mean that this is an opportune moment for exhibitors to up their game and give buyers extra value when they attend a trade show.

Exhibitors have missed a year, so they are keen to engage with customers once again. They will be even more focused and buyer-centred, and will be harnessing the technological tools used during the pandemic to offer better client relationships. 

For example, some of the educational benefits of attending trade shows are likely to now become webinars - on-demand learning is more accessible and convenient for customers. Trade shows will provide human interaction, which will be complemented with convenient technology.

Keeping people safe

Returning to trade shows is conditional on both attendees and exhibitors feeling safe. Measures need to be taken to ensure safety, and large exhibition arenas such as the NEC in Birmingham have been working hard to ensure that events can be held securely.

Here are some of the measures that will be taken inside areas: 

Upon arrival

  • Key information more frequently displayed 
  • Contactless badge scanning 
  • Reduced capacity 
  • Track & trace system supported
  • Pre-booking contactless parking  


  • Increased filtered ventilation
  • Social distancing ensured 

Keeping things clean

  • Hand sanitiser provided 
  • More frequent cleaning 
  • Hygiene screens installed 
  • Food & beverages prepackaged 
  • Only cashless payments
  • All materials digitally available  


The pandemic has given us all time to stop, take stock, and improve systems. Technology has proved to be more effective than constantly travelling for meetings, and the use of webinars is ideal to keep customers informed and updated. 

However, nothing will ever be able to replace the human quality of being in a room with someone and feeling the atmosphere - body language and the way we make connections - which are decisive for any business relationship. 

The five events coming up are perfect spaces for OEMs to engage with CEMs and for CEMs to help customers in a way that is just not possible online. Find the trade show that is the best for your business.

An Introduction to Outsourcing Your Electronics Manufacturing

Written by Neil Sharp

Neil has over 25 years’ experience in Electronics Manufacturing Services and Component Distribution. During his career, Neil has held a range of leadership positions in sales, marketing, and customer service. Neil is currently part of the ESCATEC Senior Management Team and is responsible for setting and delivering the overall Group Marketing strategy. Neil heads up the marketing department and is responsible for both the strategy and the implementation of innovative marketing campaigns designed to deliver high quality content to those seeking outsourcing solutions.