New innovations to take centre stage at Plantworx 2023

ORGANISERS are putting the final touches to Plantworx 2023 – a show that has been four years in the making.

The construction equipment and technology event returns to the East of England Arena and Events Centre in Peterborough from June 13-15. The 2021 edition of the show was wiped out by the Covid-19 pandemic, while plans to host the exhibition in 2022 were shelved after the dates clashed with Hillhead.

Rob Oliver, director of Construction Equipment Events, told Project Plant that he believes the absence of trade shows at the height of the pandemic has only served to highlight the importance of them.

“We ran a smaller event at the end of March last year – Futureworx – which was very much targeting on newer technology,” he explained. “We had about 900 people come to that and the atmosphere there, and the feeling of getting together, networking again, looking at some of the newer stuff, was really positive. Events I’ve been to since have had a real buzz about them. Although some things have changed over the past few years, I still think that people physically getting together for in-person gatherings is a real big draw.”

Rob Oliver CEA CEO
Rob Oliver

One of the potential advantages of having to wait so long between shows is that Plantworx 2023 will be an excellent barometer for how things have moved on in the four years since the event was last staged. Advances in digitalisation, technology and sustainability will all be evident as manufacturers prepare to unveil their latest equipment innovations. Improvements designed to reduce carbon emissions are set to take particular prominence, with Rob hugely encouraged by the construction equipment sector’s response to the challenge of meeting ambitious environmental targets.

“Comparing things today with the last show, there’s obviously going to be more electric-powered machines,” he added. “A number of companies are presenting hydrogen solutions. I think what we’ve seen really develop over the last few years is that maybe five or six years ago when companies were entering into contracts, they were being asked about their sustainability policies in terms of the tender processes. Maybe at some point for some companies that was a paper exercise. Now I think it’s very much a commitment. You have to prove that you’re actually putting into action your sustainability policies.

“As we know, sustainability can mean everything from making sure your offices have a minimum environmental impact to the really big things in terms of what your machines do; whether they’re part of the circular economy. That will be one of the themes this time around but it’s an ongoing process.

“It’s the newer technology that’s going to help companies deliver their sustainability policies. It’s quite an exciting time to see what’s coming on to the market.”

Rob revealed that organisers of Plantworx 2023 have been working hard to deliver some new attractions for this year. Six of the sector’s top social media influencers will be in attendance. The Digger Girl (Scotland’s Amy Underwood), Conor the Digger Driver (Conor Kelly), Bearded Excavation (Lloyd Peckham), Lord Muck (Kurt Mills), Tracklass 1 (Lana Edwards) and Ben ‘The Operator’ Wade will be sharing their experiences and insights over the course of the three days as Plantworx looks to capitalise on the growing interest in social media influence. Running alongside this will be a more traditional operator challenge, meaning the show will carefully combine a little bit of the old with a little bit of the new.

Amy Underwood

A further new area this year is the Get Connected Zone, featuring a number of exhibitors specialising in digital solutions. MachineMax and Plinx have been confirmed as co-sponsors of this area, which will be a dedicated space to showcase how digital solutions are driving changes on construction sites across the country.

Also new for 2023 is the opportunity for start-up businesses and entrepreneurs to come along and discuss their innovations in the Big Ideas Zone. Rob stated, “We’re very conscious that sometimes the smaller companies don’t always get the opportunity to shine. The Big Ideas Zone, near the main entrance, is where we’re inviting people with new ideas who are today’s inventors (and) tomorrow and today’s young entrepreneurs, to come and show us what they’re working on. I’ve seen this work very successfully at other events, so we thought we’d give an opportunity for people to come along and showcase what they’re working on.”

Around 300 exhibitors are expected in total at Plantworx 2023, including some of the world’s largest construction equipment manufacturers such as Bobcat, Caterpillar, Engcon, Hyundai, Kinshofer, Kubota, Manitou, Merlo, Rototilt, Steelwrist, Sunward Europe, Takeuchi, and Volvo (via UK dealer SMT GB). This year, they will be joined for the first time by Hitachi, while Rob explained the show has also enjoyed strong support from Chinese suppliers.

“XCMG will be there for the first time,” he said. “SANY are planning a big presence at the show, and Liugong are returning.

“What’s interesting too is there’s a new name – Develon – which is the new name for Doosan. They are planning a big promotion as they promote their new name and set-up. We’ll also have lots of smaller companies (debuting). Probably about 24% of exhibitors will be there for the first time. A good proportion of those are new to the sector. It’s good to see the smaller companies come along and present what they’ve got because I think there are so many tie-ups now between the larger OEMs and the smaller suppliers, which are now major partnerships. That’s what trade shows are about too – bringing people together to get those business relationships going.”

For the first time this year, the Plantworx Innovation Awards, held in association with the Construction Equipment Association, will be presented the night before Plantworx gets underway. Hosted by Shaun Wallace from TV quiz show The Chase, the winners will be announced during a ceremony and gala dinner at the East of England Arena & Events Centre. This wasn’t the original date for the awards, but a rail strike earlier in the year forced a rethink – something which Rob believes may prove to be a blessing in disguise.

“It’s slightly different this year as we were going to announce all the awards at the end of March, and just a few weeks before that was scheduled to take place, a rail strike was announced,” Rob said. “We felt that was going to be a bit challenging for us because we know a lot of people come up on the train, particularly from London.

“It’s the evening before Plantworx kicks off on June 12 that we’ll have the awards dinner. We think that’s no bad thing because a lot of people will be there ready to start the show the next day, so it gives us a great opportunity to kick off the event with a good networking dinner the evening before.”

Referring to the calibre of entries this year, Rob said, “There’s quite a good level of diversity. It’s interesting knowing that the number of new products that are going to be launched at the show is quite encouraging. The visitors to the event this year will be able to see so many new things, which are being presented for the first time, certainly to the UK market.”

• Plantworx 2023 is free to attend and takes place at the East of England Arena and Events Centre in Peterborough from June 13-15.