ConExpo-Con/Agg, coronavirus and the strangest of circumstances

By |  March 20, 2020
Show traffic was steady outside the Las Vegas Convention Center on the opening day of ConExpo-Con/Agg 2020. Photo: P&Q Staff

Show traffic was steady outside the Las Vegas Convention Center on the opening day of ConExpo-Con/Agg 2020. Photo: P&Q Staff

No ConExpo-Con/Agg in history unfolded quite like this year’s.

That, of course, is because the show never faced an obstacle quite like the coronavirus.

In the days leading up to ConExpo-Con/Agg 2020, attendees and exhibitors alike faced a serious set of questions regarding their participation. Questions such as: Should we be worried? Should we limit who from our company attends? Should we attend at all?

Then, there was the question some were whispering as the March 10-14 show drew nearer: Should ConExpo-Con/Agg’s organizers postpone or cancel the once-every-three-years event?

High drama

Leading up to the show, the circumstances seemed to change by the day – and, on some days, by the hour. Early the week before ConExpo-Con/Agg, word trickled out that a few of the major aggregate producers would not be sending people to Las Vegas. Once that got around, other major producers made clear they would not be attending, as well.

Within a matter of days, most of the majors were no longer participating in ConExpo-Con/Agg.

The aggregate producer dropouts were certainly a blow to the show. As the big producer dominoes fell, people began to wonder if key exhibitors might also pull out. On the exhibitor front, rumors circulated early in the week prior about two of the show’s most prominent exhibitors pulling out. If true, the two would have been significant losses for ConExpo-Con/Agg and could have triggered significantly more exhibitor fallout.

While the rumors swirling around those two prominent exhibitors did not check out, the Volvo Group confirmed on the Wednesday leading up to ConExpo-Con/Agg that it would not attend the show. The Volvo Group’s decision meant representatives from several prominent business areas would not be present in Las Vegas, including Volvo Construction Equipment, Volvo Penta, Volvo Trucks, Mack Trucks and Terex Trucks. The Volvo Group’s decision was made after California joined Washington and Florida in declaring a state of emergency to contain the coronavirus’ spread.

A number of other exhibitors pulled out of ConExpo-Con/Agg both before and after the Volvo Group did, but none were as prominent as the Volvo Group. In the end, the show largely went on as planned, although ConExpo-Con/Agg organizers made the decision to end the show a day early as coronavirus tensions grew with each passing day of the event.

The experience

While the vibe at ConExpo-Con/Agg was unique due to coronavirus concerns, participants still took full advantage of the opportunity to explore new equipment – including this crusher from Sepro. Photo: P&Q Staff

While the vibe at ConExpo-Con/Agg was unique due to coronavirus concerns, participants still took full advantage of the opportunity to explore new equipment – including this crusher from Sepro. Photo: P&Q Staff

Still, based on countless conversations with exhibitors and attendees on the show floor, most participants felt pretty good about their ConExpo-Con/Agg experience. Some participants were even pleasantly surprised with the outcome considering they weren’t sure what they’d be walking into at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

While the absence of the major aggregate producers was disappointing for exhibitors, ConExpo-Con/Agg 2020 presented equipment suppliers and service providers an opportunity to more fully invest their time with small and mid-sized producers. Knowing most of the majors would be absent, a number of exhibitors adjusted their onsite staff to best match the anticipated attendance. The decision to scale down was probably the right one for most, as they were able to strike the proper balance between themselves and customers.

Many of the producers who ventured to ConExpo-Con/Agg had a positive experience, as well. P&Q visited with a number of them across four days, and several remarked how they didn’t have to bump elbows with the majors to capture the attention of exhibitors. This time, they felt like more of a priority and that their overall show experience was positive.

“I enjoyed two great networking dinners and found everyone to be optimistic about the upcoming year despite the coronavirus,” says Stewart Petrovits, an owner and vice president at Route 82 Sand & Gravel in Millbrook, New York. “I wasn’t a fan of the Festival Grounds – it seemed too removed from the rest of the action. It was certainly extraordinary circumstances, and I really give the ConExpo folks a lot credit for pulling it off. I’m looking forward to a coronavirus-free experience in 2023.”

Despite concerns over the coronavirus, ConExpo-Con/Agg looked and felt much like it always does. On-site attendance was likely down over 2017 based on the eye test, though show organizers report the total registered attendance for ConExpo-Con/Agg 2020 and the co-located IFPE 2020 exceeded 130,000 for the week. Nearly 128,000 people reportedly attended ConExpo-Con/Agg 2017 over the course of five days.

In addition, the 2020 show’s organizers say U.S. buyer attendance increased 8 percent from 2017 and that total buyer attendance improved by almost 5 percent. Yet another 2020 show metric from the show: Overall contractor and producer attendance grew by 14 percent.

Clearly, there’s still tremendous enthusiasm for the show. But it’s also pretty clear, based on who wasn’t at ConExpo-Con/Agg 2020, that the number of people on site was a little lighter than expected.

Plenty to take away

A brand-new statue of a female construction worker was unveiled at the show. The statue was built as a 3-D printed composite. It was first designed using CAD software to emulate the female worker. Photo: P&Q Staff

A brand-new statue of a female construction worker was unveiled at the show. The statue was built as a 3-D printed composite. It was first designed using CAD software to emulate the female worker. Photo: P&Q Staff

Those who did venture to Las Vegas still got the complete ConExpo-Con/Agg experience. The show was as valuable as ever to Pit & Quarry, providing a wealth of exhibits to explore and an infinite number of innovations for us to cover.

The ConExpo-Con/Agg experience is unique for the trade press in that we bounce from booth to booth and press conference to press conference, capturing the latest equipment and technology trends and developments. And there was plenty to take in across four days of the show.

Concepts and trends such as predictive maintenance and smart tech were again prevalent, and the idea of an operating environment in the not-so-distant future devoid of diesel isn’t necessarily quack science.

As Hubertus Muhlhauser, CEO of CNH Industrial, remarked during the Case Construction press conference: “The world of diesel as we know it today will come to an end at one point in time. Is it 100 years from now? Fifty years? Twenty years? Ten years? It’s somewhere between 10 to 50 years, I would say, but diesel will be replaced.”

No, diesel isn’t disappearing tomorrow. It’s very much still a necessity, with Terex Corp. exec John Garrison issuing a reminder during his company’s presser that some of the processing machines within Terex Materials Processing are oriented for diesel – especially the higher-horsepower plants.

A trend toward electrifying equipment continues, though, with developments from Case, Hyundai Construction Equipment, Keestrack, Terex MPS and others projecting a thirst to push old limits.

ConExpo-Con/Agg 2020 served as a reminder, too, that manufacturers continue to incorporate safety and maintenance-friendly design elements into equipment. A walk around Sandvik’s new Leopard DI650i down-the-hole drill rig was one such example, with design elements virtually built in all around the machine to ease access for operators and maintenance personnel.

Final thoughts

ConExpo-Con/Agg 2020 undoubtedly provided something for everyone who attended. For me, it provided a platform of endless ideas that we’ll translate into Pit & Quarry content in the months to come.

Until then, I wish you good health during this challenging time in our nation’s history. Stay safe, everyone.


Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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